DIY eating: how to build an appetite

Investigative reporter Neal Ozano searches for Halifax’s best building supply store food offering.

A plume of smoke rises above a huge box store. No, it's not the apocalypse, I decide, when the sweet smell of flaming ground intestines in a semi-edible casing enters my flaring nostrils. I've found the staple of DIYers everywhere: the barbecue-on-wheels that lives outside building supply warehouses.

My assignment: Find the best of Halifax's building supply store hot dog stands. I've recruited an entire family---Andrew, of sensitive stomach; Laura, lifelong vegetarian and Georgia, 18-month-old baby, to taste and test all the things I won't have room for.

We won't find a dog better than the one in my hand right now, though. We're standing outside Pierceys (2854 Robie), gazing down at an impressively large menu of toppings and condiments next to a broad selection of ice-cold colas and juices. There are five patio tables for tube-food enjoyment, and even a selection of toys for the kids, free of charge.

I order the hot Italian sausage ($3.75) from the seven possible tube-meat options. Eyeing the endless condiment tray, I choose red and yellow jalepeno peppers, sauerkraut, mustard and ketchup. The added heat of the peppers takes the hot sausage to volcanotown. The only complaints I hear come from my intestines. Andrew eats half and loves it.

Laura orders the veggie dog ($3.75). It's one of the beany-soy-ish dogs, and she's not disappointed. We guzzle our pop. Little Georgia attempts to guzzle her free Matchbox car.

Next stop: Rona (350 Horseshoe Lake Drive) in the BLIP. We spy a dog cart to the right of the main entrance. There's much less on offer, and I realize we may have been spoiled at Pierceys. This guy's dogs come from a box at Costco. His whitebread buns are dry and bland. He has ketchup, onions, two types of mustard and some bacon bits made of reddish chunks of lead---almost impossible to chew, and likely having similar long-term health effects. There are combo deals: hot dog, chips and a can of pop are $4.50, "smokie" in the same combo form is $5.50. I get a dog, force it down.

Well before Rona closes, the barbecue proprietor hooks his portable dogshop up to his car and rolls away. Sitting at the hard picnic table, I have a sensation similar to car-sickness, despite not moving at all. My stomach acid swirls, occasionally coming up in squirts in the back of my throat.

Down the road is Home Depot (368 Lacewood Drive). No barbecue smoke rises here. I fear for the worst, but once we enter, we see Home Diners Express. Dogs and sausages turn on hot rollers. Hamburgers! Submarine sandwiches! Wraps! There's even a selection of real breakfast items, like eggs, bagels and the like. It's definitely not a barbecue with a trailer hitch on it, but for the discerning DIYer, it's heaven. There are even vegetables for the burgers!

Andrew orders the sausage. It's OK, and just under four bucks. The sauerkraut and yellowish relish improve it a bit. He likes it. I have a bite and gag a little. (There's nothing wrong with it; I just can't eat anymore.) Laura, on her second wind, orders the veggie burger. I watch in shock as the man runs the bun through a previously unseen bun toaster. Then he adds relish, tomato and lettuce to Laura's soy-based pattie, as she requested. "The vegetables are really nice," she says, sounding more surprised than impressed. I consider taking a bite, but decide against giving myself any more ammunition in the barf war I've started in my gullet.

It's odd how many stores are like Kent---having only occasional fundraiser barbecues and no regular dogfathers. After eating at Pierceys' miraculous stand, and after merely seeing the Lacewood Home Depot's cafe, it's hard to believe a building supply store would do it any other way.

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