No question about it: This is indeed the corn dog season, with end-of-summer fairs and festivals in full swing. So it seemed more than appropriate to take a road trip and visit the birthplace of the corn dog. To be perfectly honest, we didn’t know that when we walked into the Cozy Dog Drive In. All we had was a rumor of goodies to be investigated.
The Cozy is an unassuming-looking spot on the west side of South Sixth Street in Springfield, Illinois. It’s not far from the Sixth Street exit from I-55, handy for a stop some 90 minutes out of St. Louis. It isn’t until one notices the pair of hot dogs cuddling on the sign that there’s a hint of what’s to come. The sign atop the building merely announces, "FOOD."
Still owned by the Waldmire family, the Cozy opened on Lake Springfield in 1946. The menu offers regular hot dogs and a few other sandwiches, and the website reports that the kitchen does breakfast, even frying its own doughnuts. But what people come for are cozy dogs, the house name for corn dogs, and the fries. There are plenty of regulars who know their orders when they step to the counter, but the Route 66 nostalgia crowd makes this a stop, too, to judge from the memorabilia and articles around the large room. Order-takers are patient with rookies.
This is a corn dog to make the jaded sit up and take notice. Unlike most state/county fair dogs, it comes fresh from the fryer, rather than aging for an unknown period of time. That’s nice enough. But it’s the batter that surprises. It isn’t just your average cornbread. It’s seasoned with a hint of what we think is cumin, and not quite so sweet as some of its lesser brethren. A remarkable dog. And then there are the fries. They’re hand-cut, the peel still on, and arrive steaming hot and full of potato flavor. They may confuse those familiar only with drive-through fries. Never mind that. Take advantage of those who refuse, because that provides more for those of us who prefer French fries that taste of potato rather than grease.
2935 South Sixth St., Springfield, IL
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (closes 8 p.m.) Mon.-Sat.
Credit cards: No
Wheelchair access: Fair