Brown Bear’s Hotdogs is a little stand opened recently in the former Cali’s Frozen Custard at Herndon Avenue and Fresno Street. It’s just beyond the Chili’s restaurant. Look for giant teddy bear eating a hot dog tacked to the exterior wall (or the bear paw prints leading drivers through the drive thru, or the teddy bear tied to the grill of the owners truck).
The hot dog stand — which has a drive thru and a walk-up window — got its name because the wife behind the business, Jennifer Raya, says her husband reminds her of a bear, hence her nickname for him and the business name. Brown bear’s real name is Benjerman Raya. (Actually, his name is Benny, but as a vertically challenged teen — he’s not anymore for the record — he got tired of being called a kid and changed his name to BenjerMAN.)
But let’s talk about the food. It’s all about the hot dogs here, with chili dogs, pizza dogs, kung pao dogs and more. Some are drenched in creative toppings, like the buffalo dog with deep-fried croutons in a buffalo chicken sauce, celery and ranch dressing. They’re messy, but the Rayas give out forks and are liberal with the napkins.
There’s even a breakfast dog wrapped in eggs, which is why the stand opens at 6:30 a.m. most days. Brown Bear’s uses Nathan’s beef hot dogs, and also serves vegetarian dogs. For $5, diners get the dog, a bag of chips and a can of soda.
If you’ve heard of Brown Bear’s before, it’s because the couple used to run a hot dog trailer of the same name. Working from a restaurant allows much more flexibility in food they can offer.