By Eileen Jackson
No matter if you’re five years old or ninety-five years young, many of us still crave the delicious taste of a hot dog. It’s an American classic. But like many classics the hot dog is evolving past the traditional. Entrepreneur and owner of Dave’s Dogs Grill, Dave Reynoso, feels the same way, as he experiments with creations like hot dogs topped with mac ‘n’ cheese, Flamin’ Hot® Cheetos® or bacon, lots and lots of bacon.
In 2014, Dave started dreaming of his creations in the evenings after his regular 8 to 5 job. “I knew that the all-American hot dog could be more than just a simple ketchup, relish and mustard type dog. I started experimenting with different toppings and created these unique styles of hot dogs - some worked well and others not so much,” says Reynoso. In November of that year, motivated with a deep desire to create a unique eatery and a passion for running his own business, Reynoso fired up his first hot dog cart steps away from his dad’s auto shop on Milpas Street in Santa Barbara.
He recalls, “That first night I sold six hot dogs, but that was still an excitement.” Before he knew it, he was selling 20 dogs a night and making a name for himself amongst the locals. After five short months of moonlighting with his cart, he left his day job to follow his dream and his new found love of frankfurters.
This rapid success allowed Reynoso to expand and open his own restaurant in September 2017. Dave acknowledges the risk he took changing his business model and moving away from his regulars that came by the cart from 6 pm to midnight each evening, but the gamble paid off. He now draws an eclectic crowd filled with students from the nearby high school, employees from local businesses, sports teams and families alike. "My regulars were like, ‘we’ll follow you anywhere you go.’," said Reynoso. "They still come in."
In recognition of his success from the support of his loyal customers, Reynoso is always happy to say thank you to his patrons and the community where his business resides. In February of last year, Reynoso and his crew, along with many other local companies, came together to celebrate the first responders and their families at the star-studded Kick Ash Bash event by serving food for over 2,500 people in attendance. “It was an honor to donate and to participate in such an epic event,” he comments.
Social Media Influence
When it comes to getting the word out about his restaurant, Reynoso has a concrete marketing plan that involves one key ingredient, social media. “I have been able to reach people instantly from all over the world. We have been very effective with this form of marketing,” says Reynoso. And the nearly 12,000 Instagram followers serves as proof of their effectiveness.
This following gained him an appearance in a segment of “Cheap Eats” that aired in May of 2018. Cooking Channel host and food blogger, Ali Khan spends a day in a city on a $35 food budget. He must make the most of his cash for breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. As Khan explores each city, the host engages with local chefs and the area's culinary scene. Reynoso gushes, “It was such a great and empowering opportunity that was literally thrown at me out of the blue. I realized that my work was going to reach thousands around the world, and I had a chance to impact people and their culinary ideas by showing them how a simple food item could be made in many delicious ways.”
From Top 10 Wieners in America (Yelp!) to the Reader Choice Awards and Best of Santa Barbara runner-up for Best “Late-Night Eats,” Dave’s Dogs has been given many accolades. Reynoso reflects on the success of his business, “I think the magic is a balance between the good food and me being here almost 100 percent of the time and interacting with my people and responding to all the messages on Instagram, Facebook and really being a regular person."
Doggone Amazing Menu
A classic blackboard with chalk writing located over the ordering counter is the Dave’s Dogs menu. Customers have their choice of “The Classic” with the standard mustard, ketchup, and relish, or they can take their hot dog consumption to a new level with the “El Nino” with bacon, grilled Mozzarella, BBQ sauce, spicy mayo, and avocado. Plus all are customizable from the type of dog (beef frank, chicken sausage, polish sausage, bratwurst, veggie sausage, jumbo sausage, or hot link) to an extensive choice of toppings too long to list! The options are so vast and fun; you’ll seriously forget you're eating a hot dog.
Despite its name, Dave’s Dogs menu is quite diverse – there is indeed something for everyone, which is Dave’s ultimate goal. From “Classic Wings” to “Chili Cheese Tots,” their menu is built to please even the choosiest of customers. These days he's also added burgers, vegetarian options, and surprises that include items with Oreos.
A critical asset to the successful operation of Dave’s Dogs Grill is his relationship with Jordano’s Account Executive, Omar Quezada. “I don’t know what I’d do without Omar. Over the years, he has spent countless hours finding the best products to suit my business needs. Omar has been instrumental to our growing success,” says Reynoso. “Omar’s energy has kept me focused and motivated on new creations and ideas for my business,” Dave laughs, “And he is always willing to be one of the first to try our new menu offerings!”
“I know it sounds cliché, but my success has come from passion and dedication to what I do,” Reynoso points out. “It’s a pleasure to know that we are working with a reputable company like Jordano’s - it’s local and family owned. And I must admit, it’s pretty cool seeing Jordano’s president, Peter Jordano, in our establishment from time to time.”
Trust us, when you’re passionate about what you do, your customers (and Peter) will recognize it.
For more information on Dave’s Dogs Grill visit davesdogs805.com. Find them on Facebook, Instagram or Yelp!