The dog days of spring

Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
March 10, 2004 Wednesday

The dog days of spring;
The return of Aram Arakelian and his pushcart to downtown Lowell is a
sure sign of warmer weather


Aram Arakelian serves customers from his sausage cart on Central
Street in Lowell. sun/michael pigeon LOWELL New York has one on every
corner. In Boston, The Sausage Guy is king. On the streets of Lowell,
Aram Arakelian is the sole purveyor of America’s culinary icon: the
hot dog.

For 10 years now Arakelian has stuffed grilled dogs, Italian sausages
and Polish kielbasa into buns from his silver cart for streams of
hungry denizens. Want peppers and onions? Extra hot sauce? “No
problem,” is the motto of this amiable Armenian vendor.

As sure a sign of spring as daffodils and the red breast of a robin,
the sight of Arakelian’s silver pushcart means winter is bowing out.
So when he popped up on Central Street last week, regulars relished
the smell and sizzle of grilled sausage, pepper and onions in the air

“When I got off the bus today I said ‘yahoo!’,” exclaimed Pauline
Sigman, who likes to hit the cart a couple of times a week.

“I’ve tried all the stuff; it’s all good. The best there is.
Sometimes I want to double up, but I’ve got to watch my weight,” said
the Lowell resident ,gesturing toward her stomach.

Before there was Sal’s Pizza, before The Old Court, Arakelian held
down this stretch of Central Street in front of Banknorth. As the
city’s only outdoor food vendor, this one-man operation has become
part of Lowell’s lore.

“I’ve seen things change, but I stay the same,” said Arakelian,
deftly slinging sausages hot off the boil onto the grill.

Menu options haven’t wavered much; prices have kept pace with the
times. But at $1.25 for a grilled dog and $4 for a savory sweet
Italian sausage stuffed with grilled peppers and onions, it’s still a
decent bite for your buck. For a dollar more, the grilled chicken
breast sub is competitive, but is made to order with fresh meat and
served on soft rolls from a Malden bakery. He’s also strong in the
condiment department honey mustard, teryaki and hot sauce can doctor
up any order.

Ten years is a lifetime in the food industry and Arakelian attributes
his success to the Middlesex College students and elderly residents
who populate the block. They have turned his cart into a meeting
place and in turn he feels at home here. “I like seeing the people.
They ask me about my kids; it feels like a family.”

Like his exuberant personality, these sandwiches overflow with
goodness, making napkins a necessity when dining “a la cart.” The
other attraction to this portable meal is its versatility. These dogs
are easy to eat canal-side now that the weather is here. With so many
pluses, could Arakelian have created the signature meal of the city?

“It’s the best sandwich in town,” bellowed real estate tycoon Louis
Saab, walking by the cart this week.

“That’s good,” Arakelian said, pleased by the impromptu endorsement.
“He owns the city.”

Arakelian’s cart is open every weekday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., if it’s
not raining. Follow the aroma to Central Street between Middle and

Kathleen Deely’s e-mail address is [email protected] .

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