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Folks relish Schnapper’s hot dogs, friendly service

By Staff | Aug 13, 2009

The mere mention of hot dogs makes most people smile and start thinking about lunch or dinner for that matter.

Hot dogs are an American favorite. You can find them at ball games, picnics, carnivals and for islanders at Schnapper’s Hots.

The Sanibel restaurant is seemingly much an island icon as hot dogs are an American one.

At any given afternoon tables outside fill with island workers, residents and visitors noshing on one of Schnapper’s char-grilled butcher shop hot dogs.

The classy, 1950s style eatery located at 1528 Periwinkle Way has been serving hot dogs to islanders and visitors from all over the world for over a decade.

The family restaurant got its name from owner Vince Chiaramonte who affectionately dubbed the place after his brother-in-law, a Buffalo New Yorker known as the “Schnapper”. This man was a beloved friend too many in Buffalo, N.Y. So to honor his memory when he passed away, Chiaramonte and his wife Joan decided to name the hot dog stand after him.

Over the years, Schnapper’s has garnered walls of awards and accolades for their simple but yummy food which includes hot dogs, burgers, fires, onion rings, fish and chips, shakes and hand-dipped ice cream.

But it’s the business’s hot dogs that people really relish and keep them coming back for more.

“It’s just a different hot dog,” said George Schnapp, the restaurant’s manager. Schnapp is the son of “the “Schnapper”.

The hot dogs which are a beef and pork blend are made with an all natural casing and are delivered fresh from Buffalo. N.Y., Schnapp said.

For those who desire all beef or cannot eat pork, Schnapper’s carries Hebrew National all beef kosher hot dogs.

An as far as hot dog dressings and styles, the menu is pretty vast. Anyone hankering for for a hot dog can choose regular, Chicago style and a home-made chili dog. Schnapper’s also features fresh cut fries and hand pattied burgers.

While staff creates a bit of hot dog heaven, customers can relax to 1950s style music playing or chat with the friendly staff and Schnapp.

“It’s a fun place to work,” Schnapp said. “We’re all about customer service, good food and keeping it clean.”

Their island appeal is evident in the bowls overflowing with happy comments from customers. Schnapp points to name after name of visitors who scribble on cards their eagerness to come back and have a hot dog.

“We love hearing that,” he said.

For many, including travelers from abroad, the hot dog restaurant is a first stop before even settling into their lodging.

“We have become an island destination,” Schnapp said.

With its affordable prices – most every meal under $7 – and good food, Schnapper’s remains an island mainstay.

The business has also became known for its charitable efforts in the community. Schnapp said he can’t even begin to count how many hot dogs he has donated to local fundraisers including the Tarpon Bay Explorers Fishing Derby and most recently a FISH fundraiser held at Lily & Co. Jewelers on Sanibel.

“We generally try and give back to the community whenever possible,” Schnapp said.

And for anyone looking for something fun and different for a catered affair, Schnapper’s is available. They have served people who were celebrating their 50th anniversary and they were even booked for a wedding rehearsal dinner. Champagne and hot dogs? According to reports nothing could be finer to German actress Marlene Dietrich who was said to have washed down hot dogs with champagne.

And even during a challenging economy Schnapper’s is attracting day trippers and is still a top dog in town.

“We’re holding our own,” Schnapp said.