STRASBURG – One of the hottest spots in town has been cooking in John Hooser’s mind for more than 20 years.
When Dan’s Dogs, a hot dog restaurant, swept into Ohio, Hooser’s interest was piqued. Now, Hooser and his wife Dawn Hooser have a similar venture of their own – Old Dominion Doggery (O.D.D) in downtown Strasburg.
“Pretty much all they had was hot dogs,” he said of the Ohio restaurant. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. I’ve never seen such a thing.’”
While the interest has lain dormant for years, the opportunity to make it come to life rose recently. Dawn Hooser has restaurant management experience and when the Pot Town Tavern building became available, they saw something too good to pass up.
John Hooser has been running his own fundraising business for about 20 years, operating Books Are Fun everywhere from Washington state to Strasburg. Dawn Hooser brought her restaurant experience — she owned and managed Pit Stop Pizza in Stanley for more than five years — to complement her husband’s bookkeeping.
“We’ve been running three businesses for over five years now,” Dawn Hooser said. “Part of it is [we are] just ready to settle down to one business, grow old in it, retire in it and this be our baby.”
Like all parents, the Hoosers are proud of the little space they’ve made in Strasburg’s burgeoning downtown. A space, John Hooser said, he thinks Strasburg badly needed.
“We’ve got three fast food places by the highway. We’ve got three Italian restaurants, two Mexican restaurants and there’s only a couple of small American restaurants, he said. “It just seemed like it was something that was needed…it just fits really well with the town and what it needs.”
Hot dogs, while staples at baseball stadiums and food carts, don’t get much attention on their own. The Hoosers are seizing the latent market and pushing Strasburg to try something new — and possibly something a little odd.
“The concept is there’s over 70 toppings on our menu,” Dawn Hooser said. “There’s a lot of different stuff that’s out there that people have never heard of…there are suggestions, and if they come in here and feel overwhelmed with the toppings, that’s OK. They can look at the board and make a decision.”
“We wanted something where it would be fun,” she continued. “And it is. It’s a fun idea.”
In addition to the run-of-the-mill offerings, some other O.D.D.-ities include creations such as the “Elvis Dog” — smashed banana, house-made peanut butter and bacon — or a “Monte Cristo Dog” — like the sandwich, a french toasted bun, swiss cheese, spicy brown mustard with powdered sugar and raspberry preserves.
While the combinations can take guests to places they’ve never been, the base product is from their backyard — or close to it.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just your every day product that you find anywhere,” John Hooser said. “So all of our beef is 100 percent local, grass-fed, and that goes for our hot dogs, too.”
Besides the local beef, the Hoosers also sought out high-quality vegan hot dogs and are making their own black bean burgers in house.
“We spend as much time on our menu items as everything we’ve done inside,” Dawn Hooser said, pointing to the handcrafted tables, signs and decorations adorning the walls. “Those were important things for us in setting up the business and making sure we had good quality fresh food.”
Despite its location in an old tavern, John Hooser said it is important to him that the food takes precedence. The Doggery, he said, will be a restaurant that happens to have good domestic beer on draft. Not a bar that has good food.
“I like to cook. And there’s nothing better than when you cook whoever is eating it says they love it,” he said. “Hopefully everybody else likes it as much as I do.”