If you’ve ever wanted to serve up a duck sausage topped with grilled onions, jalapenos, Creole mustard, blackberry sauce, celery, bacon and crawfish etouffee, your time has come.
Dat Dog, the New Orleans-based purveyor of gourmet hot dogs and sausages, recently announced it is looking to expand out of its home state of Louisiana and into its CEO’s home state of Florida. Since its founding in 2011, Dat Dog has grown into a New Orleans institution with unconventional offerings like alligator and duck sausage alongside more traditional options like Italian sausage, kielbasa and all-beef franks.
“This isn’t your father’s hot dog stand,” CEO Paul Tuennerman said. “We encourage each guest to make it their own, starting with our range of sausages and hot dogs. They can pick anything from alligator, crawfish, or duck sausages to plant-based spicy chipotle sausages or traditional all-beef frankfurters and decorate their creation with any of our 30 toppings. You can come in every day and create an entirely different gourmet masterpiece each time.”
Your choice of sausage then gets paired with any combination of 30 toppings, or you can opt for one of the house specials. Dat Dog currently has three New Orleans restaurants — known for their bright, colorful atmosphere and rustic design — along with a location in Lafayette, La., and one in development in Houston. In 2019, PETA awarded Dat Dog’s spicy chipotle dog a spot on its Top 10 All-American Vegan Hot Dogs.
Tuennerman took over operations two years ago and since then, he said, he has been positioning the company for growth. Now he’s ready to expand, and one of the locations he has been eyeing is Tampa Bay. He grew up on 55th Street N in St. Petersburg. Tuennerman told the Tampa Bay Times growing up here gave him a “fond appreciation for the area, its lifestyle and casual approach to living.”
But he won’t be opening a location here himself. He’s hoping to find an investor, or franchisee, to help open a Tampa Bay Dat Dog.
"The St. Pete/Tampa Bay market, with its major universities, waterfront developments, and urban renewal projects, offers an array of opportunities ideal for a Dat Dog Restaurant,” Tuennerman said. "We are looking for someone with roots in the community and an entrepreneurial spirit.”
It won’t come cheap. Representatives for Dat Dog said it could cost between $992,000 and $2.8 million to set up an operation. Those numbers include a $50,000 franchise fee.
Tampa Bay isn’t the only spot Dat Dog hopes to expand to. Tuennerman said he’d like to see six locations along Florida’s west coast, including spots in Naples and Fort Myers. The company is also looking to add more locations in Texas.
According to 225 Magazine in Baton Rouge, La., Dat Dog planned, then scrapped plans, for a location in the city’s Arlington Place Market in early 2019. And the Nashville arm of culinary website Eater said in October that Dat Dog was looking to open up in the Tennessee cities of Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.