1915 4th Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
In Chicago they have different style
[of hot dog]. They put [them] in the water,[and] they put mustard,
onions, tomatoes and pickles and, uh, relish. Stuff like that. And,
uh, in the southern—the
southern states like here, we have different. But here is better because
they cook with a grill, you know? – George Nasiakos
Gus Alexander, a native of Greece, opened Gus’s Hot Dogs, sometime in the late 1940s. Alex Choraitis (current owner of Andrew’s Bar-B-Q) took the place over in the 1960s, when Gus and his wife returned to live in Greece. Then, George Nasiakos took it over soon after his arrival to Birmingham in 1997. George came to Birmingham from Tripolis, Greece, via Chicago, where he worked at his brother’s restaurant, Chris’s Grill. Aleck Choraitis recruited George from Chicago, where their brothers knew each other, so that he could concentrate on his barbecue business. The hot dogs served at Gus’s are your typical Birmingham fare: a grilled dog with mustard, onions, and the elusive special sauce. The sauce recipe used there today is the original concoction that Gus Alexander created and then sold to Aleck and later George. George says he’s added his own touch to the sauce in the intervening years. No matter, it’s still one of the best dogs to be found in the Magic City.
What follows is a portion of the original interview that
has been edited for length. To download the entire transcript in PDF form,
please click here.
SUBJECT: George Nasiakos, owner
DATE: March 9, 2004 @ 4:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Gus’s Hot Dogs
LOCATION: Amy Evans
Amy Evans: This is Tuesday, March ninth, two thousand and four. And I’m on Fourth Avenue at Gus’s Hot Dogs with George Nasiakos [pronounced Nah-see-ah-gose]. And George, if you would say your name and, if you don’t mind, your birthdate for the record.
George Nasiakos: Uh, July fourteen, nineteen-forty.
And you said you’re from Chicago?
Did you come to Chicago from Greece or where you born there?
Yes, I came, uh, June thirteen, uh, nineteen seventy-four from Greece to Chicago.
Where in Greece are you from?
Uh, south Greece. [Short pause] The part is, uh, Peloponnesus. The city is, uh, Tripolis.
Okay, and what took you to Chicago?
Uh, to begin with I work in the small restaurant. And after that I –I had business—uh, paint business.
Was the restaurant, um, Greek-owned?
Yeah, my brother’s.
What was it called?
Uh, Chris’s Grill. Small restaurant, yeah.
And then what brought you to Birmingham?
When I came?
I came, uh, March twenty-three, nineteen, eh, uh [short pause] ninety-six, I think. If I remember. Six—No, nineteen--nineteen ninety-seven, something like that. Yeah.
And what did you do when you first arrived?
At Gus’s Hot Dogs?
Okay. And you worked here and then you purchased the business? From the owner?
I live with him for a—about ten months. With [the owner of] Andrew’s Bar-B-Q, you know? And after that I came here as long--I bought it, and I learned the job here.
Okay. So you worked at Andrew’s Bar-B-Q, which is owned by Aleck Choraitis?
Yeah. Not really. Not, uh, like, uh—just help, you know what I mean?
Okay. And then you bought this place when?
Right. Uh, [short pause] I came here, uh, June first, uh, nineteen ninety-seven.
Do you like the hot dog business?
I like it.
[Short laugh] What do you like about it?
Because I have nothing better to do. [Short laugh]
[Laughs] Do you have, um, a favorite way to serve your hot dog? I heard your customer before say you have a special sauce.
The sauce, uh—uh [long pause] they sold to me. How I mix--because I had idea. Before. But, uh, and after that, I change a little bit by my own, uh, recipe.
So they showed you their recipe, but then you changed it according to your—
They sold to me the recipe, but I change it.
Okay. How did you change it?
Uh, before they make it, uh—little hot. So--they put a lot of spices in. But I had—I hearing a lot of people say, “Too hot, too hot!” Like complain. They don’t say nothing bad but, “Too hot, too hot!” And I thought that the people don’t like that. And I changed it, and now I have lot of compliments. Lot of people likes.
