Hot Diggity Dogs

27 Apr

Hot Diggity Dogs

614 Ewing Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203

by Erin Crissey Lord

As I approach the motley-colored building on Ewing Avenue, I am first greeted by the happy, smiling faces of a pair of hotdogs decked out in hats and cowboy boots. The logo is cheery, welcoming and more importantly, telling me that something delicious and immersed in Nashville flare is waiting for me inside. Bigger than a hot dog stand, yet smaller than a bistro, the shop looks like a human-sized designer dog house . The tidy two-story brick building is painted, trimmed in teal and topped with a red tin roof. Obviously, by the size of the line stretching out into the parking lot of this local hot dog boutique, I am not the only patron to be seduced by quirky decor and the promise of a gourmet dog.

The line moves with amazing speed, and I am shocked that, within six minutes of my arriving and standing in a parking lot line full of hungry dog aficionados, I am already walking into the little brick house at 614 and about to give my order.

The heady smells of grilled meats, spicy sausages and sautéed onions are the first to greet me. The dense tang of brown mustard, a waft of bacon, a tinge of pickle; they beacon me forward as my eyes behold the menu all hot dogs must dream of starring in: top quality meats, gourmet toppings and home-made slaws. I am acutely aware at this moment that Hot Diggity Dogs isn’t your average, curb-side hot dog cart.

Like all great local businesses, I heard about the tempting fare at Hot Diggity Dogs long before I had an opportunity to visit the establishment. Many high profile foodie reports, upscale food blogs and loyal fan votes for “Best in Nashville” had tipped me off to the quiet little hot dog boom on the other side of town. Owners Layla Vartanian and Gayle Davis have created the perfect mix of big city flavor served up with down-home fun. Layla; Chicago veteran, Hot Dog Priestess, collector of fine relishes. Gayle; Southern beauty, Bratwurst Charmer, the secret behind the slaw. It is perhaps, this bipolar north/south partnership that makes Hot Diggity the premier Nashville Hot Dog shop.

Opening in Nashville nine years ago, Hot Diggity Dogs has mastered the art of growing a successful business with the importance of staying connected to their customers. Juggling customer demand while within a tiny space and not just serving the public, but creating a loyal customer base to spread the word on the quality of your product isn’t an easy task. However, these ladies have taken customer appreciation to a whole new level. Hot Diggity recently gave away over a thousand of their masterpiece dogs during a frequent buyer promotion. A reward to those fans who have helped them grow.

The Nashville Dog: Vienna 100% beef dog, yellow mustard, diced onions, Layla’s specialty home made slaw, a few slices of Persian cucumber and finished with a pickle spear

The Nashville Chicago Dog: Vienna 100% beef dog, yellow mustard, diced onions, fresh tomato, spicy sport peppers, celery salt, a pickle spear and the tried and true secret to an amazing Chicago Dog – that nuclear green relish made especially by Vienna

Car-o-bama Dog: Vienna 100% beef dog, yellow mustard, diced onions, Gayle’s specialty home made slaw, a generous scoop of meaty chili and topped with diced onions and cheese

Vienna Brand 100% beef hot dogs and beef and pork sausages lay the foundation work for the carnivorous dog, however turkey and even vegan-friendly meatless dogs are available. Buns range from traditional white to wheat, hoagie style and even a bun-free lettuce wrapped dog are options. Other delicious state contenders include the New York Dog, California Dog, Texas Dog and even a Boston Dog topped with sweet and tangy baked beans. Or I could go with the featured special: The Hollywood Dog – wrapped in bacon. Add to this already tempting menu a myriad of Italian sausages and sliced beef, brats, Polish sausages and the bevy of krauts, grilled peppers, spices and the tongue tingling pepper-carrot-olive chop also known as giardiniera.

Perhaps staying connected to your customer is an easy job to do, when an owner is the person taking your order. “What would you like, Hun?” I stare at the menu doe eyed, unable to decide. Gayle offers a few helpful suggestions, and I nod in agreement – it all sounds delicious. I finally manage to squeak out “Bratwurst”. “Excellent choice!” she sings with a smile, “I personally like mine with some extra grilled onions tucked in under the sauerkraut, would you like to try it?” Absolutely. I watch as my fresh brat is split and begins to sizzle on the grill. The ladies behind the counter work at amazing speed, frying up pickles, packing dogs and simultaneously throwing out “Thank you, Hun” with a wink and a smile, to customers picking up orders. My dog is ready and so am I. As, I take a bite two thoughts enter my brain: what took me so long to try out the tiny dog shack? And, I have found hot dog nirvana!

I’ve since been back numerous times to little brick house on Ewing. It’s not just the fabulous food that brings me back each time, the ladies of Hot Diggity make each person that walks through their door feel genuinely appreciated and welcomed. “That’s my job!” chirps Gayle, “You have a choice of where you spend your dollar, I want you to be glad that you chose to come to us. We appreciate your patronage and we want to make sure you know it!” As more and more “regulars” pass through the door, it’s clear that Gayle takes this motto to heart. “Are we having the Nashville Dog again today Mr. Brenner, or are we trying something new?” “Surprise me Darlin’!” He yells, “Any of your dogs are a great dog, for this old dog!” I couldn’t agree more.


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