People and Places with Pierce: Bill’s Hot Dogs

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – “This is Washington, North Carolina,” said Linda Clark, who loves Bill’s Hot Dogs.

Ask around and many will tell you the one place you need to stop when you’re in Washington is Bill’s Hot Dogs.

“It’s an institution, plus the taste. You can’t get this taste anywhere else,” Clark said.

Bill Jackson started the humble hot dog shop back in 1928. It’s been at its current spot on Gladden Street since 1935.

“I think it’s known for the chili. Everybody calls it white chili, they call it bean chili, it’s been called so many different things. I even have people that call it gravy. But no matter what they call it, that’s what they come here for,” Jay Boyd, the owner of Bill’s Hot Dogs, said.

And like many restaurants around this long, the place has developed its own lingo.

“All the way is mustard, chili, and onions. People would say all the way no onions. It’s just our way of ordering,” Boyd said.

But, what about ketchup?

“We mainly carry it for the kids, but you do have the occasional grown up that’s likes to have a packet of ketchup. My wife even likes to have a packet of ketchup every now and then,” Boyd explained.

Over the years, Bill’s Hot Dogs has become widely known, not just here in Washington, but really all across Eastern North Carolina. Sure the hot dogs are great, but that’s not the only reason people come.

“It’s gotta be the fact that things haven’t changed any. A lot of the same employees have been here over the years. Mildred Hamilton, she’s been here for over 40 years,” Boyd said.

Hot dogs, chips, and drinks have been the only things on the menu since the start. So, how many iconic dogs does Bill’s sell?

“On an average day, we sell a couple dozen.” That’s it. “Somewhere around there,” Boyd said.

The true number will stay a well-kept secret, just like the famous white chili recipe. For Maryann Jefferson, her experience has come full circle.

“We used to eat them, and love them, and talk about them all the time. And it just happened that one day I came through here and asked if they needed any help and they took me right on,” said Maryann Jefferson, who loves and works at Bill’s Hot Dogs.

“It makes me feel really good. I mean the fact that we can keep it family oriented and keep the traditions the same. To know you go to a place with so much history and so many customers that you know by name, they know you, it means a lot,” commented Boyd.

Boyd plans to keep those traditions, just as Bill Jackson left them.

We’re always looking for your story ideas for People & Places with Pierce. If you have an interesting person or place you’d like to see featured, email Pierce or send him a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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