The original Levis Hot Dogs on Sixth Street in Philadelphia closed in 1992 after nearly a hundred years in business. I never got to try it as my food travel adventures began some years after that. But I have memories of my dad telling me he and his dad would go to 76ers games and then stop at Levis for a hot dog and a Champ Cherry soda.
I tried the Champ Cherry a few times in bagel shops and deli’s that carried bottled versions of the famous cherry-apple soda that was a Levis exclusive. I’ve always felt the drink needs stronger carbonation, but it’s a perfectly fine drink.
The new incarnation of Levis in Abington, twenty years after the original closed, is by Elliott Hirsh, who is locally known for his Elliott’s Amazing Apple Juice (and other juices as well). He bought Levis and its assets in 1990 to gain the rights to Champ Cherry, figuring he could add it to his beverage empire
Banking on nostalgia and an aging baby boomer population who remembers Levis, Hirsh decided to open up a suburban shop and see if folks would bank on nostalgia.
I had made a mental note since January to try it out and on a slow Saturday in August I finally got a chance to do so.
The menu is pretty straightforward: hot dogs of many variations (not the original Levis recipe), fishcakes, deli sandwiches and hoagies, soup, a few grilled sandwiches (a grilled cheese was ordered by a family when I was there) and various homemade sides (cole slaw, potato salad, bowties and a few others).
I ordered two hot dogs, one with chili and raw onions and one with ketchup, spicy brown mustard and sweet relish. I also got a side of cole slaw and a Champ Cherry soda.
I ordered and paid at the register and found a seat. Within 5 minutes the food was delivered to the table. The rolls are a little more substantial than a normal steamed hot dog bun, but they aren’t so substantive as a hoagie roll. The food was fresh and hot and the toppings were all flavorful.
The cole slaw was a little too creamy and sweet for my tastes, but it was homemade and had high quality ingredients.
I did not order the fish cake/hot dog combo, which is one of the things Levis was famous for. I have tried fishcakes a few times and I’m just not a fan of the breaded fish/potato cake.
The meal was substantial for $9 and it is worth a visit to try this Philadelphia classic.
A Philadelphia Inquirer story on the January opening can be read by clicking here.
The Levis store is at 966 Old York Rd., Abington, Pa., 215-572-1895.