by Katie Viazcan
It’s game day. Rebel fans stroll down the sidewalk towards Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. A large truck flying an Ole Miss flag slides down South Lamar and a young man leans out the window.
“Uncle Jamie! You’re back!” He yells as the truck revs its motor and speeds off.
Jamie Bullard, an Oxford native, looks up to nod then continues setting up his hotdog cart in front of the Anchorage Building off The Square. Bullard is affectionately known as “Uncle Jamie” by his customers. It’s his first weekend back—Bullard typically sets up every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the fall and spring semesters.
An elderly man pulls up in his puttering Ford, leans over and yells out the passenger window, “Can I get two? Chili and cheese.”
“Sure thing,” Bullard says. He has a country folk style: reserved but genuine. “Take care,” he says as he lays the two hotdogs on the bench seat of the farm truck and gathers bills handed his direction.
Call it local charm or southern hospitality, but the fondness the students have for Bullard is obvious.
One young man cries, “I have gotten a Snap of this empty parking lot every day since school started asking ‘Where’s Uncle Jamie?’” as he buys a chili dog.
“We missed you!” screech sorority girls as they buy hot dogs and take multiple selfies, each girl with hotdog in hand.
“Where have you been?! I have come here every year since my freshman year!” says another man, then introduces his Chicago-native girlfriend to Bullard: “This is Uncle Jamie—best hotdogs ever!”
Bullard prides himself in being the best low-cost eats on The Square.
“I grew up here,” Bullard says, “I’m like eighth or ninth generation Oxford, I don’t know. But my grandaddies and their daddies helped to build Oxford. I love this town. I make food that the college kids can afford.”
Bullard is a classically trained chef. His experience has led him to be the head chef at several restaurants in Oxford and out of state. Bullard’s day job is the prep cook for a high school friend, Paul Tatum, at the high-end local eatery, McEwen’s.
Admittedly his clientele isn’t looking for McEwen’s-type eats, but the street fare is anything but basic. Bullard cooks the hotdogs in a mixture of seasonings and liquids that his patrons can’t get enough of. Bullard sources local ingredients, from his chicken hotdogs to the brats to the buns and condiments that round out the meal.
“Oh my goodness! This is the best hotdog I’ve ever eaten!” says a young woman wearing a white dress and cowboy boots.
By this time the crowds are letting out of the bars.
“Here they come,” Bullard says as he finishes chopping an onion. A hoard of young people is herded down the sidewalk by two horseback police officers. As they slowly pass by, many stop at the hot dog stand and chat with each other, waiting for brats and chili cheese dogs to fill their bellies before finishing their walk home.
A disheveled looking man comes up to the stand after most of the group has chattered down the sidewalk.
“Hey man! Can I take out your trash for a dog?”
“I got ya,” Bullard says as he pulls out a bun and lays a hot dog on top. “just get me back next time,” he finishes.
The man walks off and Bullard wipes down the condiment table, covered with bits of relishes and onions.
“Whew! What a night!”
Bullard has been in the same location on South Lamar since 2014 and plans to continue for many more.
Uncle Jamie’s Hot Dog Cart is woven into the fabric of Ole Miss and the Oxford Square, much like Bullard himself.