ORONO — To experience hot dogs as they’re served in Boston, Chicago, New York City, and elsewhere in the United States, check out The Family Dog at 6 Mill St.
Co-owners Bob Cutler and Keith Manaker are certain that diners will discover “what gourmet [hot] dogs are all about,” said Cutler, a Navy veteran who has “always wanted to own a hot dog, [and] sausage restaurant.”
“Restaurants that serve hot dogs — and sometimes that’s all they serve — are really popular across the country, in Chicago, down South,” said Manaker, who owns the nearby Harvest Moon Deli. “It’s definitely a [food] genre [that] people are passionate about.”
For such folks and for people curious as to “how a gourmet hot dog tastes,” Cutler and Manaker started planning their new restaurant last summer, Cutler said. “Our goal was to stay in Orono,” and when the location at 6 Mill St. became available, The Family Dog opened there on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, he said.
The 49-seat restaurant overlooks Main Street and the Stillwater River. Large windows bring the natural light indoors to tables where diners can play board games while dining on a cuisine that features burgers, chicken, vegetarian, and, of course, the ubiquitous hot dog.
Every Family dog begins with Vienna Beef, shipped from Chicago. “Vienna Beef is the Cadillac of hot dogs. It is a premier dog,” Cutler said, referring to the delicious hot dogs manufactured by Vienna Beef Ltd. The company is located at 2501 North Damen Ave. in the Windy City.
“There’s nothing like a Vienna Beef hot dog — and the bun it’s in,” he said.
“Our hot dogs, our buns, our sport peppers, one of our relishes, and our sausages are brought in from Chicago,” Manaker said.
The Family Dog offers these classic hot dogs:
• Chicago Dog, served on a poppy seed bun with sport peppers, a pickle spear, yellow mustard, chopped relish, neon green relish, and tomato wedges;
• Deli Dog, served with sauerkraut and mustard;
• Detroit’s Coney Island Dog, served with meat sauce, cold sweet onions, and yellow mustard;
• Macaroni and Cheese Dog, which according to Cutler is “our best-selling dog. It’s homemade macaroni and cheese topped with a cheese sauce and then crispy bacon”;
• Polish Sausage, which includes hot Polish sausage and jalapeño and cheddar sausage;
• Street Dog, boiled and then served with sauerkraut, sauteed onions, mustard, and tomato;
• West Virginia Dog, served with mustard and topped with coleslaw, chopped onions, and coleslaw.
Diners can also “build” their own hot dogs by adding various condiments to a steamed Vienna Beef hot dog.
Other Family Dog offerings include grilled cheeseburgers, grilled chicken breasts, vegetarian options, and nine specialty sandwiches available as burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and vegetarian.
The restaurant also serves salads, soups, traditional macaroni and cheese, fountain drinks and fries, and several desserts, including Shain’s of Maine Ice Cream and the Wunderbar from Chicago. “It’s phenomenal; it’s a cheesecake on a stick, dipped in dark chocolate,” Cutler said.
As diners are discovering, Cutler and Manaker both like dogs; the restaurant’s nine specialty sandwiches are named after such dog breeds at the Akita, Bernese, and Catahoula. Cutler owns a chocolate Lab named Mesa; Manaker owns a Corgi named Bernie.
Cutler and Manaker always intended to utilize the word “Dog” in the restaurant’s name. “We kicked around a lot of names,” Cutler said. “I was driving one day and wanted to get home and play with my dog.
“I suddenly thought, ‘My family dog.’ I called Keith, and he said, ‘That’s it! The Family Dog!’” Cutler recalled.
Diners are encouraged to post photos of their pet dogs on a brick wall just inside the restaurant’s main entrance. Several color photos are there now; Cutler invited diners to drop by and add their photos to the collection.
The Family Dog is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday, and 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Thursday-Saturday during the academic year. Takeout is available, and diners can park for free on site, along Mill Street, or in the municipal parking lot behind Margarita’s.
“Come to The Family Dog,” Cutler said. “We’ll entertain you, we’ll make you happy, and we’ll give you a great meal.”
For more information, call (207) 866-2808 or log onto www.thefamilydogorono.com. The restaurant is on Twitter @TheFamilyDogME and on Facebook at “the family dog orono.”