With Independence Day tomorrow, is there anything that says, “Fourth of July backyard barbecue” more than hot dogs on the grill? And in Toledo, OH, nobody knows hot dogs better than Tony Packo’s.

A Little Hungarian Hot Dog History

With a $100 loan from his relatives, Tony Packo and his wife, Rose, started a small sandwich and ice cream shop in 1932. The specialty sandwich of the eponymous shop was a “sausage and sauce” sandwich. The featured Hungarian sausage was called a “Kolbasz” that, when cut in half, was about the same size as a regular hot dog. Served on rye bread with a spicy chili sauce, it only cost a nickel.

Tony Packo’s is still in the same location its been in for nearly 90 years.
Image: Stephen Brown

The sandwich was a success from the get-go. Soon, everybody in town had heard about this tasty new hot dog and wanted to try it for themselves. Three years later, their little restaurant had become so successful they bought their own building on the corner of Front and Consaul Streets in Toledo’s Upper East Side. The restaurant is still there, along with four other locations.

 What’s All the Hot Dog Bun Hubbub?

Today, Tony Packo’s is not only famous for its “sausage and sauce” sandwich, but thanks to Burt Reynolds, it’s also famous for its buns. Back in 1972, Burt was performing at the Toledo Auditorium in a production of N. Richard Nash’s play, The Rainmaker. Tony’s daughter, Nancy, told Burt he ought to stop by Tony Packo’s and try some of her father’s famous Hungarian food. So, one night, Burt pulled up to Tony Packo’s in his little red Corvette. Somebody asked Reynolds for his autograph. Grabbing the closest thing he could find, the star picked up a hot dog bun and signed it.

The man who started autographing buns back in 1972.
Image: Public Domain

Ever since that night, everybody who is anybody — presidents, actors, musicians, sports stars, astronauts, and more — has signed a hot dog bun, which today are actually vinyl and Styrofoam facsimiles of the real thing. There are over 3,000 celebrity-signed buns proudly displayed on the walls of all five Packo’s locations. Many of the real buns have, unfortunately, crumbled to pieces over time; however, one of the original signatures on a real bun that’s still hanging in there is from Former President Jimmy Carter. You can still see it at the original Tony Packo’s on the corner of Front and Consaul Streets.

The rock and roll autographed hot dog buns hall of fame; Stevie Nicks, Peter Frampton, INXS, Def Leppard, A-Ha, Ted Nugent, Robert Plant, and Eddie Money.
Image: Pinterest

Sausage and M*A*S*H

A lot of credit for Tony Packo’s success — aside from the amazing food — also has to go to a character in the TV show M*A*S*H — Corporal Max Klinger of the 4077th. You see, both the fictional character and Jamie Farr, the actor who played him, were Toledo natives. Klinger mentioned Tony Packo’s no less than six times during the series’ 11-year run. The first time was in 1976 when he said, “If you are ever in Toledo, OH, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo’s has got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs.” With those words, Tony Packo’s became famous all over America. It was even mentioned in the final episode of the series, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” one of the most watched TV shows in the history of television. Today, you can see the signed buns of the cast of M*A*S*H, and other mementos from the series, hanging on the walls of the original Tony Packo’s.

Gary Burghoff’s autographed hot dog bun. Gary played Cpl. Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H for several seasons.
Image: Pinterest

If that isn’t enough to draw attention, how about this: Tony Packo’s food is out of this world — literally! In 1997, Toledo native and NASA Mission Specialist Donald Thomas requested that Tony Packo’s chili sauce be included in the crew’s space rations aboard the space shuttle.

That being said, it’s good road trip food for the Earth-bound, too, and should be part of your next Ohio road trip itinerary. So, if your summer road trip includes traveling through Ohio, be sure to set aside some time to stop at Tony Packo’s.

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While you’re planning that ultimate road trip itinerary for 2021, make sure to include a stop at one of our Stuckey’s locations for all of the road trip snacks you’ll need, including our world-famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll and mouthwatering flavored pecans and popcorn.  And don’t forget rubber alligators and our retro branded t-shirts, caps and mugs. From kitschy souvenirs to other Stuckey’s merchandise, Stuckey’s is the place to serve all your road-trip needs. Visit stuckeys.com.

Can’t wait until you get to Tony Packo’s? Stuckey’s has hot dogs and other road trip treats to hold you over until you get there.
Image: Stuckey’s Corp

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