Rockaway Beach, Oregon doesn’t seem like the type of place with a notable culinary history. This small beachfront community is a popular but remote destination along the Oregon Coast. However, one staple of American cuisine can credibly claim Rockaway Beach as its birthplace: the corn dog.
The origins of the corn dog are surprisingly murky, however, Rockaway Beach has a strong claim to the throne. This origin story begins with a glum hot dog salesman named George Boyington, who was throwing stale hot dog buns to seagulls after a rainy Labor Day weekend ruined his stock in 1939. Looking for a way to create buns on demand, he and his wife Versa took some cornmeal batter, found a deep fryer, and hot dog history was born.
Is this story the truth? Well, as the saying goes, history is written by the wieners, and there’s no doubt that George had a knack for promotion. George and Versa scaled up production of the novelty food item, now named the Pronto Pup, and Portland’s 1941 Pacific International Livestock Exposition became the debutante ball for the hot dog on a stick, as more than 15,000 Pronto Pups were sold, becoming a smash hit .
The Boyingtons would go on to franchise the Pronto Pup, which remains a popular item even today in the upper Midwest, particularly in the state of Minnesota, where it is a state fair staple, often sold alongside unbranded corn dogs. There’s some controversy as to whether Pronto Pups and corn dogs are the same food item, as Pronto Pups are made with pancake batter. The official line is usually: “All Pronto Pups are corn dogs, but not all corn dogs are Pronto Pups.”
Pronto Pups made their glorious return to the Oregon Coast in 2016, the brainchild of a Portland-based attorney named Anthony McNamer, who was shocked that the Pronto Pup’s birthplace didn’t have a statue, or even a corn dog stand of its own. He built The Original Pronto Pup as a roadside attraction, complete with a 30-foot-long fiberglass corn dog perched upon the roof, presumably the world’s largest. Visitors can also ride a custom-built mechanical corn dog, complete with saddle, for just a couple of quarters.
In 2021, during the pandemic, McNamer sold The Original Pronto Pup to Diane Langer and Doug Hummer, a couple who sold their business and moved from Washington state to Rockaway Beach to keep the Pup operating in the same spirit. The gregarious couple offer a variety of corn dogs, including several vegetarian and specialty options, as well as soft-serve ice cream and conversation. And when you are riding a mechanical corn dog, with a Pronto Pup in hand, you’ll truly know the taste of Rockaway Beach’s greatest invention.
Know Before You Go
The Original Pronto Pup is open year-round, but hours and dates may vary based upon the season. Check the restaurant website for details. A note to any enthusiastic corn dog riders: the mechanical corn dog is only in operation during business hours.