Short Leash Sit . . . Stay is Brad and Kat Moore's urban shrine to sausages, a collection of frankfurters steamed, baked, and fried; decorated with things like roasted red peppers, mango chutney, and Cracker Jack; and wrapped most of the time in a warm naan "bun."
But this doghouse didn't always have walls. In the beginning, it had wheels.
The naan, an idea that stemmed from Brad's pet peeve with messy hot dog buns, was the twist on the American classic the Moores would use for Short Leash, their food truck whose gourmet hot dogs are named after their canine pets and those of their family and friends. Launched in 2010, when the Valley's food truck scene was just getting started, Short Leash was an instant hit, quickly developing a loyal following of hot dog and food truck fans alike. Brad eventually quit his banking and finance gig (Kat left behind her interior design career as well) to run the business full time and become one of the founding members of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, a support group for metro Phoenix food trucks.
Three years later, with the Moores already leading the way in food truck know-how, the husband-and-wife team would be one of the first to take the enviable next step for many mobile kitchen owners: securing a permanent home. And this summer, that's just what they did, opening their full-service restaurant, Short Leash Sit . . . Stay, in a storefront on Roosevelt Row on July 23, National Hot Dog Day.
In a space that once was, ironically, a vegan Mexican restaurant, Short Leash Sit . . . Stay is a hot dog house of style. Designed by Kat, the polished gray and white room with patterned wallpaper, streamlined chairs and tables, and a small bar with swiveling wood-backed stools hardly feels like the place you'd expect for franks and fried eats, but that's just what it is to myriad guests who pack the place regularly.
Here, you'll find the dynamic duo of dogs and grog — with a nod to a litany of local purveyors, including Schreiner's Sausage, Crow's Dairy, and Four Peaks Brewery. All the food truck's signature creations are on the menu, along with premium dogs, salads, and sausage-centric entrées served in metal trays or white dinnerware and accompanied by black cloth napkins to dab away the occasional mustard streak or stray droplet of craft beer. Not everything hits the mark, but the good dishes outweigh the less successful ones, and when it comes to finding your favorite frankfurter, there are quests in life that are far less fun.
If you can manage an appetizer before tossing down a dog, you'll want the fried pickles coated in just the right amount of crisp breading that allows their sweetness to shine through. They're better than the funnel cakes, which are not the sweet kind you might expect, but savory ones topped with chive remoulade and crispy capers for a somewhat fancy but sadly forgettable starter.
But there are excellent corn dog bites — great big corn dog bites — on six skewers that can barely manage to hold the golden-fried chunks of sweet cornbread wrapped around regular and jalapeño cheese-studded wieners. Keep them on the stick when dipping them into the accompanying mustard sauce and it's fondue time, fairground-style.
For the uninitiated, customizing your Short Leash dog means first picking a wiener — perhaps an all-beef, spicy-hot beer frank, bratwurst, or well-seasoned chicken — before choosing from seven signature creations or 30 toppings you can pile on at will. There is the very good Moki, a Sonoran-inspired dog of roasted green chiles, sautéed onions, tomatoes, pinto beans, cheddar, and mayonnaise; the fiery Devil Dog lit up with green chiles, sriracha, and jalapeños; and (not for the faint of heart) the Bear. On this dog, slathered in peanut butter and barbecue sauce and topped with smoked Gouda, bacon, and a sprinkling of Cracker Jack, the salt and fat curb the sweet stuff, making for a gut-busting monstrosity that tastes better than it sounds.
Though it's possible beef-and-bean chili and mac 'n' cheese would enhance an all-beef wiener, they don't in the case of the premium dog called the Mac Daddy. Instead, the two uninspired comfort foods act as more fill than thrill. Better is the Crispy Dog. A trio of franks stuffed with jalapeño and cheddar, tightly rolled in corn tortillas, and deep fried, they demand a forceful bite through their extraordinarily crunchy skins to get to their spicy cheese-and-meat centers.
The best premium dog in the pack is the Sunny. A peppery, juicy chicken frank topped with bits of grilled seasonal fruit, prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese, honey and cracked pepper, this sweet and creamy creation is more or less Short Leash's summertime culinary picnic of wiener-dom.
For sides, skip the forgettable mixed green salad in lieu of a few handfuls of excellent, housemade salt-and-pepper chips or pay an extra two bucks for a cupful of light and crunchy house slaw.
Short Leash's fried fare is less successful in salads. The hunks of fried goat cheese are the most regrettable part of a stark and strangely flavored creation of mixed greens interspersed with slices of grilled apple and, if you'd like, bites of seasoned chicken sausage dressed in a honey vinaigrette. And if it weren't for the heavy breading and blast of blue cheese dressing, the fried green tomato stack — a near-toppling tower of fried tomato slices layered with chunks of avocados atop a foundation consisting more of bacon than roasted corn and lettuce — might have a more favorable outcome as a (wink, wink) salad.
In the evening, the sausages come out of their naan-wrapped homes to star in a few hearty entrées. There are jumbo-size spicy Sicilian sausages, wrapped and baked in puffed pastry, covered in mashed potatoes and gravy, and served alongside very good grilled vegetables. And if you get only as far as "bacon-wrapped cheddar brats" on the clipboard menu before flagging your server down, you'll be glad to know the two plump specimens are as good as they sound — salty and smoky with a creamy, cheesy center — served with an acceptable warm German potato salad and red pepper gravy.
For dessert, there is pie. Because what better to follow up the American experience of hot dog consumption than a homemade slice of the good ol' U.S. of A. in flavors such as chocolate cream, key lime, and, of course, classic apple. The Moores partnered with another food truck, Mamma Toledo's, to make it happen, with owner and baker Tonya Saidi setting up shop in a tiny adjoining space aptly named The Pie Hole.
The setup is the latest flash of inspiration from a couple who always seem to be at the forefront of the next big thing, with both their food truck (which still roams the streets) and their unique restaurant that adds yet another much-needed creative spark to an area that's slowly waking from a colorless slumber.
With any luck, others will follow.