Before our interview even started, I counted nine different customers who came up to Moe’s tent to purchase a hot dog…or maybe a couple of hot dogs. This was on a Tuesday at 2:30 in the afternoon. Included in the crowd were two CofC maintenance men who drove by on a golf cart, a couple frat guys (who I was worried might buy the stand out) and the occasional student passing by. If you’ve been attending the College for more than a month, you probably know where Moe sets up shop. If you’re new to the school, it’s that deliciously smoky smelling hot dog stand on the corner of Glebe and George. Antelmo “Moe” Garcia has occupied that same spot on Glebe for seven years now. And business is still good.
“When school is open, it’s really good,” Moe said. “But when it’s out, it’s a lot slower.” What does “really good” look like in terms of hot dogs? Close to 120 hot dogs per day. That’s not including burgers, or the newest addition to the menu, breakfast sandwiches. Moe said the menu hasn’t changed too much since he first opened. He started out just selling hot dogs. But as the crowds grew bigger, Moe added burgers to the menu. Then jumbo hot dogs. Then sausages. Just this semester, Moe threw the breakfast sandwiches into his repertoire.
Sept. 25 marks Moe’s fifteenth year living in the United States. Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Moe came to the States to find work and make a better life for himself. “I miss Mexico,” Moe said. “But it’s better here to live.” Shortly after arriving in Columbia, South Carolina, Moe met his girlfriend. After two years together, the couple had their first child. At this point in his life, Moe decided that he wanted to work for himself. But, unlike many other people with the same mindset, he actually made it happen. Moe created Angel’s Food Services (named after his first son.) “It’s just me,” Moe said. “I have a friend come help me for three hours during lunch time because it gets so busy and I want to give people food faster. But it’s just my business.”
Meanwhile, our interview gets broken up by another student who walks up to the counter, greeted by Moe with a “Hey man, how’s it goin’?” The guy responds briefly with cordial small talk and then gets down to the business: “Can I get the Lumberjack, please?” I asked what he liked about the “Lumberjack,” and he responded matter-of-factly with, “It’s three hot dogs.” As if I should already know. The student tosses a dollar into the already half-full tip jar, Moe adds a new package of hot dogs to the grill, and we continue talking.
Moe said that the majority of his customers are students, but that sometimes professors come too. And you can bet your Oscar Meyer Wiener (too much?) that Moe has a following of regulars. One of which, Sophomore Spencer Hartig, visited in the middle of the interview as well. Hartig said, “It’s good food, good vibes and the guy’s cool. Everyone loves it.” Hartig has been buying hot dogs from Moe since his first year on campus.
You’ll notice on the menu that there’s certain names and specials such as the “Kappa Alpha Order” or “The Miles Coffin.” I asked how one acquires such fame, and Moe told me that it costs $20 to have your name on the board for the first time, and $10 per month after that. But for those of you that are just looking for some good eats, Moe suggests his favorite dog, which includes chili, cheese, jalapenos and onions.
Moe has a contract with the City of Charleston that allows Angel’s Food Services to be the only food truck to occupy that space. “There’s not a complaint from anybody if I’m right here,” Moe said. “I put this business here because there are a lot of people here. And a lot of people want to eat.” Despite his line of work, Moe says he doesn’t cook at home. He just really loves his job. “I love cooking hot dogs and hamburgers,” Moe said. “It’s easy and I get to talk to people all day.” His kids can’t complain about the job, either. Sometimes when the kids – Amy (12), Angel (9) and Alan(3) – don’t have school, they get to come to work with their dad. Moe said that “they think it’s cool because sometimes people give them tips, too.”
Moe, who hasn’t been home to Mexico since his initial arrival in the states, has clearly formed a family and a home in Charleston. So next time you’re leaving Stern Center and you catch a whiff of food sizzling on the grill, stop and say hey to this cool dude on campus. Grab a soda pop, maybe some chips and definitely a hot dog or burger for the road. I wouldn’t be a journalist if I didn’t do a little investigative reporting, so you’ve heard it from me, you can’t go wrong with the chili cheese dog, dog.