Mark's Hot Dogs – San Jose, California - Gastro Obscura
Holiday Gift Guide: Atlas Obscura Books and Calendars

San Jose, California

Mark's Hot Dogs

For roadside fast food, pull over at the giant orange. 

In the 1920s, a businessman by the name of Frank Pohl founded the Giant Orange chain in California. The concept, as one might guess, involved selling refreshments such as orange juice and hot dogs out of roadside stands that were shaped like giant oranges. Pohl sold off a few of the stands before his retirement, and the last operational Giant Orange closed in 1973. Although the heyday of citrus-shaped stands scattered across California’s roadways has passed, a few of Pohl’s large orbs survive today. One of the last remaining oranges lies nestled amid palm trees in San Jose and still carries on the tradition of roadside dogs and OJ.

Mark’s Hot Dogs has been serving up its beef-and-pork franks since 1936. In 1947, then-owner Mark Yuram moved his joint into a decommissioned Giant Orange. Today, diners can order at the counter and eat their dogs (which can be topped with chili, cheese, or sauerkraut) at nearby picnic tables or, in a nostalgic nod to American fast-food spots of yore, use Mark’s car-service option. In the latter case, servers will come right to your car to take and deliver your order. For those who don’t feel like the tart chaser of orange juice, there are floats, sodas, and milkshakes to wash down your dogs.

In addition to being an eye-catching oddity, the stand is also historically significant. It’s a relic of the mimetic (also known as programmatic) architecture craze that took over California from the 1920s through ’60s. In an attempt to catch the attention of the increasing number of drivers on the road, many businesses designed their buildings in the very shape of the products they sold, leading to doughnut-shaped drive-throughs, tamale-shaped tamale stands, and more. While some of these buildings can still be spotted across the state, most have been repurposed. Designated a San Jose landmark, Mark’s Hot Dogs is one of the few food-shaped stands still feeding hungry drivers.

Know Before You Go

The stand did move within San Jose, so make sure you're heading to the new location on Capitol Avenue.

Community Discussion