By Joel Hall
Hot dogs have always had a special place in the heart of VeRonica Powell of Jonesboro. Growing up in Montgomery, Ala., with a mother from Chicago, Ill., childhood cookouts always included lots of grilled hot dogs prepared in many different ways.
"My mom was an attorney by profession, but she loved cooking," Powell said. "Everything in the house centered around food. At home, we would have these big cookouts where we would grill our dogs. Making messes in the kitchen was not discouraged in my house. My mom would always say, 'try it.'"
The idea to open a hot dog parlor, according to Powell, came after a conversation between her and Sherman Powell, her husband and childhood neighbor, who she often asked to prepare hot dogs.
"I really like hot dogs, but me and my husband could never find a good hot dog place," VeRonica Powell said. "My husband went on the porch to grill one for me and he jokingly said, 'You're going to have to start your own restaurant.' I said, 'I think I will.' It took me about nine months from start to finish."
In June, after operating a tax- and financial-services business together in Jonesboro for about five years, the Powells left the business in the hands of a friend and set out to create Freckle's Hotdog Parlor in Morrow. The name, according to VeRonica Powell, comes from her nickname, "Freckles," which was given to her by school children in her hometown.
"Kids teased me about my freckles and I turned a negative into a positive," she said.
The menu for Freckle's Hotdog Parlor includes more than 30 different regional and original variations on the hot dog, many of them named after immediate and extended Powell family members.
The "Freckle Dog," the restaurant's signature hot dog, is topped with Mrs. Powell's homemade crab-meat salad. Other signature hot dogs include the "Double Dare Dog," two hot dogs, chili cheese, mustard and onions, on one bun; the "BCCD," topped with two pieces of turkey bacon, cheese, chili and tomatoes; the "Vegas Dog," a deep-fried hot dog with onions, chili and melted cheese, served on a hamburger bun; the "New Orleans," French andouille sausage topped with caramelized onions, grilled peppers, and Creole mustard; and the "Milwaukee," topped with barbecue sauce, fries and cole slaw.
All the hot dog buns are toasted.
The menu also includes turkey hot dogs and chicken hot dogs, for the health conscious, and fried-bologna sandwiches and fried Oreo cookies called "Shamookies," for those who aren't.
Sherman Powell, a former math teacher at North Clayton Middle School who left his job to serve as the restaurant's head cook, said the restaurant offers families a unique alternative to subs and burgers.
"We want everything on the menu to be a specialty," he said. "That's why we only concentrate on hot dogs and sausage. It [the restaurant] has been doing well. Every day we get new customers. People can appreciate a good hot dog, not something that has been boiled and was sitting around all day, but something that was grilled and has all of its natural flavors."
VeRonica Powell, who spent seven years serving in the Army and seven more years in the Navy Reserve, hopes to eventually make the restaurant a franchise.
"Cooking for me is not a task ... it's relaxation to me," she said. "My friend who comes up here says it's like a Starbucks that sells dogs. It's a good hot dog experience. I want [to see] Freckle's everywhere, on every exit, from here to California."
Freckle's Hotdog Parlor is located at 6681 Jonesboro Road, Suite 111 in Morrow, near the entrance to Southlake Mall. For more information, call (770) 961-9294.