Hot dogs are ubiquitous. Sports games, rock concerts, takeout stands, fundraisers. They’re everywhere. But there are your regular old hot dogs, and then there are hot dogs like the ones they serve at The Family Dog in Orono, an eatery that opened last fall that takes the humble wiener from everyday food to gourmet treat.
Owners Keith Manaker, who also co-owns the Harvest Moon Deli in Orono, and Bob Cutler, who is director of baseball operations at the University of Maine, decided last year to capitalize on their shared love of hot dogs — and burgers, and beer, and mac and cheese, and other all-American quick bites — and open The Family Dog. It’s one of the only places in Eastern Maine to focus specifically on hot dogs.
“It’s a genre of food, a genre of restaurant, that’s just not being done here,” said Manaker. “It’s not really being done in Maine, period, especially in eastern Maine.”
“It’s the most all-American food I can think of,” said Cutler. “It speaks to so many different people on so many different levels. And that’s just one component of what we do, too.”
But first, the hot dogs. The menu boasts a wide array of different toppings available for your dog — from exotic offerings like the Akita (grilled pineapple and spicy Thai slaw) and the Griffon (bacon and onion relish with bleu cheese) to classic regional hot dogs such as the Chicago Dog, served with mustard, onion, chopped tomatoes, pickles and peppers, on a poppyseed bun with celery salt.
“The Chicago Dog [has] its origin in the Depression,” said Manaker. “It started out as a cheap way to get an entire meal in a bun. So within the bun you have your protein, you have your veggies, and you have your grains. And it’s still a very Chicago thing, to this day.”
All their hot dogs are Vienna beef, so they’re high quality dogs that are filling if you even eat just one. You can get two Chicago Dogs for just $7 — though for a buck or two more, you can try one of the 13 other toppings The Family Dog offers.
“We thought we’d appeal to both young families and college students because the price point matches their needs,” said Cutler. “It’s good, quality food at a reasonable price. You can come in and get a meal for the same price as a value meal at McDonalds.”
Any of the toppings available for dogs are also available for burgers and chicken breasts, as well as for the house-made black bean burgers and a portabella mushroom cap burger. Cutler and Manaker pride themselves on making most things — from the chili and the mac and cheese to the relishes, slaws and salsas — in house.
“Vegetarians will find lots of stuff to love here,” said Cutler. “We want to appeal to everybody.”
A casual menu requires a casual vibe, so the place is decked out in classic American diner decor. Thursdays through Saturdays, the place is open until 2 a.m., when the Family Dog does a brisk business for the post-bar college crowd.
The Family Dog is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. It’s located at 6 Mill St. in Orono; for takeout, call 866-2808. They are also on Facebook.