Duke's Doggs & BBQ at Swoll's Place (Travelers Rest)
Published Mar 01 2017
Hours of Operation: M-Su 11A-7P
Location: 327 S. Main St.
Menu items consumed: Unsweetened Tea, Hot Dog (with slaw, chili, mustard, relish, onions), BBQ Sandwich (with slaw and homemade BBQ sauce)
When you call a restaurant to ask questions and the owner answers you already know it’s a small enough place where they’re going to care how your experience is, not just treat you like another number. When the phone conversation concludes with the last words uttered by the owner being “Okie-doke” (not the traditional “okie-dokie” mind you, but rather the abbreviated “okie-doke”) you know you might just be in Travelers Rest, where it seems people are just a bit friendlier.
When I got to Duke’s Doggs I was fully intending on just ordering one hot dog and calling it a day. When I asked who I found later to be the owner, Chuck Cook (a SUPER nice guy), he immediately told me that I had to try the barbecue. Usually I will take the word of any employee suggesting something to me but from the owner himself, who is also the one who makes all the delicious hometown food while also presumably creating the recipes for such mouth-watering foods, what kind of idiot am I to argue with him? (Now, for the record, depending who you ask [especially, at the right/wrong times, my wife], I can be quite the idiot…just not this kind.) I took his advice and he could not have been friendlier in serving it to me and helping me, showing the pride and passion he takes in both his product as well as his customer service.
I got my food to-go (ya know, so I could go to ANOTHER restaurant in the area, too – only me, right?) and Chuck, again showing ownership and pride in what he was doing, was kind and observant enough to ask if I was eating it a good bit later or immediately so he could know whether or not to put the BBQ sauce on the side (we ALL know some places seem to take pride in not giving a crap and plainly putting ingredients wherever they dang-well-please…not Chuck, yo. Not Chuck).
Quiet honestly I wasn’t that excited about the BBQ sandwich to begin seeing as how, again, I was there for their namesake of hot doggs, something anyone who has read any of the crap on this website knows I love. When I got into the car and opened my sandwich, which seemed to take Chuck all of 45 seconds to make and serve me (yet again, another way he showed his passion for customer service)…and that mug was AWESOME! Think of the sandwiches your mother used to make you (ya know, the generic ones for dinner that she served instead of the dinner for which she said to be patient because she was making…while you were fully unaware that she meant she was PORTIONING, not making, it on a fresh-from-the-pack grocery store bun with fresh-from-the-store generic BBQ garbage? Clearly I’m not speaking from personal experience, Mom…I just want to clarify that before the next time I see you); now think of what you WISHED it would have tasted like...yeah, you're NOT EVEN CLOSE to how good Duke’s BBQ is!!! While the bun looks simple enough, almost as if it’s Mom’s fresh from the grocery store packaging, it was so soft and delicate that you almost feel badly eating it…almost. The pulled pork itself was the most tender, juicy, and delicious I have ever had (again with the seemingly brazen and flippant superlatives…but rest assured, there is zero exaggeration and instead complete and utter truth in that statement). The slaw on this sandwich was also homemade and so sweet it was almost unfair (again, almost). The barbecue sauce, shockingly (read: ridiculously sarcastic) also homemade, set off the flavor like a party in my mouth, a party to which I wasn’t supposed to attend but the one to which if I went I was going to have a darn good time there…AND I DID!
Now in all the happenings throughout “The List” and all that has occurred in my escapades it does at times feel as if I’m running out-of firsts…but I’ve got one for you here and now (and by now I mean the second you are reading this, since I clearly wrote this in the past…as of the time you are reading this, not as of the time I wrote it because that would make me a time traveler…HOLY CRAP would that ever be awesome if I was!!!): I called the owner back ONCE I finished my sandwich. Before I even consumed my dogg he had to know how incredible the sandwich was. While holding a conversation with him on the phone (yet again with the small-town ownership mentality where he took the time to speak to me regarding my experience...because he truly cares) I also informed him it would be on this website (not a breaking of my rule since I told him of the site AFTER my visit, thereby not affecting my visit/experience) – so if you’re reading this based off seeing a sign (one he was kind enough to say he would post…thanks for just being a SUPER nice and kind guy, Chuck) in his restaurant THANK YOU (to you and him).
As for the hot dog it was so packed with toppings that I almost needed a friend to help me hold it, except for the fact that by the time a friend would’ve put his hand out the dog would have been gone since it literally took me about 38 seconds to eat it (this is the part where you understand the word “literally” is actually not meant as “literally” but rather is hyperbole for writing’s sake…I don’t time myself eating…even I am not at that level of nerd-note taking - yet). There were so many toppings on the dog that each individual flavor got lost, like a great individual athlete on his/her team, for the sake of the complete taste and success. It was a welcomed departure from so many hot dogs where each individual topping can be tasted, something once viewed as a strength but now after this hot dog experience may be viewed in a different light.
The setting in which I was waiting for my food (a.k.a. the dining room) was pretty cool, too, reminding me I was in a small town like TR and allowing me to enjoy life in a different way: the simpler way in which so oft I feel we were meant to enjoy.
The only bad aspect of my entire experience was that it did seem a little pricey for what I ordered seeing as how it cost a bit over $9 for a hot dog, BBQ sandwich, and unsweetened tea. I did order all of my items a la carte rather than getting a plate or something of the sort and since the hot dog and sandwich were both “entrees” (and LOADED with toppings) of sorts I did somewhat understand it. I just would have liked the small-town-feel to be complete with a small-town-price; however I also would have been much more at peace with the price if I expected it a little more, perhaps a bit of my error in misjudging this joint.
With all of that said, I don’t care what preconceived notions you have, whether it will be a cheap dog-place or a higher-priced BBQ joint, go give a Dogg at Duke’s a try, but don’t kick yourself for being an idiot and not getting the BBQ sandwich as well. If you feel like you are a fatty who can’t move afterwards then you just know you did it right.