LEOTA, Minn. (WCCO) — Nothing says summer like firing up the grill and having a hot dog in the backyard. It’s an American staple, and there are quite a few places in Minnesota that serve up great dogs.

But there can only be one best. You voted and sent Natalie Nyhus west to Leota for a hot dog at V&M Grocery and Locker.

Sometimes when you have a crave, you just can’t get it out of your mind. And when it hits, you’ll travel to the ends of the earth — or far reaches of the state — to satisfy that crave.

That’s how we ended up in Leota at V&M Grocery and Locker for the best hot dog in Minnesota.

“In the beginning, no way. We didn’t make hot dogs. As time went on, they kept bugging us: ‘Make hot dogs! Make hot dogs!’ So we started making hot dogs,” V&M owner Verlyn Ruiter said. “From that point on, it really took off.”

Verlyn and Barb, their son Chad, and his wife Julie run the place, but it was Verlyn who started it 43 years ago with a guy named Marv — hence the V&M. Now, it’s his son Chad who’s the other half of the meat shop.

“Every night he would come off the bus after school — ‘What can I do?’ Verlyn explained. “He’d go change his clothes and be right back here. He’d say ‘What do you got for me tonight?’ He didn’t always have the nicest jobs, but he did them. ”

Once he graduated high school, Chad went to meat cutting school, just like dad.

V&M offers just about anything you’d want to buy — ring balogna, summer sausage, jerky and dried beef — but we’re here for the hot dogs. They say the recipe is a family secret, but they did say their recipe is mostly beef, and a little bit of pork.

They smoke 1,600 dogs about every 10 days. That’s nearly 60,000 hot dogs a year. It’s impressive for a town of less than 200.

Sure the hot dogs are great, but in shops like these with so much heart, it’s the people who make them the best of Minnesota.

V&M Grocery and Locker is closed on Sundays and the Fourth of July. Your other favorite spots for a hot dog are Uncle Franky’s in Plymouth and Natedogs at various locations.

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