story and photography by Nikola Tzenov

Cryin’ Johnnies offers classic American flavor in Mount Airy

Pork sausages originated in Germany and were popularized in Vienna (Wien in German — hence the term “wiener”). It may seem odd, but in the early days they were not served with a bun. Nobody knows for sure when the bun was added, but there’s strong evidence that the first wiener vendors in the U.S. would lend out gloves to keep their customers’ hands from burning. Unfortunately, many customers wouldn’t return their gloves, leading to lost revenue, so the bun was introduced. Regardless of when or why the bun entered the picture, most people today know how versatile and quintessentially American a hot dog is.

cryin johnnies hot dogs

Cryin’ Johnnies owners Stacy and Scott Hurley opened their Mount Airy restaurant in January 2012.

​That’s especially true for Stacy and Scott Hurley, who opened Cryin’ Johnnies in January 2012. In fact, they started their business two years before that, selling from a food cart they set up on Saturdays outside the local Tractor Supply. Their two kids would often help them, and also provided the inspiration for the name Cryin’ Johnnies. “When they were younger, fresh-cut onions were a staple in our household, and they would associate that with crying” she explained, and the rest is history.

When their Mount Airy restaurant opened, the offerings grew in number, with appetizers like homemade crab dip, which lead to their infamous Crabby Dog — a hot dog served on a pretzel roll and piled so high with warm gooey crab dip and cheese that it can be hard to see the wiener underneath. If that sounds intimidating, then try a classic like their Chili Dog, topped with Scott’s homemade chili and freshly chopped onions. Or get colorful with their Chicago Dog. Topped with fresh tomato, pickle spear, mustard, neon-green relish, celery salt, onion, and (optional) sport peppers for some heat, this classic is as fresh and tasty as it is vibrant. I’ve barely scratched the surface here, because Cryin’ Johnnies offers over 15 different hot dogs. Each one is cooked fresh when ordered, and can be customized to your liking: Add or remove toppings, get it split-grilled, substitute a turkey dog or a pretzel roll, or upsize to an 8-inch or a foot-long. They also offer limited-time specials around the holidays, such as the Taco Dog for Cinco de Mayo, the Reuben Dog for St. Patrick’s Day, and even a Thanksgiving Dog.

Cryin’ Johnnies serves a variety of homemade foods – from crab dip to creative hot dogs to desserts.

​If hot dogs aren’t for you, don’t worry. The menu offers appetizers, salads, soups, burgers, subs, gyros, desserts, beer, wine, and a kid’s menu. Their Western Burger is fresh, with Scott’s secret homemade dry seasoning and served with crispy bacon, melted cheese and crunchy gourmet onion rings between two flattop-toasted buns. This thing is mind-blowing — hearty and flavorful, yet doesn’t sit heavy in your stomach. For a side, pair it with their Chesapeake fries: house-cut fries layered with mozzarella, cheddar, Old Bay, and crisped in the oven. Grab a cup of their house ranch to cool things down or give things a bit more kick with their homemade onion ring sauce — both of which are extremely popular. Finish things off with a homemade ice cream cookie sandwich or a milkshake. “I like to add a bit of Hershey’s syrup to the chocolate milkshakes,” Stacy said, “or a bit of vanilla extract to the vanilla milkshakes, for some extra flavor.”

​Every recipe on their menu features Scott’s homemade touch. He worked as a cook for 10 years and picked up much of his inspiration from that and from cooking at home — so he holds his recipes to a high degree of quality. Their kids, now 16 and 19, continue to help them run the business. Stacy loves being the people person, likely due to her years of experience as a bartender.

“If it wasn’t for the family unit, the business may not be what it is today,” she said.

Her goal has always been to create a family-friendly destination, something a little different that still offers a wide variety to please anyone who walks through their doors. Speaking of which, the interior of the restaurant was renovated by Scott himself — but it was Stacy’s idea to make it so that kids can draw on the tables with chalk.

​Cryin’ Johnnies is closed a few days a week, with limited hours when they are open. “It’s been hard to find help, especially since the pandemic, but I have some great help from students who come in to help during the afternoons, evenings, and summer time,” Stacy said.