Jerry Dixon said it all started late one night at a poker game in 2013.
He and his Monroe buddies were hungry and talking about food.
“We were sitting there B.S.-ing,” Dixon said. “I got this crazy idea, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to open a food truck?’ ”
Next came the hard part, which was also the easy part: the menu.
Dixon said it came down to two things: A comfort food that the majority of people like. And convenience.
“If I am going to be at a festival and have a beer in my hand and food, do I want to use both of my hands to eat, or do I want something that I can take a bite of and take a drink and keep moving?” he said.
Hot dogs checked all the boxes.
Dixon, 49, used his retirement money in 2014 to buy a food truck he called Big Dog’s, after the nickname he has been called since high school.
Big Dog’s started small.
“It started off in a little 7-by-14 trailer next to a liquor store in Sultan,” Dixon said. “Four months into it, we had an opportunity to buy a food truck. It was wrapped in vinyl and when I started to peel it off it was Seahawks blue, so I knew exactly what were were going to do with the truck.”
Big Dog’s has the football team’s colors and theme, including “Beef mode” on the side.
The 25-foot truck was originally a Mac Tools truck. Now, instead of nuts and bolts there are bins with toppings such as crushed potato chips, crumbled bacon, cheese sauce, French-fried onions and jalapenos.
Where does Dixon get ideas?
“Asking my buddies, asking friends, getting crazy ideas, trying things that aren’t the norm,” he said. “I used to walk up and down the aisles at the Cash and Carry, just looking at ingredients.”
Examples of signature dogs: Sea Dog has roasted garlic, chili aioli, crumbled bacon and jalapenos. The Petey has sauerkraut. The LOB stands for Lots of Bacon. The Wilson has the works.
“We had one that had Reese’s peanut butter sauce, Nutella and crumbled bacon on top,” Dixon said. “It sounds crazy, but I guarantee if you try it once you’ll be like, ‘That’s actually really good.’ ”
Plain hot dogs are $5 and signature dogs are $7.
Presentation is important.
“You eat with your eyes,” he said. “We try to make sure it all looks visually appealing.”
The wieners are quarter-pound beef dogs on a steamed stadium roll.
Big Dog’s has permits to serve in King and Snohomish counties. The truck will be at Cascade Mountain Men show at the Monroe Fairgrounds on March 10 and 11.
“We won the Readers Choice award at The Daily Herald for Best Food Truck,” Dixon said. “We took second place for best hot dog on ‘Evening Magazine.’ Costco beat us out. I still look at that as a big compliment.”
Costco sells dogs for $1.50 and has a steady customer base. Dixon doesn’t have a beef with that.
“The only real issue we have is somebody saying, ‘I can buy three hot dogs at Arco for the price of yours,’ ” he said.
Other than that, he relishes every moment.
“Every day is a different location, so it never gets stale,” he said. “You have almost zero customer service issues because everybody who comes is hungry and happy to see you.”
Business has been so good that his son Jake, 21, now works with his dad full time on the truck. His wife, Jan, owns Man Cave Barber Shop in Monroe.
At some events, the father-and-son duo have sold 1,400 hot dogs.
“We can cook 51 big dogs at once, and we can knock out 120 made-to-order per hour during busy events,” Dixon said. “Our record is 122.”
Outside the truck, the aroma of hot dogs is hard to resist. Inside Big Dog’s, it’s even more seductive.
How many dogs a day does this duo eat?
“Not as many as we used to,” Dixon said. “The fun thing with the food truck community is we trade food with other trucks.”
Having a food truck means working long hours on your feet as well as chopping, washing and prepping.
“Yes, it is a ton of work and I feel like I’m on 24/7, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “Additional bonus, I get to work with my son. It’s not just father/son, it’s like working with one of your best friends. Although he does joke that he is the heir to the ‘Wiener Kingdom.’”
The truck’s slogan is “Biggest Wiener Around.”
“Maybe a handful of people think our logo is inappropriate,” Dixon said. “People always get a kick out of the campiness of the truck and always ask if they can take a picture. Or we see them talking about it when they walk by. A woman came up to me today and said, ‘I love your food truck. I was out with my boyfriend on our first date and we took a picture and it’s on our mantel at home.’”
More at www.uhungrybro.com.
What is the weirdest request?
Jerry: Weirdest request, do you have plain dogs? Um, yeah, of course we do, that’s how they all start. I always say, a plain dog is the foundation for a Big Dog. A request that just happened the other day was, “Do you serve your bacon cooked?”
Jake: Often we have people ask if we have food on the truck that nowhere does it indicate we may have, including Chinese food, ice cream and French fries. We always say, “We do one thing and we do it well and that’s dogs.”
What etiquette tips can you give people for food truck dining?
Jake: My advice to those approaching a food truck is to speak loudly and clearly, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t stray too far away after placing your order. We can usually get your food to you in 30-60 seconds and we often have people order, then disappear, leaving us with their finished product sitting in the window, which can cause confusion inside and outside the truck. Stay close, people, we won’t take much of your time.
Jerry: Also, don’t hold up a long line. Know what you want when you get to the window. Yes, most take cash and credit.
Is it hard to drive the food truck?
Jerry: Driving the truck for me is easy. I used to drive military vehicles and have driven moving trucks; you just must be aware of everything around you. Jake and I joke all the time how we watch dumb drivers all over the place and, yes, from our height we see you all on the phones. Hang up.
Jake: Driving the truck is not my most favorite part of the job, that’s for sure. As someone who has been driving for three and a half years now in my little Honda, it’s quite the experience sitting in the captain’s chair of the Big Dogmobile.
Do people try to get you to pull over and sell them a hot dog?
Jerry: I have never had a person ask us to pull over and make food for them. However, we did get pulled over once by Washington State Patrol for a taillight out and I joked with him that we know he pulled us over to check out our awesome truck. We both laughed about that.
Jake: We definitely do get our fair share of laughs and waves from passers-by. Hard not to with our slogan on each side of the truck.
If you could serve or share a hot dog with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jerry: Paul Allen. We actually served him a Big Dog’s once, 2 years ago. He ordered chopped onions and spicy brown mustard. I still have the order ticket at home. I’d like to know if he liked it and if he did, let’s chat about being at Seahawks training camp.
Jake: Cortez Kennedy. ‘Cause I’d like to know how it would compare to the dog he got during a game that one time he did.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
Washington North Coast Magazine
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