The Truth No One Tells You About Pronto Pups
You guys...I learned something new about Pronto Pups this weekend and now my head hurts.
I'd love share all these wonderful childhood memories of going to the Western Idaho Fair with my family and how much my little sister and I looked forward to eating Pronto Pups with our parents. But...unfortunately, I don't have those memories. I didn't move to Boise until I was 22. My hometown was heavily Italian-American and Polish-American, so I grew up eating pierogis and giant blocks of fried cheese at the fair.
My first summer in Idaho, one of my co-workers basically shoved a Pronto Pup into my hand at the Western Idaho Fair and said "eat this, it's the best corndog you'll ever eat." I raised my eyebrow a little bit because I'm not a big corn bread fan, but I was all in on getting to know my new hometown and the things people who live here like. Shockingly, it was love at first bite! There was something different about this hotdog on a stick compared to the ones my old swim club used to sell at their snack bar and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. (More on what that "it factor" is actually is later.)
Since I'd never heard of Pronto Pups before moving to Boise, I was entirely convinced that they were an Idaho thing. I believed that for almost 10 years until I was talking to my friend Liberty, who lives in Indiana. They have a big Fall Festival coming up that's just as well known for its incredible fair food as the Western Idaho Fair. She said something about looking forward to a Pronto Pup...and I had to ask her to stop and repeat herself because I KNEW I heard her wrong. Turns out my ears weren't playing tricks on me. She was indeed talking about the same magical hotdogs that I love. Mind blown. Pronto Pups aren't just an Idaho thing after all?! 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 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 (thanks for the tip Matthew) 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. They even have a mechanical Pronto Pup you can ride!