The business: Short Leash Hot Dogs
What they're packin': Gourmet hot dogs named after real-life dogs, topped with lots of fresh ingredients and wrapped in a warm naan "bun" (don't worry all you orthodox hot dog eaters out there, they'll throw your dog in an old-school bun upon request)
Where you can find them: Every Wednesday 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market. They also post up outside of Shady's in Phoenix for a quick pre (or post) drink nosh Thursday nights from 7 to 11 p.m. And they'll be a part of the new Mobile Food Court every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
What you need to know: Every single hot dog they sell is a flat $5, no matter what the toppings. The also offer a smaller dog breaded in a homemade cornmeal batter (corn-pups, $2.50) and Mexican cokes and other unique bottled beverages ($2) -- check out the full menu here. To keep the process speedy, bring cash!
Besides their arsenal of a menu and plenty of toppings for a create-your-own experience, the Moores regularly feature a special dog, inspired by a customer's pet or simply as the mood strikes. This Halloween they featured the frighteningly delicious Devil Dog, topped with sautéed onions, red peppers, green chilis and pickled jalapenos and pepper jack cheese.
The story: A lazy Sunday morning is what Phoenix has to thank for quite possibly one of the most impressive and popular operations to hit the city's food-on-wheels scene.
While chef Kat prepped for a night at the market, we got to steal Brad away to find out how they came up with the concept in 30 minutes or less that Sunday, how important it is to buy local, and a certain someone's grudge against hot dog buns, all after the jump.
What's the idea behind Short Leash?
I was in banking and finance, and my wife was an interior designer. I was just looking to get out of it and do something different. So I started doing some research and I stumbled across the food truck craze that is going on in Portland and LA. I presented it to [Kat] and she was a little hesitant about it. So last November, it was a lazy Sunday morning and CBS Sunday Morning News did a special on food trucks and as soon as she saw it she said, "I'm sold, let's do it." So, while we were still drinking coffee we started brainstorming ideas, what kind of food and what concept we could come up with. We stumbled upon hot dogs, but decided if we were going to do it we'd give it a unique twist. We came up with the name while she doodled our dog that was sitting there, so that became our logo. In about 30 minutes we had the name, the concept, and the general idea. It was kind of just serendipitous the way it all unfolded. I continued working for probably another 10 months while it was still in the planning stages. Even when we had our first day on June 5 here at the market, I still had my job because we planned on dong it as a part time basis. But the momentum just started to roll from there and I quit my job six weeks later. It's been quite the roller coaster ride.
Do you think you have a mobile advantage in interacting with customers?
I think its inviting to people and will engage them in conversation. They might not be that they're interested in the food so much but it's an easy intro into a conversation. As far as repeat customers, I just have to say how impressed with how loyal people are, and how they just keep coming back. It's just such a major compliment.
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Why do you think it's so important to buy local or eat local?
For this type of environment in Phoenix, it seems like everybody has become more local-centric -- they want to shop locally and keep the dollar and the tax revenues here as opposed to shopping with big box retailers. When you're starting something like this, especially on the small scale that we're doing it, anytime that you can build some kind of relationship with the community, its going to be for the betterment of your business. Whether it's us sending customers to [another local company] or vice versa, that type of relationship and a little bit of collaboration goes a long ways.
What's the story behind the naan bread?
That stemmed from my own personal pet peeve with hot dog buns. Whenever you eat a hot dog on a hot dog bun, one of two things happen: it either all falls on the plate or it all ends up all over the side of your face - it's like pick your poison. When we were toying with the menu, I told Kat what I really want to do is find a bread that is consistent all the way around, that way you can hold everything together and it's not such a mess. So we sat down and had a ton of different breads in front of us and ate as many hot dogs as we could possibly consume one evening, just tasting the breads. [Kat] eventually said, "That naan is fantastic, it really does the trick." It also goes with us trying to create a unique twist on something that I feel anybody can set up shop with. The idea is to give it a gourmet, unique twist and play off of that.
What's this Phoenix Street Food Coalition all about?
It's very much in its infancy. I am the chairperson and one of the founding members, and we just finished writing our bylaws and divvying up some responsibilities. The food court here is one of the first events from the coalition. These types of things take time, you can't just slap up a website and a twitter page and all of a sudden deliver. We've got some other members, like Jason Fimbrez [of the upcoming Puro Sabor truck] that is our policy director and he's trying to get in directly with Maricopa County and some of the municipalities to help us start to pave the way for things we would like to see or things some of the cities hopefully would adopt to make it a little bit easier for us to get out there on the streets more often and do things. We're also trying to create a nice, concise tool box for people who are looking into getting into the food truck industry because it can kind of be overwhelming and daunting to look at everything you have to go through.
How important is it to be apart of a community like the coalition?
It's a great venue for us as a group to get together and pool our power and resources. We are all small, independent business owners but hopefully we can pool our resources to start a facet of the coalition that deals with advocacy and education. It would be hard for Short Leash to sit out on the corner by itself and draw a big group of people. But, you get seven of us out there, cross-promoting through Facebook and Twitter and all of a sudden we've reached a much longer audience. As long as we can keep doing a lot of collaborative things like that, it's a shared success for everybody.