Turns out, the humble hot dog is no such thing. Not for Tower Dogs, anyway. Chef Jim Forkel goes out of his way to make sure that when you think of a Tower Dog, you don’t think of the standard boiled hot dog with ketchup.
Tower Dogs is, in fact a gourmet hot dog restaurant. It doesn’t do run-of-the-mill. It does handmade and fresh, from making their own dogs from scratch to preparing fresh toppings, sauces, and side dishes daily. And with a menu that runs the gamut from genuine delicacies like the Short Rib Dog to the fan-favorite Roadhouse Dog (that’s bacon, jack cheese, and barbecue sauce, by the way), it’s no wonder Tower Dogs is doing so well after less than a year.
The restaurant, which opened at 4110 Quakerbridge Road last June, actually has roots going back more than a century. It began in Princeton university’s Tower Club, where Chef Jim served his gourmet dogs to university students. So many of them eventually told him that he should open a restaurant to the public, so he finally did. So far, says managing partner Pat Yun, the move has been wildly successful. Tower Dogs is even considering opening a second location already.
Tower Dogs is also expanding its catering arm. The restaurant already caters to area businesses and has a truck to take to sites of 70 or more people. Yun says he’s aware that people don’t usually think of hot dogs as something to cater, but that’s the point of throwing al those old expectations out the window. These are not eight-to-a-pack franks thrown into a pot of water. Tower Dogs are entire meals ‒‒ nearly a quarter-pound, carefully constructed with toppings layered in precise ways to bring out the maximum flavors in every bite.
In fact, the staff at Tower Dogs isn’t merely hired, it’s trained in how to build the perfect hot dog.
“There’s a science behind it,” Yun says. “It’s a lot more complicated than you’d think.”
The science comes from Forkel, a career chef of more than 20 years, who knows that getting the exact flavor you want in every bite doesn’t just happen. It also comes from Forkel’s belief that a good dog should be it’s own meal. Yun, who has a big appetite, can make it through one Tower dog, but not usually two.
When Tower Dogs caters to companies, Yun says, people are stunned to find out just how delicious a hot dog can be, when someone puts chef-level attention on crafting a real meal. Besides that, he says, employees at large companies often get tired of the cafeteria offerings. When a gourmet hot dog truck rolls up, people go nuts for it.
Tower Dogs isn’t just about the hot dogs, though. The restaurant also makes snacks like pretzel nuggets and nachos, and some very popular salads. Yun says he and Forkel had expected the customer base to be mostly young guys. Turns out, families, women, and people well past the Millennial age are flocking to Tower Dogs.
“We give people options,” Yun says. “And they love it.”
Tower Dogs, 4110 Quakerbridge Road, Lawrenceville. 609-269-9056 www.tower-dogs.com.