In six years of topping his all-beef hot dogs with everything imaginable at his Victory Dogs food cart at Central Avenue and Eighth Street in Medford, Chuck Reeder has made a name for himself in the Rogue Valley and now nationwide.
His main ingredient: just a little Victory, sautéed with confidence, thanks.
Listed in myriad roundups of best dogs, Reeder’s most recent claim to fame is a place on the online Travel & Leisure Magazine (travelandleisure.com) listing for “Best Hot Dog in Every State” — beating out even food-truck-heavy places such as Eugene and Portland.
Reeder says Travel & Leisure editors likely took notice of his wins at the national Mobile Cuisine competition, where he took fourth in 2017 and did even better in 2018.
“I was second best in the nation from Mobile Cuisine last year, which was a big deal,” Reeder says. “I’m not a Yelp person. I’m too old for that. No one goes out and tries anything anymore until it’s on a Yelp review, so to be named second in the nation was big.”
Reeder says he lets his dogs do the talking. Perusing the list of best dogs in the country, he saw lots of repeat concoctions, single unusual ingredients or added meats. Where one stand adds coleslaw or corn chips to a dog, Reeder has a half-dozen ingredients cooked to perfection with a hot dog tying it all together.
“There are a couple places in the country that do something similar to me, but not really. I do 1,500 hot dogs. I think of something new and I have to do it. I just don’t think we have to be limited to onions on a hot dog.
“If you can put an egg on a hamburger, why can’t you put one on a hot dog? If you can put bacon on a hamburger, why can’t you put it on a hot dog?”
Most importantly, Reeder says, his dogs are high quality — Nathan’s brand only — and are grilled, never boiled.
“We use quality ingredients all the way across,” he says.
“And you would never boil a steak, so why would you boil a hot dog?”
Reeder started off with five hot dog varieties, earning a following for his legendary bacon-wrapped dog. Now first-timers to Victory Dogs stand and gawk at the menu, sometimes reading the whole list, other times asking Reeder to surprise them.
Popular items include Beef Stroganoff — sautéed garlic, onions, mushrooms, roast beef, bacon and a garlic-toasted bun topped in sour cream and pepper — and the classic but simple Beef and Cheddar, with bacon, mayo, mustard, roast beef (heavily peppered), onions and cheddar. Of the Beef and Cheddar, Reeder says, “It’s not overly special, but it’s really, really tasty.”
If he has the ingredients, he’ll use them in whatever combination he can think up.
A stroganoff, for example, becomes a Pepperjack Philly if you add jalapenos and skip the sour cream. Reeder’s original claim to fame, the grilled bacon dog, still holds spot No. 1 on the menu, for $3.25, while his namesake Victory Dog, made with pastrami, roast beef, pulled pork, bacon and cheese (on two buns), goes for $9.
Spectacle-level items on the Victory Dogs menu include the Crack’in, a three-pound monstrosity with two hot dogs, one German sausage, one Louisiana hot link, salami, pepperoni, pastrami, pulled pork, capicola, sausage, roast beef, ham, meatballs, 10 pieces of bacon, cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella and four buns for $24.
Reeder says most customers are “smart enough not to” order a Crack’in. An even larger gut buster dubbed “The One” debuted this year at 7.5 pounds and includes “everything” for $35.
Reeder is looking forward to victory in the New Year, perhaps a national title and expanding a business he still loves after six eventful years.
He hints at a second location, likely to pop up this spring, and plans a couple dozen more dogs on the menu. His main focus is to always evolve and try new things.
“What I did back then, I don’t do now. What I do now, I won’t be doing six months from now,” he says.
With an 80-dog spike in sales in recent months, after his national and best-in-Oregon ranking, Reeder acknowledges he’s a downtown fixture.
“Used to be, when I got where I was out of bacon, I would go home. Now, it’s when I run out of hot dogs or buns,” he says.
“People expect me to be here. They get mad if I’m not.”
Planning global domination, while still wooing the Rogue Valley, is Reeder’s plan.
“This is the birth of a franchise. I want 48 states plus Canada,” he says.
“I want to be the only hot dog left!”
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at email@example.com.