The Truth No One Tells You About Boise’s Beloved Pronto Pups
With the Western Idaho Fair just days away, this may shock you about quite possible the most popular food-on-a-stick you'll find there this year!
Confession time? I didn't have my first Pronto Pup until the age of 22. Before moving to Boise, I lived in a part of the country that was very Italian-American and Polish-American. Sure, our county fair sold corn dogs but people were more excited to grab fair pierogis that were cooked in a pound of butter or a giant block of fried cheese.
I'd never heard of a Pronto Pup until my first summer in the Treasure Valley when one of my new co-workers basically shoved one into my hand at the fair. I'm not a big cornbread fan, but I ate it to be polite. That's why I was shocked that it was love at first bite. There was just something different about Pronto Pups. An "it factor" that other corn dogs just don't have. More on that later, but it's not what shocked me about Pronto Pups.
Since I'd never heard the words "Pronto Pup" next to each other in a sentence, I just assumed that this criminally delicious delicacy was something unique to Idaho.. That's why I was SHOCKED, when I was talking to my friend Liberty who lives in Indiana and she mentioned looking forward to a Pronto Pup at their fall festival. Like, so shocked that I made her repeat herself and elaborate.
She accurately described the same magical hot dog-on-a-stick that I loved. Pronto Pups aren't just an Idaho thing. Mind blown. WHAT IS LIFE?!
Turns out that Pronto Pups weren't even born in Idaho! They were the brain child of George Boyington, a beachside hotdog vendor in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. According to a brief history of the popular fair food on the "Original Pronto Pup" website, Boyington ran his hotdog cart in the 1930s and was tired of buns getting soggy enough to fall apart when rain hit the beach. He thought that if he could "cook" a bun around the hotdog, that would solve the problem. He and his wife started testing different pancake based batters (there's that "it factor") that they could dip the hotdogs in before frying them and came up with a recipe that's still used for today's modern Pronto Pups.
The couple opened a brick and mortar store, but also traveled to fairs. They were a huge hit at the Pacific International Livestock Exposition and after WWII, service members who had tried them started opening their own Pronto Pup shops after they got out of the service. That's how they started traveling east to places like Boise.
In fact, we used to have a couple brick and mortar Pronto Pup locations in the Treasure Valley! Do you remember them? According to the Boise Weekly, one opened near the Egyptian in 1940s and there used to be one at the Boise Spectrum near Edwards. We're not exactly sure when it closed, but the last review on Yelp was posted in 2008.
BTW, there is at least one Pronto Pup restaurant left and its where the creation was born. If you'd like to make the road trip, you can find it at 602 S. Highway 101 in Rockaway Beach, OR. According to their website, they're home to the world's largest corndog and the world's first riding mechanical corndog.
They're so proud of it that they've designed t-shirts for people who decided to take it for a spin. You can pick one up by visiting the store and enjoy one of their unique verities that you probably won't find at the Western Idaho Fair. In addition to their original Pronto Pups, the Rockaway Beach location also serves a Spicy Pup, Veggie Pup, Zuchi Pup (short for Zucchini,) Pickle Pup and Seasonal Pups.