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Number 2.14, May 28, 2002

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Famous dish in Columbus, the "Scrambled Dog"
won't be the same as "Lieutenant" is to retire

By Tom Fort
Snellville
Special to GwinnettForum.com

(Editor's Note: A Columbus institution gets a fond remembrance from a Columbus native. We think you will like this recollection.--eeb)

MAY 28, 2002 -- You may think of Columbus, Georgia as where you go on the way to Panama City. Others may think of the home of the insurance company with the
duck, AFLAC, banking giant Synovus, Fort Benning and its Infantry School, or the Confederate Naval Museum.

Columbus has one other thing that makes it unique.

Scrambled Dogs.

Calling a "Scrambled Dog" a "Chili Dog" just doesn't do it justice. "Scrambled Dogs" are to chilidogs as a fresh open-faced, gravy-smothered home-made roast beef sandwich is to fast-food roast beef on a bun.

Served in long bowls akin to banana split bowls, the dog and bun are cut up and covered with a generous amount of chili----yet a secret recipe.

While you may be able to find restaurants with their version of "scrambled dogs" scattered around the southeast, the original is found at Dinglewood Pharmacy on Wynnton Road in Columbus.

Toppings usually include mustard, ketchup, thinly diced onions, pickles and oyster crackers. It must be eaten with a fork or spoon, since it's far too much chili on it to try to pick it up. Some folks like cole slaw as a topping.

Aficionados say it's the chili that makes the difference.

Lieutenant Stevens has worked at the pharmacy lunch counter for more than 40 years. ("Lieutenant" is actually Stevens' given name, not a military rank.) Contrary to popular opinion, the "Scrambled Dog" was not invented by him.

The legend is that credit goes to Firm Roberts, who ran a cafe in Columbus and may have served the dish for just six months or so. Stevens learned to make the earlier version of "Scrambled Dogs"---and then simply perfected them.

The dish is almost a way of life in Columbus. Waits of 30-minutes to get served are common at the pharmacy, just across the road from the AFLAC headquarters tower. Even AFLAC CEO Dan Amos eats them. The chili was flown to the White House during the Carter presidency. Carmike Cinemas, in its "Hollywood Connection" indoor amusement park chain, has a diner known as Lieutenant's, where their "Scrambled Dog" is the featured menu item.

After satisfying your craving for a "Scrambled Dog," you can browse the pharmacy for memorabilia and souvenirs----T-shirts, postcards, and coffee mugs with Lieutenant's likeness.

I probably have had as many "Scrambled Dogs" at the Greater Columbus Fair as I've had at Dinglewood's lunch counter. Most times, Sarge would be the one working the booth at the fair. It was strange seeing him behind a counter with an apron on his waist, and getting served by him just like anybody else.

Now, after serving countless "Scrambled Dogs," Lieutenant Stevens is retiring. In honor of his retirement, Sunday, June 9, is designated "Lieutenant Appreciation Day" at Dinglewood Pharmacy, with a party from 2 to 5 p.m. At 4:30, he will be presented with a bank account to help him enjoy his retirement along with a list of contributors to the fund.

The day's organizers also are looking for personal recollections for a "memory book" in which photos and personal messages to Lieutenant will be pasted. Donations and memory books contributions may be mailed to Friends of Lieutenant, PMB 104, 2525 Auburn Avenue, Columbus, Ga. 31906.

Lieutenant's secret chili recipe will continue to be used in the making of the famous dish, but somehow, for most of us, it just won't be the same without the man himself.

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OFFICER OF THE DAY. He perfected the "Scrambled Dog" in Columbus, and is about to retire. He is Lieutenant Stevens, who performs at Dinglewood's Pharmacy. Get the whole story from Tom Fort in today's feature article. (Photo by permission of Bill C. Walton of Columbus.) For the most recent column by Elliott Brack, click here.

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