York Place lets the dogs out

dish-harry-sideview-webHarry the Hot Dog caught in the act of condimenting himself at The Downtown Hotdog Company.

Harry the Hotdog has a new home on the Downtown Mall. Who’s Harry the Hotdog? you ask. As you may recall, some teenage pranksters stole the anthropomorphic wiener man from All Good Groceries in Earlysville two years ago. Police eventually found the bruised and beaten statue buried in a trailer park. The local media covered the event with mock seriousness, using headlines like "Hot dug-up dog: Harry found, but a little wurst for the wear," “Giant Earlysville hot dog returned after kidnapping,” and “Hot dog begins rehab.” There was even a fundraiser to repair the statue.

Now Harry stands gleaming in the depths of York Place at the newly opened Downtown Hotdog Company that materialized Thursday, July 8. With striking yellow and red d©cor, illuminated menu board, and Harry greeting guests at the front door, the place is hard to miss.

Owner Eric Saunders, a restaurant biz veteran who did stints at Starr Hill and Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery, says he took about two years to dream up and refine his gourmet hot dog concept, with a little help from his wife, Jenny.

dish-harryhotdog-webEric and Jenny Saunders.

The result: hot dogs that look more like sit-down meals. For example, Saunders' signature dog, the Chicago, features a Chicago Vienna beef dog (they all do) nestled in a poppy seed bun, slathered with mustard, and covered with onions, relish, tomato wedges, and a big pickle spear.

“It’s a hot dog that’s been dragged through the garden,” says Saunders.

There are 17 other creations to choose from, like The Dragon, which features hot kim chi and sriracha sauce, or the Boston, which comes with baked beans. There’s even a hot dog for people who don’t like hotdogs. The Invisible Dog includes five toppings of your choice in a bun.

As for Harry the Hotdog, Saunders says when he bought some equipment from All Good Groceries, the owner threw in the refurbished mascot. Let's just hope he stays put this time.

The Downtown Hotdog Company's signature dog: Chicago.


FYI FRANK has not even eaten there......Why would you sabatoge a new business with out all your facts? GET YOU FACTS STRAIGHT!

In all honesty . . . I am very disappointed with The Downtown Hot Dog Company. Not regarding the quality of their product, but regarding their price.

I’m sorry, but $4.50 for a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog” is way, way, way too expensive.

I moved here from Chicago. When I found out a place specializing in Chicago style Vienna Beef hot dogs was opening in C’ville, I was excited. I was very much looking forward to the opening. I went by their location in York Place every week or 10 days checking on their progress. However, at $4.50 for a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog”, I’m not going to be buying anything at The Downtown Hot Dog Company.

To put things in perspective, let me share how much a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog” costs in Chicago.

Take Hot Doug’s in Chicago for example. Hot Doug’s is one of the funkiest, most ââ?¬Å?gourmet” hot dog places I’ve ever been too (and it’s a completely awesome place BTW). Their ââ?¬Å?fancy” hot dogs can cost as much as $9, but their price for a basic ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog” (with all the trimmings) is . . . . $1.75.

Same goes all over Chicago: Wrigleyville Dog. . . $2.25; Portillo’s . . . $2.09; and even the most expensive place I can think of in Chicago for a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog”, The Wieners Circle (a 24 hour place that primarily caters to drunken bar goers at 3:00 a.m. in the morning), is only $3.10.

I approached the owners of The Downtown Hot Dog Company with my concerns. Their only response was ââ?¬Å?well, Charlottesville isn’t Chicago”. Well, I can’t argue with that logic. Charlottesville is not Chicago. I would expect a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog” to cost a little more here in C’ville, but over double the cost of Chicago . . . c’mon on. The people of C’ville aren’t stupid.

All I have to say to The Downtown Hot Dog Company is good luck with this business model, and don’t be surprised when it doesn’t work.

Also, no French fries? I can’t think of any storefront hot dog place I’ve ever been to that didn’t have French fries.

Oh BTW, once I left The Downtown Hot Dog Company, I happened to come across a new cart on the Mall from the Last Call Dog guys - about 100’ away from York Place. The Last Call Dog guys just set up their cart last week. Their price for a hot dog . . . only $2. It’s not a ââ?¬Å?Chicago Style Hot Dog”, but it is a very fair price.

I’d recommend going to the Last Call Dog’s new cart instead of The Downtown Hot Dog Company.

