Category Archives: Cumberland

Mile 1 – Coney Island/Curtis’ Famous Wieners, Cumberland, Md.

Curtis'/Coney Island on North Liberty Street in Cumberland has been open since 1918.

Curtis’/Coney Island on North Liberty Street in Cumberland has been open since 1918.

If you are able to dine at only one place in Cumberland, Curtis’/Coney Island Famous Wieners has to be on your short list.

It’s pretty much the best hot dog joint ever (says a Western Marylander).

But seriously, Curtis’/Coney Island is steeped in Cumberland history, and has been around long enough to span at least four generations. If you meet a Cumberland native (like me), chances are their parents and grandparents have had hot dogs in the exact same booths – but decades earlier.

Just a note – Curtis’ and Coney Island are the same place now, but were separate establishments until about 13 years ago – more on that farther down. I’ve rarely heard anyone ever refer to the place as “Curtis’,” instead referring to it by the “Coney Island” name, so that’s the name I’ll be using.

Memorabilia on the walls of Curtis'.

Memorabilia on the walls of Curtis’.

Coney Island has been around since 1918, and as far as I know, the recipe for “Coney Island sauce” hasn’t changed since it was created. The restaurant has always been a family affair, too. Currently, Gino Giatras is the proprietor, taking the place over from his father, Louis “Louie” Giatras (Louie died in 2007). Locals tend to refer to members of the Giatras family by their first names, regardless of whether or not they actually know the family personally.

Coney Island can be traced to business ventures by Greek immigrants around the beginning of the 20th Century. Louie’s obituary in the Baltimore Sun states that the first hot dog was sold around 1905, and the product took off. Because of the food’s success, the family started two hot dog joints – Coney Island and Curtis’.  Curtis’s was located at 35 N. Liberty St., and Coney Island was farther up Liberty Street toward Baltimore Avenue. Both restaurants were essentially the same menu-wise, and both had kitchens in the front of the restaurant, but each had different decor.

The old red booths moved from the original Coney Island location when it was merged with Curtis'.

The old red booths moved from the original Coney Island location when it was merged with Curtis’.

In 2000, the restaurants combined, with Coney Island moving into an expanded Curtis’. Today, the side where Curtis’ looks pretty much the same as it always has. On the other side of the restaurant, the iconic red booths that were part of Coney Island were moved into the new dining area when the hot dog joints merged.

The restaurant’s walls are covered in memorabilia, most notably historic newspaper articles, Pittsburgh Steelers decorations and photos. Gino is usually working, yelling orders in the small kitchen at the front of the restaurant.

So about the actual food…

My usual go-to: hot dogs with sauce, fries and a vanilla Coke.

My usual go-to: hot dogs with sauce, fries and a vanilla Coke.

Coney Island/Curtis’ is particularly famous for its sauce that goes on hot dogs. The base is hamburger, which is combined with several seasonings to produce a sauce that is drier than toppings at other hot dog establishments, but still fairly moist. Of course, there are all the regular toppings as well.

Curtis’ also makes vanilla Coke/Pepsi the old fashioned way – by actually adding syrup to the soda. I believe they make cherry Coke the same way, too. They also make a few other old-fashioned drinks as well (none with alcohol).

A view toward the front of Curtis'.

A view toward the front of Curtis’.

You can order at the window for take out, or seat yourself at the booths or at the bar to be waited on. The wait staff generally tends to assume that you’re a local and know what you want, so be sure to take a look at one of the menus on the wall as you’re finding a seat (this has thrown off some of my friends from out-of-state). Chances are you’ll be ordering a hot dog anyway, but still.

Hot dogs are ordered by amount and topping. So, for my usual three hot dogs with sauce (I tend to indulge when I’m home), I order “three with sauce.” I’ll usually have an order of fries brought to share with the table as well (they’re the crinkle-cut kind).

The bar at Curtis'.

The bar at Curtis’.

Your food will typically come out within just a few minutes – probably a lot quicker than most fast-food places. If you’re dining in, your bill will be given to you with your food, but don’t feel rushed. Pay at the front when you’re ready to go.

Coney Island is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed on Sunday. Parking is available on North Liberty Street and throughout downtown Cumberland. After lunch or dinner (or breakfast?) at Coney Island, visit the relatively large variety of shops in downtown.

If you’re heading farther west along the National Road, check out other great hot dogs at Fiddle’s Confectionery in Brownsville, Pa., or Shorty’s Lunch in Washington, Pa.!

Curtis Famous Weiners on Urbanspoon


Mile 0 (literally) – National Road Monument, Cumberland, Md.

The newly-finished National Road monument. Between fundraising and construction, the mounument took about a year to complete.

