Celebrate National Hotdog Day at Skins’ where every day is hotdog day
It’s National Hog Dog Day, a day to celebrate the culinary delight that’s an undeniable American favorite. To honor the day and the dog, Livin’ Upstate visited Skins’ Hotdogs where every day is hotdog day.
An Anderson landmark, Skins’ original restaurant on Hudgens Street hasn’t changed a great deal since Loyd “Skin” Thrasher opened the place in 1946 to serve a once lively mill town. What has changed is the menu.
Back then, Skins’ served hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches. As time passed, hotdogs became the hands-down customer favorite, so Thrasher pared down the menu, removed the restaurant’s pool tables and focused on making the best hotdogs around. Today, Skins’ menu features hotdogs, chips, drinks and homemade chocolate pound cake.
Numerous awards, writeups in local, regional and national publications, and the famous faces that have eaten at Skins’ over the years point to a hotdog that not only has a great flavor, but a following.
“We don’t really think about being in these magazines,” said Skins’ Co-owner Matt Thrasher, the founder’s youngest son. “We’re just trying to sell you another hotdog.”
Second-generation owners Matt and Mike Thrasher and their brother-in-law, Wayne Harbin, say the key to the popularity of their famous hotdog is in the chili.
“There’s a secret but it’s in the chili,” Matt said. “The recipe is in the vault.”
Another unique element is the wiener, which is a mixture of pork and beef made specifically for Skins. Buns are top-sliced, steamed and designed to melt in your mouth, the owners say.
The demand for Skins’ hotdogs grew so great that in 1986, the brothers and brother-in-law decided to open a second location in Anderson, at the Marketplace Shopping Center off Clemson Boulevard.
“Everyone in Anderson thought we were crazy to open up another store. They thought we were going to ruin our father’s reputation because he was a living legend around here at the time,” Matt said. “It didn’t go too well the first couple of days, but after about three days it took off and we sold everything.”
Sales have gone so well, in fact, that Skins’ opened a third store in Anderson, three in Greenville, and one in the cities of Clemson, Easley and Mauldin. Sadly, fire destroyed the Marketplace store earlier this year.
Over the decades, Skins’ has become a stump spot for politicians and a stop for singers, actors and sports figures coming through town. Many of their photos, along with old pictures that include Clemson’s first intercollegiate football team, grace the walls at Skins’ original.
Wherever they go, the owners say, everyone seems to have a favorite Skins’ memory. And the owners have a few of their own – many involving a local sports icon or politician and even an officer of the court.
“(Former SC First Lady) Tunky Riley came in here all the time,” Matt said. “Governor Riley tells the story that he was five points down in the polls when he was running for governor, then Tunky ate at Skins for lunch and the next day he was five points up.”
Then there was the judge in Greenville County who wanted to feed jurors Skins’ hotdogs for lunch, dismissing objections from the bailiff that Skins’ was a 40-minute drive away. The solution was to enlist a South Carolina Highway Patrolman who blue-lighted the bailiff to Anderson and back.
Harbin tells the story of attending a camp at Clemson University during the tenure of Head Football Coach Ken Hatfield.
“I had on my Skins cap and during the practice session, Coach Hatfield came up to me and asked if he could trade caps with me. To this day, I still wear his (Clemson) cap to every football game,” Harbin said. “That showed me just how big this name is. It means a lot to a lot of people and I experienced that again when we lost our store in the fire.”
The trio also recalls a day when another famous Clemson coach visited Skins.
“Danny Ford brought (former Clemson basketball coach) Cliff Ellis down here,” Matt recalled. “I was working the register and you could tell Cliff Ellis had never been here and Ford just kept looking at him and asking him what he wanted. Ford finally said, ‘they just have hotdogs, Cliff.’”
But the strangest story involves a man who came in, out of breath and wanting two hotdogs.
“We got him two hotdogs right quick and he took off,” Matt said. “About five minutes later, two cops came in and asked if we saw this guy. Fifteen or 20 minutes later, the guy comes back by and gets another hotdog while he’s running from the cops.”
Adds Harbin with a laugh, “We serve everybody.”
“And with quick service,” Mike adds.
For those who don’t know the story behind the Skins’ name, here’s Matt’s telling:
“The name Skin came from a haircut. My grandmother on the Thrasher side was about six foot. My Uncle Jack ran a barbershop on Anderson mill. Daddy came in the barbershop one day and probably said something Uncle Jack didn’t like. Daddy was much younger than Uncle Jack, so Uncle Jack put him the barber chair, took out the straight razor and shaved his head. Daddy went and told his mother and she went down there with a baseball bat and cleaned out the whole barber shop. After that, Daddy was not Loyd anymore, his name was Skin.”
For more on Skins’ famous hotdogs of the South, visit skinshotdogs.com.