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FLORAL CITY — Citrus County is about to lose some of its local taste, in the culinary sense of the word.
Pudgee’s All American Hot Dogs, a roadside dining attraction for more than a decade, is set to close Saturday.
After surviving lean recession summers and the vagaries of weather, the take-out only hot dog stand succumbed to a fire inspection.
And what was legal in 2001 no longer passes mustard.
“It was built by the 2001 standards of Florida hotels, motels and restaurants,” owner John Sterling said.
The 53-year-old describes himself as “a hometown boy who went to high school here and gave the county its first original hot dog stand.”
“I’ve had inspectors, code enforcers, food inspectors, everyone inside this place,” he said. “No one has ever raised any flags of any sort, because we never had any issues. We’ve never tried to be above the law.”
The business is basically a small trailer with room for a cook or two. Several tables sit outside under a canopy, which is apparently also a violation. The colorful trailer is plastered with signs, cartoons and photos paying whimsical homage to the hot dog.
The whimsical theme carries onto the menu, which lists 10 different hot dogs, along with sausages, burgers made to order, fries and sides.
According to the Citrus County Sheriff/Fire Inspection, Sterling needs to install a fire suppression system over his grill, an improvement he said could cost more than the trailer is worth. He currently keeps three fire extinguishers on hand.
Since he posted the closing date on an outside sign, word has spread. Longtime customers, whom he greets by name, have been stopping by to wish him well and get their last fill of his food.
“I want to thank them all for supporting me,” he said. “They’ve shown a lot of love.”
“They are all like family,” Sterling said. “I’m part of their family and this is part of Citrus County.”
“I’ve tried to keep prices affordable,” he said, “so someone could enjoy a meal for a couple dollars. Not everyone wants McDonalds.” And if someone could not afford to eat, Sterling made sure they did not leave hungry.
As for his future, “I don’t know,” he said. “How do you plan for something like this?”
“This was our family business,” his wife Terri Sterling said. “I don’t understand it.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.