Haute Dogs


There was a time when haute cuisine was reserved for the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and hot dogs were the province of backyard barbecues alone. Two separate food groups, seemingly never to converge at a place where the average person could enjoy both types of dining simultaneously. 

Fortunately we are now living in the golden age of American food. From cross-country transport to the emergence of an extreme “buy local” movement, there is wonderful food to be found around almost every corner. You have Michelen-starred chefs undertaking passion projects like designer burger joints. There are also chefs who skipped the classical training but continue to create food at the highest level across the country in inventive and imaginative ways. There are cooks and cuisine of every level imaginable, including right here in our own backyard. Of course the appeal comes from the food, but the personal approach and friendly attitude that seem to accompany this sort of “crossover cooking” is what keeps people coming back. That convergence of food classes, style of food and cooking is making its way around
the map. 

You can find all types of food, whether it is pizza with specialty meats, macaroni with artisan cheese or hand-crafted cocktails. Yet this is summer, one food stands above the rest as a classic summer snack being reinvigorated with new-school style: the hot dog. A longtime staple of backyard barbecues and camping trips, hot dogs are the quintessential leisure activity food – perfect for the long days and getaways of summer. And now, thanks to people like owner Stephan du Toit of The Stand in Gresham, people are are being treated to unique interpretations of this American original.

From innovative concoctions to old standbys, The Stand is both a throwback and a step forward all at once. Du Toit got his start in the restaurant business in an unlikely place, but one that fits perfectly into the narrative of the reinvention of traditional food: at the sausage stand in front of Lowe’s in Tyler. Though he’d never been in the food business before, du Toit still understood the concepts of service, hard work and connecting with people. As he said, “I knew that if you had a good product and good service that you could really grow any kind of business, especially through your clientele.”

As you might expect, The Stand has a lot of regulars. It’s food that appeals to 5-year-olds, and the 5-year-old in every adult. It’s familiar, yes, but done in a way that pushes the envelope a little bit from time to time. It’s a smart take because people enjoy the familiar – but they always want to push it forward. Not many foods are more familiar than the hot dog, so there is an understandable desire to take it to the next level. Just look at Sonic, who’s offering various regional takes on their classic coney. Whether they know it or not, people are clamoring for this type of dining experience.

“I knew that there were not many places like [this] in Tyler,” said du Toit. “I knew how well [this type of food] did at Lowe’s. People would drive from all over town; some even had my number in their phones and would call-in orders … I knew there was a business there, that there was a great opportunity. I did this, and I wanted to keep it simple: no crazy stuff. I just wanted to stick with a simple menu and do it well ... but once in a while we’ll try out some new things ...” 

“New things” might be an understatement. At The Stand you can find Frito Pie Dogs, Mac and Cheese Dogs and they’ve got a BLT Dog coming soon. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. People want choices and innovation executed with a high level of service. They want their hot dogs fixed right, in a way they may never have seen before. 

“[The Stand] is a hot dog joint. That’s what we do: hot dogs. If people don’t like it, get out,” du Toit joked. “We don’t do french fries, we do bags of chips ... We make our own great mac and cheese (they sell out almost every day). We do homemade coleslaw and [make] our chili from scratch. We have Mexican Coke and other soft drinks in the bottle. We have handmade sausage from a place in Ponder, Texas. They do our hot links, the spicy boudin, jalapeño-cheese sausages, black pepper sausage, andouille and bratwurst. We even have a cheeseburger sausage on the menu. Our hotdogs are all-beef, Nathan’s franks. We have banana peppers and all kinds of other toppings – and we load it up for you.”

With the wide array of ingredients there are hundreds of possible combinations, both classic and specialized, to build your perfect hot dog. The menu is set up in a sort of stacked format so that customers can create their own innovative and customized versions of the hot dog. You want a black pepper sausage with grilled sauerkraut,
 Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q sauce and a little bit of cheese? You can have it! It’s summer food, done in the most fun way possible. It’s a classic dish, reinvented each time you try something new or different.

It’s creations like this that are building a bridge between food-seeking crowds. You’ve got the older generation coming in looking for a taste of from the past: a bottle Coke and a hot dog on a hot summer day. But you might also see a group of younger people posted on one of the porch tables trying something totally unexpected, covered in grilled sauerkraut. 

People have been coming in droves, and with good reason. The food is new, different and familiar all at once. Patrons can find something they will be comforted by, but have the chance to expand their food experience as far as they’d like to take it. The summer is a time to try new things, to take a break and have an adventure. (For some fun ideas, check out this issue’s cover story! ) Why not do the same with your food? Whether it’s creating something at home or sampling some of the inviting inventions at The Stand, this summer be like your grill and get fired up for some haute dogs!


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