Who let the dogs in?

The Handsome Daughter now serves up tubular treats

A vegan Wonder Wheel hot dog from Doggystyle at the Handsome Daughter

Keeley Braunstein-Black

From the ashes of another food venture’s sudden twilight, the (hotdog) wieners will rise.

Following the untimely demise of Magic Bird Fried Chicken’s cornerstone deep fryer, perhaps Winnipeg foodies’ worst kept secret as of late, the staff of The Handsome Daughter were faced with a culinary quandary.

Facing enormous repair costs, the crew made the tough decision to shutter Magic Bird for the time being, with a new hotdog pop-up taking its place, cheekily christened Doggystyle.

“We actually used to do hotdogs and stuff like that here in the past,” Mike O’Connell, chef at The Handsome Daughter, says.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff you can do with it ... a hotdog is like a blank canvas,” he says. “With branding and everything, too, not just the actual food. That’s more my area of interest and expertise,” Jessee Kowalski, bar manager and Doggystyle social-media wizard, says.

Doggystyle currently boasts eight varieties of hotdogs on its menu, including the Coney Island-inspired “The Wonder Wheel” and Chicago-style “Da Bear,” most of which are O’Connell’s own interpretations of regional favourites. Original creation “The Hunky Bill” is a more financially viable take on the iconic Jumbo Jet Dog.

“The inspiration is just the hotdogs I’ve eaten throughout my life, with some research and studying. My favourite one and the newest one to me is the Seattle-style hotdog, the ‘Supersonic,’ that has cream cheese and jalapeno,” O’Connell says.

Frankfurter aficionados can rest assured, the sausage is made with the best of care, using Nathan’s Famous hotdogs imported courtesy of Food Fare. Each hotdog can also be made vegetarian, with some additional vegan options, as the crew stressed the importance of menu accessibility.

Notably, Doggystyle employs an idiosyncratic and oddly alluring approach to marketing. A retro aesthetic with Fleischer-like mascot “Mr. Hotdog,” courtesy of local artist Paul Stafford, is combined with a playful presence on their Instagram, @whomstletthedogsout.

Videos of celebrities barking on the red carpet sit comfortably alongside references to The Simpsons and comedian Tim Robinson. Kowalski elaborates on the farcical yet calculated philosophy.

“The thing with hotdogs, when we first started coming up with this, I didn’t want it to be over-the-top goofy. But it’s hotdogs. It has to be kind of silly, and no one wants to come to a serious hotdog restaurant,” he says.

“What I kind of gave (Stafford) was a ’70s-style cartoony wholesome guy. It plays off the name pretty well, too. It was important to have that attitude with it, but not go too far, and be kind of playful.”

Launched with a hotdog-eating contest on March 6, in which the crew underestimated demand and ran out of hotdogs before night’s end, the folks behind Doggystyle are convinced that this dog will hunt for the foreseeable future.

“It was a lot (busier) than we had anticipated. We expected it to be busy, but the turnout was beyond what we had imagined,” O’Connell says.

“In the future, you’ll be able to get these dogs not just here. We’ll put it that way. Right now, we’re just focused on slinging dogs in West Broadway,” Kowalski says.

Published in Volume 78, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 21, 2024)

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