A hot dog may be $2 in Chicago, however Chicago has about 2.8 million people in it's metro area, C'ville has about 90,000 in our metro area. Chicago's market is almost 30 times bigger than here, more people(customers) equal lower prices. I have not been to the DHDC, but I will the next time I go to the mall. It's still one of the cheapest places to eat at on the mall. If want a $2 hot dog, move back Chicago. With that attitude, I don't think you'll be missed.

Hey everyone!

Just want to first thank Frank for his input and discussions invoking post.

But there are a few things that we would like to clarify. We never claimed to be a Chicago themed place. We are a gourmet hotdog restuarant who has a ââ?¬Å?Chicago” menu item.

Frank is absolutely right in the fact that if you go to Chicago the hotdogss are ââ?¬Å?cheaper” however the difference is in the size. Most places in Chicago use what is known as and 8/1 hotdog which means there are 8 hotdogs to a pound and they use a 6 inch poppyseed bun. We use a 6/1 hotdog and a 8 inch roll. Hot Doug’s in Chicago can sell his dogs for $1.75 for a number of reasons. Number 1 his supplier is right around the corner and number 2 his $9 hotdogs off set the sale price. This is what we call in the business as a ââ?¬Å?loss leader”.

Maybe what we an do is bring in a smaller dog and smaller roll and drop our price. That way you would have to buy 2 ââ?¬Å?Chicago style dogs” to equal one of ours, which would be what you would have to do if you buy hotdogs off the carts.

Anyway we encourage feed back and look forward to being a member of the Downtown Community for a looooooong time. This business model WILL work . We have a lot of cool things to offer and will constantly strive to improve and expand our offerings.

With handshake in mind,
Eric Saunders, Owner
The Downtown Hotdog Company

Hey Frank Fountain, we ate at the Downtown Hot Dog Company and loved it. Not pricey at all... did you try it? And seriously, let's not compare the dogs in this shop to the dogs on the mall... come on...totally different meal and FRESH! Slaw and Potato salad was tremendous. Everyone needs to try this place once, you'll be pleasantly surprised....

Hey Frank!

Totally understand where you're coming from. I know Chicago and Charlottesville is no Chicago. :)

Got back to Chicago last summer for a game and was crushed to see the Sports Corner near Wrigley was gone. I loved their dogs! Can't remember the name of the place in Highland Park that had great dogs too. Also miss the pizza, all the Lettuce Us Entertain You restaurants, etc. If you can't get something really good to eat in Chicago, there is something really wrong with you.

Good luck adapting to life in Cville.

Hey Josh!

It's not the lack of people that drives up prices around here. It's a lack of competition and the presence of UVA.

As for telling Frank to move back to Chicago, that is the stereotypical small-minded, small-town response to criticism. Always so predictable and not the least bit effective. Only envigorates newbies and makes them look for other things to criticize. And it's down right rude. Locals are often so self-satisfied, they've lost perspective. That happens a lot around here. Frank has made a valid point. There is no way a Chicago dog should cost $4.50 even in Cville.

Almost everything in Cville is overpriced. Admit it.

And salaries, except for UVA and a handful of others, are more like Lynchburg, while the cost of living is more like the DC area.

I have been to The Downtown Hotdog Company about 5 times now since their open and every time I have been pleased with the food I get. It is not your average hotdog, it is huge and def. has better bread then your regular hotdog bread. I went there with some friends and they ordered numerous hotdogs and had no problem with the price, and thought that it was worth it. Where can you go downtown and get a sodo, huge hotdog with lots of toppings, and chips or a side for around $7 or $8 bucks? These dogs are done right, they are not some road side dog that has been sitting in water all day. Plus the place is a well decorated, air conditioned place to beat the heat on Fridays after Five. Frank, you should have tried the dogs if you had your mouth would have been full of delish tasting all beef hotdog instead of complaints.
Everyone should try this place, it is a great addition to the mall and the people working there seem really nice.

I just ordered 6 hotdogs for coworkers. And I just wanted to let them know how good they all were everyone came and told me they were delious and would visit again and bring the family in. Good job Eric, Jenny and Becky.

Good hot dogs, and also I think everyone that was complaining about prices just got told, hahaha... Another bunch of ignorant citizens that just don't understand the food business... Go eat a ball park frank next time you have any qualms.

I would say that the average Chicago dog(with salad on top) should cost between 2-3 dollars. My favorite place in Chicago is Murphy's where I learned a very valuable life lesson; Never Put Ketchup On A Hot Dog.