The new National Road monument in Cumberland is finally open, after the city dedicated the monument on Sunday, June 10, as part of the annual Heritage Days festival.

The new monument is placed approximately at the start of the National Road’s original routing on Greene Street at Riverside Park. Fundraising for the monument started last year during the 200th anniversary of the start of construction of the National Road. There is also a time capsule around the monument that is supposed to be opened in 2211.

To be clear – the National Road was eventually re-routed through The Narrows and LaVale (current U.S.-40 ALT), rather than over Haystack Mountain (currently Md.-49). So, this monument marks the original route, and not the route that exists today.

The first National Road monument in Cumberland is located in a traffic island on Greene Street, and almost unnoticeable.

Previously, this historic spot was marked only by a small concrete marker in a traffic island at the intersection of Greene and the Blue Bridge, which brings traffic to Cumberland from Ridgeley, W.Va. Riverside Park, at the confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River, already had George Washington’s headquarters and remnants of Fort Cumberland, so the park was pretty unique already. The National Road monument, in my opinion, fits in well with what exists already.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) speaks during the dedication ceremony at George Washington’s Headquarters.

Another fact about the monument – in addition to Cumberland and Allegany County, communities in three states helped with funds for the monument: Frostburg and Grantsville, Md.; Brownsville and Claysville, Pa.; and Wheeling, W.Va. I found the fact that municipalities a good ways away from Cumberland would be willing to help with such a project. Of course, the major funding still came from the city, the Allegany County Historical Society, the U.S. Dept. of Transporation (through a National Scenic Byways grant) and other private donors and businesses.

The crowd at the dedication of the National Road monument at Riverside Park on June 10. The new monument is in the background.

Of course, with 2012 being an election year, Maryland politicians (or representatives of those politicians) had to visit the city to speak at the dedication ceremony. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and State Del. Wendell Beitzell all spoke in addition to Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim and Allegany County Commissioner Michael McKay.

To visit the monument, parking is available along Greene Street in Cumberland. There is also public parking at the Western Maryland Railroad Station, and a pedestrian bridge over Wills Creek connects the station area to Riverside Park.

The National Road monument in Cumberland fits into the surrounding Riverside Park.


Mile 0 – Cumberland, Md.

The Western Maryland city of Cumberland, Md. (pop. ~20,000), is the the start of the National Road (as most road enthusiasts know). The city’s 200+ year history makes it interestingly fascinating, especially for history buffs. Three of the more important transportation links in America’s history all converge here: the National Road, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio (now CSX) Railroad. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cumberland was, for a time, the second-largest city in Maryland, and was a main export point for coal from the mines of Maryland and West Virginia. By the mid-20th Century, numerous factories dotted the city, ranging from the Celenese Chemical pant to the home of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Corporation.

Now, the factories are gone, and the city has over half the population is had at its peak, but within the last 10 years, positive signs are emerging. Continued work on revitalizing the downtown area is successful, and though the city lost population between 2000 and 2010, it wasn’t anywhere near older rates of population decline. At the same time, Cumberland continues to improve its downtown area, which has been branded as “Town Centre,” and is centered around Baltimore Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian mall. Specialty shops and local restaurants line Baltimore, Liberty, Centre and Mechanic Streets, giving life to the downtown area.

Closer to the bridge that carries I-68 through downtown is the Western Maryland railroad station, which hold a deli, the offices for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the C&O Canal National Historic Park visitor center. And to top off downtown, a smaller shopping area, Canal Place, houses a few attractions, notably a restaurant and a bike shop for users of the C&O Canal towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.

I’ll mention Cumberland’s attractions in detail in later posts, since each deserves more than just a brief statement.

Itinerary idea:

Breakfast: Grab a donut or croissant at M&M Bakery, 80 Baltimore St. This bakery has been locally-owned and operated for decades, and makes fresh baked goods every day.

Morning: But to give just a quick suggestion for an itinerary, start your day at the C&O Canal visitor center, which, in addition to housing interactive exhibits on the canal, also provides a wealth of tourist information. Consider taking a walk along Washington Street, past historic churches and homes, one of which, the Gordon-Roberts House, is open to the public as a museum.

Lunch: Coney Island Wieners, 15 N. Liberty St. Coney Island has been around since the early 1900s, and continues to be a Cumberland tradition. Ask for your hot dog “with the sauce,” which is never regrettable.

Afternoon: Explore the shops downtown, which range from antiques to an independent bookstore.

Dinner: Crabby Pig at Canal Place, 13 Canal St. Try one of their specialties – Maryland crabcakes.

Lodging: Holiday Inn, 100 S. George St.; Fairfield Inn by Mariott, 21 Wineow St.