Chattanooga's Miss Griffins Foot Long Hot Dogs eyes relocation

Keeping an 83-year-old tradition cooking

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Josh Hyde poses with a hot dog on August 15, 2022 at Miss Griffin's Foot Long Hot Dogs. Miss Griffin's, who has served Chattanooga foot-long hot dogs since 1939, will be relocated due to the current building being purchased.

Josh Hyde remembers well the first thing he did when he took over Miss Griffins Foot Long Hot Dogs.

"I took the bars off the windows," he said. "I believed in Main Street.

"I went to school a block away, at [now-defunct] Senter School," the Chattanooga native said. "It was like Miss Griffins found me, not the other way around."

According to its website, Miss Griffins opened near the corner of East Main and Central Ave., in 1939. The restaurant has occupied its current building there since the mid-1960s, but that building has been sold. Hyde said Monday he'll likely have to relocate.

"Finding a spot that's going to represent 83 years of history, and keep it alive, is going to be tricky," Hyde said.

According to Hamilton County records, the building in which Miss Griffins is located was purchased in February by Gemini Space LLC for $1.475 million. Hyde, whose family bought the business in 2008, said he's on a "month-to-month" arrangement with the new owner.

Hyde said there is no set date by which Miss Griffins must vacate its space, but his plan is to move the business into the Proof Bar & Incubator on Martin Luther King Boulevard while he looks for a new, permanent location.

And whatever happens at East Main and Central, Hyde added, he's going to launch Miss Griffins "late-night style," serving dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Proof.

"Proof is usually used for startups trying to get on their feet, but they've been very understanding in my time of need," said Hyde, who added that he's now the restaurant's sole owner. "Proof is giving us a window of time to find our spot."

A chef by training, Hyde said he was working in Colorado and contemplating his next career move when his father called in 2007 and told him Miss Griffins was for sale. Hyde said he came home and went to work at the restaurant.

"I saw it in those couple of weeks – multiple generations of the same family at a table," he said. "Lawyers. Firemen. Guys getting out of jail who wanted, first thing, to come to Miss Griffins for a hot dog."

Hyde said that when his family bought the business, he got more than the furniture and kitchen equipment - he also got Willie Mae Griffin Hawkins' signature secret relish recipe.

"I make it every day," he said. "It's written on a napkin."

"We don't just sell hot dogs," Hyde said. "It's history, in every single bite."

Michael Garcia and Jack Conway of Ross Glass & Aluminum ate lunch Monday at Miss Griffins, and hardly for the first time.

"I've been coming here probably two or three times a week for the last two or three years," said Garcia, who added that his go-to is the "Chopped Plate – two hot dogs, chili beans, hot sauce, slaw."

Conway said he frequents Miss Griffins about as often as Garcia, adding that it's as much about the business as the food.

"They're local, they're established, and I love supporting local business, especially Miss Griffins – I haven't had a better hot dog outside New York," Conway said.

Hyde said Miss Griffins' new home "will have to be downtown" and, ideally, will be bigger than its current location.

"I'd like to have booths, maybe a couple of pinball machines," he said. "That 1950s diner-type vibe. There's nothing wrong with a little growth or change."

Contact Bob Gary at bgary@timesfreepress.com.