Cozy Dog Drive In, Springfield, Ill.
It might be the most well-known food item at fairs across the country. It’s probably the best-known food to ever be served on a stick, which wasn’t always the case. It’s the corn dog, an iconic part of American culture that really needs little introduction. Almost everyone has eaten a corn dog at some point in their life, because it’s the ultimate fair food, a comfort food that you can carry with one hand.
Who actually invented the corn dog is a point of debate, as three different places claim to have sold the first ones, which debuted around the time of World War II. If you’re in central Illinois, however, there’s no debate. It’s widely accepted there that the corn dog was invented in 1946 at what became the Cozy Dog Drive-In, and saying otherwise could lead to a fight in the state capital of Springfield. There’s also no debate because they don’t call them corn dogs at Cozy Dog. The call them, you guessed it, cozy dogs.
Outside of central Illinois, what is accepted is that Cozy Dog was the first to put the corn dog on a stick. Yes, hard to believe, but at one time, a corn dog was nothing more than a hot dog with batter instead of a bun. It was still dipped and deep fried, but customers held it the way they did a regular hot dog. Cozy Dog changed that by using tongs to impale the hot dogs before dipping them into the batter, which became their own special mix of the famous cornbread we know today.
Today, Cozy Dog uses the standard sticks, and uses a very nifty apparatus to load them and dip them into the batter. The hot dog is placed on the stick, and then loaded into a rack that was created by Ed Waldmire, the original founder of Cozy Dog. It’s then dipped in the batter and placed in the oil to be deep-fried, but it’s not dipped and fried until you order.
A lot of corn dogs made this way end up with the batter either being too soft and feeling like a greasy pillow, or too tough and end up with a flavorless crunch. Not the case at Cozy Dog. When you bite into the cornbread batter, it’s crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and tasty all the way through. The cornbread comes out a pure golden brown, which is always a good sign. Plus, the hot dogs have the spice and snap of a good sausage, adding an unexpected and welcome level of flavor.
You might remember from Superdawg that in Chicago, ketchup is never allowed on a hot dog. That isn’t the case at Cozy Dog, because the cornbread has a sweetness that works as a natural partner to the ketchup, which is known for being a sweeter condiment. On a regular hot dog, the ketchup’s sweetness overwhelms the non-sweet hot dog and more tart and spiced toppings that are accepted. But when it’s already sweet, it’s merely a delicious and acceptable complement to the bread and meat. Of course, if you can’t bring yourself to add ketchup to a hot dog in any situation, mustard is available, and the Cozy Dog is very delicious plain.
Along side it, Cozy Dog also serves high-quality fries, cooked skin-on the way good french fries should be. They’re a great addition that make it a full meal. The corn dog has come a long way since its introduction, but simple is sometimes better in the culinary world. Their way has worked for nearly 70 years at Cozy Dog, and a trip here always feels a little like a visit to the fair.
Time to go: Anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday works. Cozy Dog is not open on Sundays.
Wait during my visit: None. Springfield is not exactly Chicago, and you won’t have to fight huge crowds.
Location: Cozy Dog is on what was part of historic Route 66. It’s located at 2935 S. Sixth Street in Springfield, Ill.
Cost: OK, it’s not 1946, so you can’t get a Cozy Dog for 15 cents anymore. But these prices aren’t bad. Two Cozy Dogs with medium fries and drink cost about $8. Not quite Aguila Hall-worthy, but not bad.
Parking: Not bad. The lot isn’t big, but it’s Springfield.
Seating arrangement: Tables and chairs
Website: Cozy Dog
Signature items: Cozy Dogs