A blog about food
Irving’s Red Hots
Irving’s, the funky red shack at the base of Warm Springs, is about as local as it gets. The stand is a Ketchum institution, this town’s neighborly vendor of red hots for all. With over thirty years on Picabo Street, Irving’s Red Hots is older than most of its customers. Yet unlike the changed world around it - the construction of the Warm Springs Lodge, the demolition of Baldy Base Camp, the “residentialization” of Sun Valley’s northern base area - the bright red stand with hand-painted signs has never strayed from its classic recipe: an Original Dog with “the works” (a smattering of mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles and peppers) for $3.50.
The genius behind Irving’s Red Hots is Jill Rubin, who continues to spend most days taking orders and serving dogs. A native to Chicago, the sausage capital, Jill knows her product. Still we had to ask, “Why a hot dog stand in Ketchum?” As with any successful enterprise, opportunity met luck. It was the winter of 1977 and Jill was a cook at the now long gone North Face Hut in Warm Springs Village. The resort shakeup following Earl Holding’s purchase of Sun Valley, however, had Jill looking for new opportunities. At a party soon after leaving her job, a friend literally suggested, “Why not open a hot dog stand?” She liked the idea, recruited another ski bum, Sharon Hudson, and went into business. As Jill puts it, they were just two locals trying to make life work in a town they loved. “Those first years were huge because we knew everybody - and the food was cheap and good,” says Jill. That was 34 years ago. Has anything about Irving’s changed since?
Drop by on a weekend afternoon and you’ll see a complete cross-section of skiers and boarders. With no uppity airs and no demographic, the stand’s only criterion is that you’re hungry. Young or old, local or tourist, famous or not, everyone waits in the same line. The menu, on the other hand, does have a theme: mouth-watering dogs. While the Original Dog is still the standard and most popular item, the Chili Cheese Dog, the Kraut Dog and the Polish Dog get plenty of love. Ask for “the works,” and your order will be packed and garnished generously. Without Irving’s convenient paper wrap, nothing would contain the mountain of ingredients loaded into the buns.
Need a sugar rush instead? Cookies and brownies are baked fresh daily. In addition, Jill and her team cook up hearty bowls chili and mac ‘n cheese. In a rare move, I had the Cannon Ball for lunch today, which is a sourdough bread bowl filled with chili, cheese, onions and peppers. For a mere $5.00, I devoured the amount of food that would empty my wallet almost anywhere else. Plus it was delicious. Of course Irving’s is known for its hot dogs, but every regular knows that just about anything on Jill’s menu is sure to satisfy you.
So how does Irving’s Red Hots, a modest hot dog stand, become a Ketchum staple? Says Jill, “Something just clicked and it worked for us. I’m on my third generation.” That’s right, she’s started serving the grandchildren of friends from the early days. A wildly successful hot dog stand was never the goal, she explained to me. Rather Jill and Sharon went out on a limb to start a business because it meant staying in Ketchum and skiing all the time. Irving’s is, and probably always has been, a hangout anchored by certain values: good humor, good company and easy living. Although the food naturally gets the job done, people eat at Irving’s Red Hots because... well, because that’s where they always go. It’s Irving’s.
Irving’s Red Hots
Winter: Located at the base of Warm Springs, on Picabo Street. Open 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Summer: Located in downtown Ketchum, on the Hill, at the intersection of 4th and Main Streets. Open 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.