Old Orchard Beach Pier II – The All American Meal

I can’t believe they have been able to hold the price if the meal steady for 36 years. It didn’t seem overpriced in 1980 and is the bargain of the summer now.

They bill it as the “All American Meal” and there used to be a big banner on the side of the pier advertising it. That is how I first discovered it – I saw the banner on the Pier when I was walking along the beach in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The banner has been gone for a couple of years, but the deal is still there.IMG_0288

If you didn’t know it, and I didn’t before, the “All American Meal” is a hot dog accompanied by a Coca Cola. I could quibble with the designation – the hot dog has German origins after all – but I can’t quibble with the 99 cent price. (I Googled “all American meal” and what came up was a hamburger and Coke. So I guess it isn’t standard.) It’s been that price as long as I can remember, which has had me wondering in recent years: how do they do it? I first had this meal about five years ago, and decided on a whim last week to repeat the experience. Consider this a restaurant review.

First, let’s deal with the Coke. It is a fountain drink, not a can or a bottle, which automatically makes it much cheaper for the vendor. Served in a Styrofoam cup, the cost to the restaurateur is only a few pennies. That’s why fast food chains offer free refills on soft drinks: they are still making a profit, even on people like me who usually have not just a second cup but a third one. No free refill on this meal though.IMG_0290

The Coke in this “all American meal” is not a large one. It’s a small coffee cup, which means you only get a little more than six ounces of the drink, but after all, for decades that was the usual serving size for Coca Cola, and for some purists it is still the preferred size (in a green wasp-waisted glass bottle). While some fountain drinks can lack either fizz or syrup, the combination was right on this one.

As for the hot dog and bun, well, the bun was your typical white bread top sliced hot dog roll. Not toasted, but I don’t particularly care for toasted rolls anyway. It was nothing exceptional, but suited for what was inside it.

I figured the hot dog itself was where the quality would suffer. I know chicken wieners are cheaper than pork, and pork cheaper than beef. But it seemed to have the taste and texture of a good quality beef wiener – no obvious fillers. I was tempted to buy a second one, then remembered I was only having a snack.

Doing a quick calculation, at home a hot dog will cost me about 52 cents for the wiener and bun. That doesn’t factor in the labour or cooking costs. That might not bring it to 99 cents, but nobody is making much money serving this meal at that price, that is for sure. Which still had me wondering how they have managed to hold the line at 99 cents on this meal since 1980.

Then it struck me: this is Maine, home of author Stephen King. Writers are always told to write what they know, to lend authenticity to their stories. In King’s novel 11/22/63 one of the key plot points involved hamburger meat being sold at the same price today as it was in 1963. Needless to say there’s a bit of time travel involved. (I haven’t read the book for a few years, so I am a little hazy on the details.)

Which got me to thinking. Maybe King wasn’t making things up. After all, most of his books are set in Maine. Maybe he was writing what he knows. Change hamburger meat to hot dogs, add some time travel and you have the All American Meal at the same price as in 1980.

That couldn’t be it. Could it?

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