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Yesterdog: A photo essay

A photo essay and description of the graffiti found in Yesterdog.
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Yesterdog is a place that attracts many kinds of people. From who the employees describe as "arrogant suits" to "drunken fools" to Janet Jackson, all types seems to find their way to the restaurant. They all have their own reasons for returning, which they often do frequently--perhaps because Yesterdog always has the best dogs in town. This is a claim that is backed up by the fact that Yesterdog has won the "Best Hotdog" category of Grand Rapids Magazine's poll every year since hotdogs were included in 1991.

While many come for the hotdogs, some come for that "hometown" sort of feel that Yesterdog seems to give off. Many end up leaving their mark on the tables, the booths, the walls, and the doors. This graffiti adds to the community feel and brings people back to the same booth every time to say, “Hey, look at this, that’s my name right there." The graffiti tells a story of the people who have tried to leave thier mark on the restaurant.

The graffiti consists of many different things. A rather odd looking jellyfish, drawn with a black permanent marker on the green vinyl of a big round booth, floats in the back of the restaurant. Drawn behind it is Sammy's name, the date 9/28/10 and a sunrise on the horizon.

Joanna and Nikki carved thier names along with a few hearts and stars on the door between two rooms. Their names look freshly inscribed despite the date under them: 4/25/05.

A note from Taylor on the napkin dispenser informs the staff that "Wetnaps would be better."

"I <3 UR MOM" is written in white paint marker that makes it stand out starkly against the dark brown paint on the wall by the back entrance.

Above the hallway to the bathroom a bunch of names and phrases are visible. Some carved and others in permanent marker, but one that stands out reads "Beware of the creeping meatball." 

Chuck, an oddly shaped man carved into the side of a booth, gives a thumbs up . . . perhaps complimenting the hot dogs?

Curt's name stands a little over three feet tall, carved in large block letters into the outside of a booth. It obviously took him time and a bit of patience to carve out the deeply furrowed ruts that overshadow the names that lay behind them.

The back board of a booth in the middle room is so full of carvings, marker and paint that it is hard to decipher much of anything besides the words "Exchange," "Anne" and "Alex."

The graffiti that fills the walls, booths, chairs, doors and every other imaginable surface brings character to the restaruant and adds to the atmosphere. Yesterdog, which has been in business since 1976, will probably be around for many years to come making Grand Rapid's best hot dogs for "arrogant suits," "drunken fools" and celebrities alike. 

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I started going to Yesterdog in 1979.  Back then the place was beautiful and not defaced as it is now.  People that carve their initials into restaurant booths are the same idiots that carve their initials into a tree in a state forrest.   Non of the "graffiti" you described has any artistic merit, it's just vandalism, literally.

When I went to Yesterdog for the first time, I immediatly noticed the graffiti. I did not consider the marks to be a blemish on the restaurant's visage, however. It reminded me of the many restaurants I have been to across the country that boast similar layers of patron graffiti (Gino's East, Cape Cod Room at Drake Hotel, etc.). The common thread at all of these restaurants, including Yesterdog, was there cult status and extreme popularity. There are many excellent restaurants, but there aren't nearly as many that invoke feelings of freedom and rebellion to pair with their fine fare. Some of these restaurants even openly invited their customers to leave their mark. Always, I felt drawn to do the same. It felt taboo, risky, but I wanted to be a part of the restaurant's history. I wanted to take my kids back someday and have them carve their initials in. In fact, all this talk of graffiti makes me want to go to Yesterdog right now to get a dog, and view the history.

Not nearly as permanent, but Stella's also encourages people to carve the tables. BUT then they paint them over with a fresh coat of black so others can add their mark. Sort of deflates it for me.