A newly opened hot dog stand in northeast Fresno has an unusual theme: teddy bears.
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.
Fresno’s next big food trend? The hot dog, at least if two new hot dog restaurants are any indication.
California Hot Dogs — or Cal Dogs for short — opened last month in the Dewitt Building at 543 Pollasky Ave. in the former Salsa’s location. (Salsa’s moved down the street to 410 Clovis Ave.)
Cal Dogs combines hot dogs with California history, and even has a mascot — Gus the Gold Miner.
All 20-plus hot dogs are named after California history. There’s the Hidalgo dog, for example, a hot dog served with enchilada sauce and jack cheese, wrapped in a tortilla and topped with chilies. It’s named after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. The menu is at left. Click on it to make it bigger.
Cal Dogs is run by the Taliaferro family, who also run Serenity Funeral Services — no connection between the businesses other than family, they stress. The family is confident this restaurant concept will work because they’ve done it before. About 27 years ago the family ran a similar restaurant in the Bay Area. It was successful, but with babies at home they put aside the restaurant to focus on family — until now. Now those babies — Ross and Chris Taliaferro — are running the restaurant.
Thirty competitors will have a chow-down challenge for a grand prize of $250. The competitors are already chosen, but you can certainly show up and watch. A couple hundred people did last year. It starts at 6 p.m.
In addition to serving $2 hot dogs all day from the walk-up window, Me-n-Ed’s Coney Island will hold a hot-dog eating contest on its patio at 6 p.m.Thursday.
The event is limited to 25 contestants. (Only folks 18 and older, please.) Each competitor will chow down on four Coney dogs, the steamed hot dogs topped with house-made chili, chopped onions and mustard.
The fastest eater wins the contest. The winner will receive a $250 Coney Island gift certificate, plus a trophy. Second prize is a $150 gift certificate. And third place is a $50 gift certificate.
The deadline to sign up at Me-n-Ed’s Coney Island is Wednesday. Think you can win? Call (559) 440-1088 to check on available spots.
In honor of July being both National Hot Dog Month and National Ice Cream Month, Weinerschnitzel is giving away your choice of a free original chili dog or a free Tastee Freez small cone between 5 and 8 p.m. tonight at participating locations.
Here are some fascinating hot dog facts, courtesy of Wienerschnitzel and the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council:
– Americans eat 20 billion hot dogs a year – an average of 70 hot dogs per person.
– More hot dogs are eaten in July than any other month of the year, which is why it is designated National Hot Dog Month.
– On July 4 alone, the biggest hot dog day of the year, 155 million hot dogs will be consumed. That is enough hot dogs to stretch from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., more than five times.
– More than 21 million hot dogs will be eaten at major league baseball parks this year. That’s enough hot dogs to round the bases 41,667 times – or stretch from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. to AT&T Park in San Francisco!
– The first words Mickey Mouse ever uttered in a cartoon were “hot dogs” (in “The Karnival Kid,” 1929).
Well, Tower Dogs isn’t the only specialty hot-dog shop that’s paying attention to your desires. Two other restaurants love to experiment and even offer some of your ideas. Give them a call and see what they’ll do for ya:
One is called Chili Dog Diner in the Bulldog Plaza at Barstow and Cedar avenues, (559) 439-3647. Chili Dog Diner opened about a month ago, so it’s still adding a lot of hot dogs to its list. Here are some of its popular ones:
The Chicago Dog: A hot dog with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickle spears and celery salt.
The Reuben: A hot dog with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
The Gutwrencher: A hot dog, with mustard, relish, onions, jalapeÃ±os, hot wax peppers and a sauce that’s “hotter than tabasco,” says owner George McNeal. (This one is hot — really hot. If you get The Gutwrencher, ask for some Tums. Chili Dog Diner gives them out.)
The Bulldog: One bun with two hot dogs, mustard, relish and onions.
The other is called Booney’s Dogs & More at Shaw and West avenues, (559) 261-1212. Booney’s has been open for more than a year, so it has had more time to experiment. Choose from a variety of hot dogs and sausages, then top them any way you like. Or order one of the popular combinations. Here are a few of them:
The California Dog: A hot dog with tomato slices, avocado and alfalfa sprouts.
The Caliente Dog: A hot dog with pepper Jack cheese, homemade chili, pico de gallo and jalapeÃ±os.
The Tower of Pizza: An Italian sausage with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.
The Pastrami Dog: A hot dog topped with shaved pastrami, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.
The Veggie Dog: A vegetarian hot dog topped with fresh tomato slices, onions, wax pepper, grated cheddar cheese and lettuce.
That’s a Wrap, James: Created for a customer named James, this hot dog is wrapped in bacon and deep fried, then topped with barbecue sauce, diced onions and blue-cheese crumbs.
Tower Dogs, your sign next to the Tower Theatre’s office is making me hungry.
Alas, we’ll have to wait to get a taste of these specialty dogs. Co-owner Steve Duquette is waiting for city approval. He hopes to open the doors in early July.
For now, the owners are testing lots of different dogs. How do these sound to you?
The Last Call Dog: A Polish sausage topped with hash browns, a little squirt of ketchup, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. Meant for the crowd in the wee hours who’d like “breakfast on a bun,” Duquette says.
The Caliente: A sausage spiked with habaneros and topped with nacho cheese sauce and cilantro. JalapeÃ±os optional.
The California Dog: An all-beef hot dog topped with avocado, bacon, grilled onions and brown mustard.
The Mexican Dog: A Polish sausage topped with chorizo and nacho cheese sauce.
And for those who don’t eat meat, there’ll be a vegan hot dog topped with Thai peanut sauce.
Duquette and crew need more dogs, so leave your desires in the comments below. If your idea rocks, they just might name it after you.