Bernson's Corner: Hot dog place with some Hollywood style
Call it a wiener, a red-hot or a frankfurter, but it's been one of America's favorite fast foods for generations. In Bernson's Corner, we found a hot dog place in northwest Ohio where "frankly," the food and some Hollywood history might get you saying "Holy Toledo!"
Tony Packo's was just another Toledo neighborhood bar and grill when it started selling hot dogs during the Great Depression. But in a single night in February 1976, a hit T.V. show put Tony Packo's on the map. Corporal Max Klinger, played by Toledo's own Jamie Farr, was supposedly being interviewed by a journalist visiting the war front in Korea. The day after that scene was broadcast on "M*A*S*H," Colette Bilius was working behind the bar. "This place was ridiculous. There was a two-hour line for carry-out...you couldn't get in the door. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen."
From then on, Tony Packo's was almost as big a hit as M*A*S*H. There are now five locations, including one in Florida. The son of the founder, Tony Packo Junior, still runs the place and still sees M*A*S*H fans chowing down every day. "They stand outside, take a picture of the exterior, or the group shot of the cast of M*A*S*H -- they just want to be at the place that Jamie Farr talked about in the show. Just to experience what he might have experienced. I think our food is so unique. We really don't have any competition or category that we fall into here. It's sort of a Hungarian fusion of American foods."
Packo's sells plenty of stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash, but the Hungarian hot dog is still king. Celebrities who visit Toledo never leave without autographing a plastic hot-dog bun replica.
Packo says, "And we've had five Presidents sign the bun... one prime minister... an astronaut that has taken our food up into space... yeah!"
In a 1980 M*A*S*H episode entitled "Dreams," Klinger imagines going home to Toledo for a visit to Tony Packo's - a Hollywood version - before confronting the grim reality of the Korean War. The reality of the actual Tony Packo's is success: the realization of the American dream -- with a Hungarian flavor.