Had you ever seen a hot dog with this kind of sauce on it before you came to Birmingham?
In Chicago they have different style.
Yeah. Very different.
Yeah. They put in the water, they put mustard, onions, tomatoes and pickles and, uh, relish. Stuff like that. And, uh, in the southern—the southern states like here, we have different. But here is better because they cook with a grill, you know?
It’s not in the water. Yeah, that’s all that’s different.
Do you know—
And they—and they put a lot of stuff in here, you know? They make a chili, beef, slaw.
Did you know anyone in the hot dog business in Chicago?
Me? No. Never. Friend of mine, he has a hot dog business. But not me.
How can you explain all the Greeks owning restaurants?
Because when, uh—we came here from, uh, our—old--old country [short pause] Usually they go to work back to—to kitchen, you know what I mean? So they start to plates--dishes, this and that and after that they’re grill mens, they start step by step and, uh, open a small restaurant and after too many years, they open a big restaurants. Because in Chicago—lot of people—they have lot of Greeks. They have, uh, restaurants.
And did you come to the United States to work and stay?
Yeah. I—I came a legal here—
Because before I came here, uh, my father [John Nasiakos] was here nineteen, uh—sixty-seven. So and he fill out the paper. He sent the paper there [to Greece], you know? And after that I came legal here.
And have you been back to Greece since you’ve been here?
I just—one time I went because, um, my mum was sick. And before she passed, I saw her.
Well, what do you think about the Greek community here in Birmingham?
It’s all right.
Do you attend the Holy Trinity Holy Cross [Greek Orthodox Church]?
Yeah, that’s all, uh—I met a lot of people there, you know? Just in the church…Yeah. And it’s some people who—for the holidays, you know, Like Aleck’s house—we go there and some other friends—yeah.
Are there still a lot of people in the Greek community here who speak Greek? It seems like there are.
Usually, the people—uh, the Greeks—uh, came from Greece, they speak Greek. Uh, the American Greeks that born here, uh, some people they--they speak. Some people very broke[n] like me. [Short laugh] How I speak English, you know? So—not, uh, not like me, you know? So, I have a friend, his name, uh, Jim Likis. He speak perfect Greek language.
Well how many hot dogs do you think you serve in a day?
Usually, hundred fifty hot dogs. Sometimes two hundred, you know what I mean. The busy time. You know?
Uh, sometimes, uh, less than hundred fifty, you know.
How—what’s the most popular way to get a hot dog? Most popular way to order the hot dog. All the way or with—
Oh, special, uh—usually they—they get the chili and special.
And, uh, a lot of cole slaw but, uh, chili and special. Everything of course, but they like a chili and special.
Special is that the—the same beef as I use, uh—I use, uh, quality beef. I don’t--I don’t buy, uh, ground beef, you know.
Because the ground beef is it a lot of fat in. You know that. So, for example, sirloin is it, uh, more lean.
Do you ever eat many hot dogs while you’re working?
Uh, here sometimes I eat. Usually, uh, all day long I don’t eat nothing.
Yeah. Except, uh, I drink sweet tea. [Laughs]
[Laughs] You like the sweet tea?
I like it. I don’t drink pops.
Yeah? What do you think about the rest of the Southern food here?
Oh, in the southern?
Yeah, they have a different, uh, style of food here. Yeah. [Short pause] The barbecue is okay. I like it, barbecue.
Yes. Because they cook on, uh, on the wood, you know. Uh, they have, uh, fresh greens. Like, eh, turnip greens and, uh, collard greens. Yes. I have a lot of beans. [Short pause] I like get fish too.
Do you miss Greece?
I tell you, yes. Because, uh, the place you’re born in there, you know what I mean, you have memories. Yeah. Just one time after, uh, nineteen seventy-four—after nineteen seventy-four I came here—just one time I went back. But now I feel, uh—because, uh, you know I—I feel to live forever here, you know. So –so—you know how you feel if you live, uh—if you live in one place and you lived for many years in the other place, you love the place, you know? You know what I’m saying?
Yeah. That’s all happened to me.
To download the entire transcript in PDF form, please click here.