Texas Hot Dogs turns 100
Owner reflects on history, success of downtown icon
Texas Hot Dogs has been a
family affair for 100 years. The business, founded in 1918 by Greek immigrant Peter George at 1118 11th St. is run today by his grandson, Bob Lamont, and his wife, Cindy, at 1122 12th Ave.
“This business has been in the same area for 100 years through redevelopment, Gable’s closing and the recession,” Bob Lamont said.
Peter George had opened a diner in DuBois but decided to return to his native Greece for a short time.
During his travels, he met another Greek man from Texas.
The man told Peter that chili sauce in Texas was made with all beef and spices.
“He (Peter) thought it sounded interesting. He thought he could do it over macaroni and then chili dogs,” Bob Lamont said.
Peter then returned to Altoona to open his business.
Since he was using a Texas style chili sauce, he called the business Texas Hot Weiners.
In the 1960s, the business moved to 1112 12th Ave., and it moved to its present location in the mid 1980s.
The name of the business was changed to Texas Weiners, and it became Texas Hot Dogs in 1983.
“All of the locals know it as Texas Hot Dogs. Our corporate name is Texas Weiners Inc.,” Cindy Lamont said.
After Peter George died in 1964, his two sons Anthony D. (known as Daniel) George and George P. George, operated the business.
George George later moved on and opened his own hot dog business in Pinecroft. Anthony George continued to operate the downtown store, and later in the 1960s, he expanded to a location on Goods Lane and 58th Street by the Logan Valley Mall.
That business, also known as Texas Hot Dogs, is operated today by Anthony Lamont, Bob’s brother.
In 1972, Peter’s daughter, Niai George Lamont, purchased the original downtown business. During that time, her husband, Daniel Lamont, along with their son, Bob, handled the daily restaurant operations.
Bob Lamont said he started working at the restaurant at the age of 16. He and Cindy have been running the business since 1980.
“We each have our special talents to keep the business running. Bob takes care of the day to day operations. I do the office work, he does the kitchen work. I smooze the customers,” Cindy Lamont said.
Bob said he begins his day at 5:30 a.m.
“I can control the quality and make sure everything is the same. I chop every onion we use. I cook the macaroni. I prepare the hot dogs,” Bob Lamont said.
It’s the chili sauce which makes Texas Hot Dogs special.
It’s the number-one topping on the hot dogs, where an “everything” includes brown mustard, chili sauce and freshly chopped onions.
“Our chili sauce is 100 percent beef with special spices. The taste is not overly spicy or hot flavored. It has a unique blend of spices that brings back people’s memories,” Cindy Lamont said.
“I’ve done the recipe the same way since I was 16. I only know one way to do it,” Bob Lamont said.
Bob and Cindy and their daughter, Sophia, are the only ones who know the secret recipe.
The chili sauce is also good on macaroni and topped with melted cheese, Bob Lamont said.
Texas Hot Dogs also is known for its hamburgers, baked beans, baked ham sandwiches, fresh soups and homemade chili.
“It is Peter’s sauce recipe. Bob makes the beans the same way his father made them, and we still steam the buns. You won’t get a hard roll here,” Cindy Lamont said.
Customers from across the country have visited Texas Hot Dogs.
Joseph Roiss, former co-owner of nearby Parsons Agency, has been a regular customer
for 43 years.
“I like the food, the atmosphere and the people. They make you feel like you are welcome. The hot dogs with the chili sauce are special. They are different. That is what sets them apart,” Roiss said.
Rich Wallace, owner of Altoona Development, has become a regular customer over the last couple of years.
“I like the atmosphere. That is the best part of it. I have some restaurant experience, and I like the old-fashioned part of it. There are not a lot of shops like that any more,” Wallace said. “I am a bigger favorite of their hamburgers. I like the way they are cooked. I also like the hot dogs. I get them with everything.”
Texas Hot Dogs’ most famous visitor was Barack Obama, who stopped in March 29, 2008, while campaigning for president.
“He was extremely cordial, polite and down to earth. He came in and hugged me. I was shocked. He was very nice with all of the customers. He was shockingly friendly,” Cindy Lamont said.
Consistency has been the key to the business’ success.
“Everything is always the same. You can’t deviate. They expect it the same way every time,” Bob Lamont said.
Loyal employees have also been important.
“We’ve had a lot of long- term employees. A diner like this does not survive without vested employees. We appreciate how much they put into this, knowing the customers and welcoming them when they come in the door. You need good people surrounding you to do your job well,” Cindy Lamont said.
The Lamonts are optimistic the business will continue to succeed as downtown Altoona continues to improve.
“Over the last three or four years, there has been an improvement. Everyone is working toward the redevelopment of the downtown,” Cindy Lamont said. “We now get a lot of young people from Penn State Altoona that are from Korea and China. They are amazed by the place. They say it is unique.T hey are just fascinated. They use their computers and hang out.”
Neither Bob, 62, nor Cindy, 61, have any immediate plans to retire.
“If you run it right, it will stay here. My dad said if you take care of it, it will take care of you. I will go as long as I can,” Bob Lamont said.
Cindy Lamont said none of their three children — Sophia, Daniel or Alexander — have plans to take over the business.
“We hope to find a young couple who would run it as a mom and pop. We don’t want it to lose its uniqueness as a downtown business,” Cindy Lamont said.
The Lamonts said some special activities will be held throughout the year to commemorate 100 years in business.