A visit to Springfield, Illinois holds something for just about everyone in your travel crew. If you are a fan of road trips, then retracing the Mother Road (Route 66) will lead you straight through the heart of this Midwest city. Along the route, there are a variety of unique stops, like Cozy Dog Drive In. When we made our stop at this iconic site, we had no idea that we were taking a step back into the origin of corn dogs.
We want to thank Visit Springfield and Cozy Dog Drive In for their hospitality. Rest assured the opinions are all our own.
Getting Our Kicks on Route 66
Growing up, we had plenty of opportunities to visit sights along the old Route 66, as it wound its way through the Central U.S. Today, nostalgia drives thousands of visitors each year to cruise some or all of America’s “first highway”. Over the past couple of years, we have added stories from plenty of Mother Road cities, including ones in our home state of Kansas. (You can read about one of our Route 66 explorations here.) With so much of the route already under our belt, a chance to fill in the gaps in Springfield was not to be overlooked.
The Early Days
Cozy Dog Drive In has a fascinating story to tell, and much of the information is held in artifacts at their restaurant. Their claim to fame is not that they invented the corn dog, but that they revolutionized how it is served. For decades, corn dogs have been a staple of southern cuisine. This dish involves coating a frankfurter in a cornbread sandwich. While it is basically an early version of today’s popular treat, it took too long to prepare. While Ed Waldmire Jr. was attending Knox College, he had his first experience with this southern dish. After discussing it with a fellow student, he let the subject drop. Five years later, he heard from that student, who told Ed that he had developed a batter recipe that would stick to the frank, while being deep fried.
The Origin of Corn Dogs
Since Ed was stationed at an Air Force base in Amarillo, Texas, he had time to test it and had access to equipment. The early versions used cocktail forks for sticks, and were nicknamed “crusty curs”. This new version was a hit, and Ed sold thousands in Amarillo. Once the recipe was fine tuned, it was time to work on the name. After going through a dozen he didn’t like, he finally settled on “Cozy Dogs”. In 1946, Cozy Dogs were moved to Springfield, Illinois. That same year, this unique eat was introduced at the Illinois State Fair. By 1949, they had moved to Route 66 and the tag “Drive In” was added to their name.
Cozy Up to Cozy Dog
These days, travelers from around the globe visit Cozy Dog Drive In to learn about the origin of corn dogs, and sample these tasty treats. We pulled into their location at 2935 S. 6th Street, which is easily spotted by their sign along the street. Our stop was at lunchtime, and we found a steady stream of diners making the pilgrimage. Once inside, we discovered it is counter service. We placed our order and found a seat close enough to watch the magic. The menu has a good variety of handhelds, so those looking for something besides a corn dog will surely find a meal to their liking.
Our Turn To Taste
We decided to sample a spectrum of the menu, including the iconic treat that the restaurant is named after. Of course, we had to toss in some fries and rings, as well as a juicy burger to round out the meal. To wash it all down, we discovered they have an assortment of bottled sodas to choose from. We found it to be an added bonus that they carry the Route 66 logo on the containers. With all of this food laid out in front of us, the only thing left to do was to dive in. As we dined on our nostalgic meal, we took in all of the memorabilia that adorns the dining room. It sure made us feel like we were kids again, enjoying a site along the Mother Road. How many of you like to explore Route 66 cities?