CLE food: hot dogs at Happy Dog

I’ve been stuck in the familiar when it comes to Cleveland restaurants as of late. Don’t get me wrong – I love my old standbys, but in the past few months I haven’t gone to many new-to-me hot spots. But when attending Cleveland’s a Plum‘s and @lzone‘s #HollaDays Festival of Awesomeness on New Year’s Eve Eve, we started the evening out with one of my favorite couples: Jen from WhyCLE? and her fiancé – at one of their favorite newer spots: Happy Dog on Detroit Road in Cleveland’s Gordon Square District.

Here’s what you need to know about Happy Dog:

  • The space is itself is part hipster, part old school 70’s bowling alley, all “I just want to hang out here all day” cool.
  • It’s owned by Chef Eric Williams – of Momocho fame – and (edited to add) his business partners “the seans (kilbane + watterson)”  and was recently featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate.
  • Their menu is simple: It’s a “Build Your Own” Hot Dog theme. Choose from their all beef hot dog our their vegan Italian sausage, and then get to adding toppings galore – there are fifty to choose from. One hot dog with as many toppings as you’d like is $5 each.
  • You also can do something similar with their tator tots and French fries: pile ‘em up with toppings and your choice of three dipping sauces for $3 each.
  • Their beverage list is pretty extensive – and even has a gluten free offering.

I got lucky and snagged us a booth pretty quickly on a busy Friday evening. To order, you complete an order form where you indicate which type of hot dog you want with all your toppings.


I also wrote love notes to the kitchen all over mine. Forgive the misspellings – spell checking goes out the window during such excitement.


Hans went all out and ordered two hot dogs. He was loving on his first hot dog creation, with “everything” bagel cream cheese, ginger-teriyaki sauce, dill pickle spear, house made chunky peanut butter, cheddar cheese and bourbon baked beans:


I’m still thanking God that he didn’t have a heart attack while walking down Detroit later that evening. I don’t know why or how that combination worked, but he said he would order it again! Hans’ second creation wasn’t quite as successful:


On top of his hot dog was a fried egg, roma tomatoes, house made ketchup, Bertman’s Original Ballpark mustard, a dill pickle spear, cucumbers, applewood smoked bacon and nacho cheese. Personally, I think it was the nacho cheese/cucumber combo that sealed his fate.

For the table, we ordered an order of tater tots and an order of French fries. The tots – also topped with bacon – won this battle.


You can see TeamWhyCLE’s hot dogs in behind the spuds. Check out her Why? Weekends! post to see their hot dog creations.

For our dipping sauces, Hans and I ordered the ginger-teriyaki sauce, Oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole, and Happy Dog’s house made ketchup:


The house-made ketchup isn’t what you’ll find in a Heinz 57 bottle. While the Happy Dog’s ketchup was good, it would be nice to have the old standby as an option. They do have stadium mustard as an option after all…

And as for silly ol’, gluten-intolerant me? What does a gluten-free, bunless, veggie loaded hot dog at the Happy Dog look like?


That’s one all beef hot dog topped with a fried egg, sliced roma tomatoes, marinated cremini mushrooms, garlicky escarole and black truffle honey mustard. If I only had a bun, it would have been the best hot dog moment of my entire life. Personally, I’m a sucker for an all beef hot dog (insert “that’s what she said” joke here), but the addition of the unique toppings took this everyman’s food to another level. I probably could have skipped the egg, but I’ve been shooting for additional protein in my diet so their were obvious nutritional benefits! The black truffle honey mustard was the best part – they should be bottling and selling that stuff at the door!

LONG STORY SHORT: From our dinner, I learned a few things: I need to step out of my comfort zone more often and get to those spots in Ctown that I’ve been missing. Hans needs to be supervised when making topping combinations including artificial cheese product and vegetables. You need to get yourself a loaded hot dog from Happy Dog STAT.

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  1. eric says:

    so glad to hear you enjoyed the DOG / plz say hello next time you’re in + be sure to check out the UNDERDOG bar in the basement / gourmet burgers on thursday nights, classic pinball + 14′ shuffleboard table / also i need to give a shout out to my biz partners the seans (kilbane + watterson) they’re are the geniuses who run the bar + book music + create the events that make the HD awesome!


    • Alicia at Poise in Parma says:

      Hey Chef: thanks so much for the comment! I’m going to edit the post to recognize the Seans as well – thanks for the correction. I’m looking forward to visiting again and checking out the UNDERDOG some time soon!

  2. Steve says:

    I was going to mention that Eric had partners, but I’m not surprised that he already did. He is the chef behind the toppings lineup and the burgers on thursday, though. And sometime celebrity bartender at the Underdog, which is a Way Cool place also.

    • Alicia at Poise in Parma says:

      Steve: Thanks for your comment! I’ve heard fun things about Underdog, but forgot about the Thursday burgers. I’ll have to plan my next visit accordingly…

  3. Amanda @ Clue Into CLE says:

    I’m so glad you made it to Happy Dog! It’s no secret it’s one of my all-around favorite places to go in Cleveland and the one place I bring every visitor regardless of who they are/what their interests are — it’s always proven a winning choice.

  4. Jessica B. says:

    I LOVE happy dog! I don’t even eat hot dogs, just tots for me. I might have to try a hot dog soon though. There are so many toppings I want to try.

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