In America, a traditional state fair food staple goes by two names: corn dog or corny dog. If you know this golden fried goodness by the later name, you must be from Texas. And if you’re from Texas, you likely don’t even call it a corny dog. You simply call it a “Fletcher’s.” And you say it with childlike excitement, almost with a giggle. Because that’s how good it is. That’s the fond memory it evokes. And that’s the lasting power of this brand name.
What’s a Fletcher’s Corny Dog?
For those of you unfortunate souls who weren’t born and raised in Texas (big, slow-motion Zinzin wink), let me explain: A Fletcher’s Corny Dog is THE only corny dog worthy of the name — corn dog or otherwise. It’s a hot dog on a stick that’s fried to perfection in cornmeal batter (then covered in mustard, if you’re wise).
Fletcher’s Corny Dogs became famous as a food option sold at the State Fair of Texas, which is held every fall in Dallas, Texas. Let this Texan (who admittedly resides in California) assure you that the State Fair of Texas is a big deal. It lasts for about three weeks from late September to October.
In 2022, 2.5 million guests poured through the fairground gates to enjoy the entertainment, art, agriculture, history, and cuisine. In fact, when I was a kid, we’d get a free ticket from school, along with a day off to attend the Fair. It was called a “Fair Day.” And the food booths were — and still are — a main attraction for adults and kids alike.
Brief history of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs
Fletcher’s Corny Dogs first made its appearance at the State Fair of Texas in 1942, according to their website. It also explains how the company didn’t hit on a brand name right away.
After trying out a series of names ranging from K-9 and Brown Bomber, to French Fried Hot Dog and Meal on a Stick, the Fletcher brothers finally came up with a name and began to build a clientele.
Personally and professionally, I’m so glad the Fletcher brothers had the branding wisdom to ditch “Brown Bomber” and go with their last name.
What makes Fletcher’s Corny Dog stand out?
Once again, the Fletcher’s website says it best:
The secret to the famous Fletcher’s Corny Dogs isn’t just the batter, it is also in the water temperature and how the batter is mixed. And that’s all we are going to say about that…It’s surreal to look back now and realize that Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs have been at The State Fair of Texas a decade longer than Big Tex!
Big Tex is another story unto himself. But to this former Dallas-kid, a Fletcher’s Corny dog is special, because it holds a special place in my perhaps slightly artery-clogged heart. A Fletcher’s was something you could only get once a year. If you were going to the State Fair, you were going with your friends or family. It was a special event. You were going to enjoy an evening outside in not-sweltering air under the stars. And you were going with the express purpose of having fun and eating a Fletcher’s. No matter how many food tickets you had to fork over.
Type of Fletcher’s available
These days, Fletcher’s has more varieties of corny dog than their original version (which is still the best, in my humble opinion). But I’ve lived outside of Texas for a long time now, so I may be operating off nostalgia here. If you’re now convinced that you simply have to go to the State Fair of Texas, it’s best to be prepared. Here are the varieties of Fletcher’s you’ll be faced with:
- The Original
- The Jalapeno & Cheese Corny Dog
- The Bird Dog
- The Veggie Dog
- The Cheezy Pup
- Make Mine Texan
Might I suggest, you can’t go wrong. Just remember to give yourself enough time between your Fletcher’s and heading to the Midway, where some thrill rides, such as the slingshot, might re-introduce you to your corny dog. But I grossly digress…
More about Fletcher’s legacy
Fletcher’s history and present-day is an interesting one. It is still a family-run business. And it all started with two brothers who were Vaudeville performers. According to company history,
In 1938, brothers Neil and Carl Fletcher were winding down long-term careers in Vaudeville, having spent several of those years performing at the State Fair of Texas in a show called “The Drunkard”. Fortuitously, as the men were plotting their next moves in life, the brothers were offered a unique opportunity to run a food booth at Fair Park. Both men had spent years marveling at the lack of cuisine offered to the Park patrons and knew they had an opportunity on their hands.
According to Neil, there was a local baker on Oak Lawn Ave. who served a dish of hot dogs baked in cornmeal in the shape of an ear of corn, and while it tasted good, the process was time-consuming and complicated. The brothers tested the recipe and realized that by frying it, not only did it cut time in the cooking process but now it was a mobile food on a stick.
Fletcher’s present day
Fast-forward to the 2020s, and the ownership of Fletcher’s trademark was in question. The company, along with a family feud, hit the news. This feature called “The Great Corny Dog Feud” in Texas Monthly tells the whole story. As of now, my understanding is that the feud has died down after much legal hubbub.
The Texas Monthly article mentioned above assures us,
The other Fletchers have moved on too. They struggled to stay profitable during the pandemic. With the fair closed, the family turned to pop-ups: by the end of 2020, they had hosted more than a hundred events. This May, they announced a partnership with the Golden Chick restaurant chain; in July, they revealed yet another partnership, with the online food company Goldbelly, which ships their corny dogs across the country.
And with that, it’s time for this Zinzin-namer to explore the offerings on Goldbelly, or buy myself an airplane ticket to Dallas this September. All of the sudden, I have a craving for a taste of home. Corny dogs and all.
Zinzin salutes Fletcher’s for its staying power. They demonstrate an interesting lesson about a company that stays true to its brand positioning.
We love to find inspiration from unexpected corners of the world. Typically, it’s from art and literature. But occasionally, we find it in fascinating historical brands, like Fletcher’s, that have simply tested — and endured — the hands of time.
For another look at a historical brand name with a Texas connection, check out Frisco: a name origin story that’ll blow your stack.