In Purcellville, the dog days of summer officially began July 3.
Buns sat in the shade. Dogs cooled off. Everything was toasty.
Oh, and the hot dogs were fantastic, too.
Purcellville on Saturday celebrated the grand opening of Haute Dogs & Fries on East Main Street, the newest eatery in the town and Purcellville’s latest small business franchise. It was just in time, as July is National Hot Dog Month.
Amid red, white and blue balloons, festive bunting and the lulling sounds of banjos, Pamela Swanson, Haute Dogs & Fries’ co-owner, stirred boiling pots of beef dogs and welcomed customers.
A seven-year Loudoun resident, Swanson said she jumped into the restaurant business after deciding that Purcellville needed “something different” in eatery choices and was encouraged by her father to get something going.
“My dad just said, why doesn’t someone just open a hot dog stand?’” Swanson said. “I thought it would be cool – it’s a great American food and everyone loves them.”
Why hot dogs, rather than more – well, haute cuisine? Swanson’s plan had a tangible value component to it from the start – a sign of what have been some challenging economic times in the past couple of years.
“Especially in today’s economic recession, this is a great value for the dollar,” she said. “People can actually go out and enjoy a meal with the family, without breaking the budget.”
Creating a differentiated and unique product for discerning consumers also played a part in the Haute Dogs & Fries launch. Swanson claims that the quality of the franks she serves up will also make her franchise stand out, as well as using a sliced New England-style bread roll to cradle your dog. Her chef will keep customers guessing, with exotic menu items such as the “Black & Blue” special: corn and black bean relish, topped with blue cheese and diced onions.
“The chef surprises me everyday,” Swanson laughs.
Lenie McCarron made a special trip from Waterford for the opening. Joined by two of her young children – Andrew, age 4, and 4-week-old Ryder – McCarron said she wanted to see a hot dog eating contest, but was also “happy to travel for a good dog.” She said she’s thrilled that the choices of places to eat in Purcellville is expanding, calling out Tropical Smoothie and Anthony’s Pizza as examples.
McCarron’s comments might explain the happy look on Purcellville Mayor Bob Lazaro’s face, too.
“It’s great for our residents,” Lazaro said. “It’s about supporting locals with good food at reasonable family prices. That’s what people are looking for. They want to support people who put it on the line and open a new business, and who are trying to create new jobs and bring choice to folks out this way.”
Of course, no opening of a hot dog place would be complete without a hot dog eating contest. To the strains of music from a band called Jake and the Burtones, and Ian Fuze, an all-male posse lined up to down some dogs.
After five minutes, a star of sorts was born – two actually, as the contest ended in a tie between Wayne Pampaloni, 44, of Round Hill, and Felice Falzarano, 45, of Purcellville. Each ate nine hot dogs and buns. Wearing faux gold medals around their necks, they smiled and hot-dogged it for the assembled cameras, winners over wieners.
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