Monday, December 5, 2022

Bob's Footlong's Comeback

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2022 at 2:03 PM

After 72 years in business, Bob’s Footlong, beloved hot dog haunt of teens and truckers alike, shut its doors November of 2021. But like the chili stains on a shirtfront, it seems it wasn’t gone for good. Jessica and Daniel Milich have bought the business, are now, keys in hand, hiring staff and readying to reopen the shop in early January. You can almost smell the chili.
click to enlarge The chili cheese dog from Bob's Footlong. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The chili cheese dog from Bob's Footlong.

In 1949, Bob Broome and Lula Mclure opened Bob’s Footlong as a mobile business selling hot dogs at the Humboldt County Fair and later by the Fortuna movie theater on Main Street. Eventually it moved into the brick-and-mortar location at 505 12th St., where it throve under owners Ozzie and Joanne Smith. They passed the business down to their son and daughter-in-law Mike and Karen Smith, who kept the tradition going before selling to Jose and Tanya Moreno. The Miliches, who’ve purchased the business and will rent the space, which is still owned by Mike and Karen Smith. The Miliches plan to stick to the storied shop’s style, as evidenced by the familiar orange-striped logo with its sly Dachshund on the building and online, where they are accepting applications.  

Jessica Milich, who’ll be running the shop day to day with the help of her mother Neleen Nichols, has been working in healthcare as executive director at Sequoia Springs Senior Living Facility. But she’s ready to make the switch to the restaurant business, to which she’s no stranger. She says her grandmother owned the restaurant at Six Rivers Lodge and Resort in Mad River, where Jessica and her mother worked alongside her. And like Jessica, her grandmother was a fan of Bob’s Footlongs, too.

“Now when my grandmother would go there when it was the trailer,” says Jessica. As a high school student, Nichols used to order the “burrito banquet” years later at the 12th Street spot, though what that entailed is a bit of a fuzzy memory. As for the Miliches, “My husband is the cheeseburger fan I’m the chili dog fan,” says Jessica, who’s order was “usually a chili dog and garlic fries and a small chocolate shake.” As a born-and-bred Fortunan, she says she’s excited to bring back the local classic for those who miss it and a new generation of customers.

Jessica and Daniel, who is branch manager at Security Lock and Alarm, are veterans of local chili cook-offs, though they’re set on using Karen Smith’s classic chili recipe and putting the signature chili dog together the same way. For those of you for whom it’s been too long, that means splitting the sausage lengthwise to grill it and melt cheese on top before nestling it in a warm bun with a zigzag of mustard, and burying the whole thing in what seems like an untenable amount of meat and bean chili and a sprinkling of chopped white onion. As for the rest of the menu, Jessica says it will be basically as it was, if slightly condensed. They plan to “kinda play it by ear,” keeping an eye on what items customers want. “We’re going to try and use as many of their recipes as we can,” she says.

“I’m absolutely 100 percent nervous but I’m excited nervous,” says Jessica, who says the couple received encouragement from restaurateur Guy Fieri, a friend of Daniel’s. “He said, ‘You guys have gotta go for it,’” she recalls. Staffing and training are the next hurdles. “We don’t want to rush it.” The kitchen and dining area don’t appear to need much renovation at this point. “So far, fingers crossed, everything has been functioning and looks good,” she says.

This story originally appeared in the Enterprise.
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About The Author

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

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