JOSE MAY BE BRUCE, BUT HIS CHILI DEFINITELY HAS A TASTE OF MEXICO

Bruce Burnham puts the finishing touches on his signature hot dog., VALLEY DISPATCH/JENNIFER AMY MYERS
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BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff

PELHAM — The trailer parked on the far side of the Route 38 Pelham Plaza may be called Jose Hot Dog, but the “Jose” that owns the place is actually named Bruce, and, even though the hot dogs are top notch, it’s the flavorful, mouthwatering chili that is the star of this establishment.

“When I retired after 31 years working for a big company in the bakery business, I knew I wasn’t going to retire, retire,” said Bruce Burnham, who along with his wife Christine opened the hot dog stand in June of 2000.

Which leaves us once again scratching our heads and asking — so, who is Jose?

The super-secret chili recipe is not even known to Burnham’s family, but he did give it up one time, a slip-up that thankfully has not come back to bite him.

Twenty years ago, Burnham often played racquetball with New Hampshire native Mike Flanagan, a Cy Young Award winning pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Flanagan’s wife, Kathy, requested the chili recipe and Burnham gave it up, even without the threat of torture.

“I just ran into her at a wake after like 15 years. She said she had lost the recipe and I said ‘good,’” Burnham laughed. “I will never, never give it away again.”

“We have people who come here everyday just for the chili,” confirmed employee Angela Landry, who has worked for Burnham since day one.

“All I know is that he is from Canada, and he stops here whenever he is passing through,” Burnham said.

Burnham’s chili is the perfect complement to the quintessential American food — the hot dog — and Burnham only serves the best of the best, Kayem hot dog.

One morning while Burnham was setting up for the day, a man appeared at the trailer’s screen door. It wasn’t just some Joe off the street, it was Kayem Foods President Ray Monkiewicz, who heard about the place and had to stop by to try it for himself.

“That was a little strange,” Burnham smiled. “He said that the combination of chili, cheese and hot dogs was great and wanted to figure out a way to package it, but I’ve never heard from him again.”

Then, comes the order for four plain dogs.

“I love that, more profit for me,” Burnham laughed, as he reached around to grab a steaming box of freshly cooked French fries.

Although Burnham loves Pelham and said the people have been wonderful, his dream would be to set up a Jose Hot Dog trailer in downtown Lowell.

“There are so many people living and working downtown now and so much foot traffic, that would be unbelievable,” he said. “There must be someone downtown who has enough room to let me set up shop, and I would be open on weekends.”

Because it is a seasonal business, Jose’s is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this time of the year, and is closed January, February and March.

“We do our best to open the first Tuesday of April,” Burnham said, but like the Red Sox desperately trying to get in their opening day game without the threat of a snowout, Jose’s is at the mercy of the fickle New England weather. “We open as soon as the weather will allow.”

Have a story idea? E-mail Jen Myers at jmyers@thevalleydispatch.com.