In the late sixties, traveling musician Mel Lohn decided to put down roots in Tampa and a few years later opened Mel’s Red Hot Ranch.
Today known simply as Mel’s Hot Dogs, the business has stood at the same location adjacent to Busch Gardens since 1973. It occupies the last remaining structure from a World War II army air base, growing over the years from a 25-seat capacity eatery to now being able to accommodate 100 customers.
The simple hot dog stand is considered a landmark by locals and a popular spot for families after a day in the theme park. The interior has an unforced old-fashioned vibe with red booths and chairs, neon signage above the order counter, and memorabilia on the walls.
Team members like to crack jokes with one another and customers, often engaging in conversation at your table.
The food is made-to-order and delicious. The hot dogs are served Chicago-style on steamed poppy-seed buns with a variety of topping combinations.
When you go, be sure to take a selfie with the famous weiner-mobile outside!