The lure of this popular spot is undeniable. Jerry Jones has been spotted here, as have Bill Cosby, Ross Perot, Jr., and the Marcuses. After all, this is the kind of savvy cuisine we all seek.
A really good hot dog.
Welcome to Wild About Harry’s, lair of Harry Coley, self-proclaimed “Purveyor of Fun.”
“The people that come in…it’s neat,” says Coley. “People feel a part of us in this community and that’s what we’re aiming for. We hope that every time they come in here, it’s a fun experience – for the families, for everybody.
“We’re kind of a meeting place for the neighborhood.”
Harry’s, which opened just four years ago, has come a long way in a short time, evolving from a narrow spot on Knox Street where passersby began poking their heads in curiously – only to be lured, charmed and fed by Harry himself manning the counter.
“I’ve always been a hot dog person,” says Coley. “They were my first love as far as ‘crazy food’ goes.”
His fondness for frozen custard dates back even farther. The signature “Wild About Harry’s” custard is a family recipe; Coley says that his mother, Sarah Francis, was a “fantastic cook.”
“Everybody used to knock our doors down at home when they knew she was making it (the custard),” recalls Coley. “We’d have lines out the kitchen door. It was a labor of love.”
The original vanilla flavor is still the bestseller – five to one over everything else. But there are sufficient takers for the more exotic, such as cafe mocha and green tea.
Coley breaks away every few minutes to say “hello” to customers (most of whom call to him as soon as he’s spotted), to pull out a chair, to mop up a spilled soda. Behind him hang dozens of bulletin boards, snapshots, postcards and notes. One of his customers has summed up the gist in painstaking crayon:
“Dear Harry, You are a nice man.”
HARRY’S ALL-AMERICAN DOG GUIDE
3111 KNOX STREET
THE CHICAGO DOG: Harry’s signature dog. Peppers, onions, relish, tomatoes, pickles and regular mustard.
THE NEW YORK DOG: Sauerkraut, onions and spicy mustard.
THE SAVANNAH DOG: With coleslaw. The Texas Dog: Harry’s bestseller. Chili, onion, cheese. Yee-ha.
THE DALLAS DOG: Cheese, relish, onion, mustard.
THE KNOX STREET DOG: Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing.
THE GREAT SOUTHWEST FIRE DOG: Spicy Polish sausage, relish, tomatoes, peppers, pickles, celery salt, cayenne pepper and mustard.
NEIGHBOR MOM’S DIET DOG: we made this name up ourselves. Coley started offering 100% soy protein dogs as a favor to “all his mothers” who were on diets and then had to come into Harry’s to watch their kids chow down. The veggie dogs can be substituted in any of the above versions, and vegetarians are giving thanks along with the dieters.