“The mindset is you’re getting a bunch of toppings for a cheaper price,” he says.
But don’t let the free-for-all, stoner-pandering Scantron selection process fool you. Happy Dog isn’t all shock and awe. Starting with the all-beef hot dog from Blue Ribbon Meats, Rutledge is meticulous about every topping.
“There isn’t a day that I don’t walk down the line and taste everything,” he says. “Every topping needs to have meaning.”
If the bright green Alien pickle relish scares you, mimic the original elevated hot dog — a chili cheese dog — to taste the fruits of labor. The chorizo chili has a base of house-ground sausage that involves two days of prep from marinade to cooking, and cheese options range from nacho to white beer cheese fondue to shredded Muenster. No matter what, it all costs $6.
“There’s a reason we do things like put black truffle in our honey mustard,” Rutledge says. “We want to bring that elevated experience to everyone — not just have it be limited to fine dining.”
Rutledge didn’t want owner Sean Watterson to put the Slider Dog on Happy Dog’s menu at its Progressive Field stand — until it became a hit. “The Froot Loops give it crunch and sweetness, the pimento mac-n-cheese adds a bit of spice and creaminess and the bacon adds a nice salty taste,” he says. 5801 Detroit Road, Cleveland, 216-651-9474; 11625 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-231-5400, happydogcleveland.com