Hot summer days, a crowd singing "Take Me out to the Ball Game," food carts on late nights — these are the images that come to mind when the word "hot dog" is mentioned. But Jonathan Luther wants Charlotteans to think of JJ's Red Hots and the highest quality of ingredients when the restaurant opens on July 4. After all, JJ's Red Hots' motto is "Don't Diss the Dog," and they intend to prove that they do dogs right.
So what does "Don't Diss the Dog" mean? It means that JJ's Red Hots holds their food to the highest standards, presenting their customers with quality hot dogs from a 143-year-old company. These natural casing hot dogs are charbroiled, which brings out a delectable crunchy bite when cooked just right. "The best way to serve a hot dog is over an open flame, served with topping made with care," Luther says.
But he's not all serious business when it comes to this playful food. "It's fun; we have an irreverence toward our brand," he says. Besides classic hot dogs like the Char-Heel, which every native Carolinian will recognize as a Carolina Dog (a dog with chili, slaw, and onions), JJ's will feature creative hot dog options like The Maui Gold (hot dog with grilled pineapple), The Joliet Jake (a Chicago style dog with tomatoes, sport peppers, diced onions, mustard, relish, pickles, and celery salt) and the Chili Cheese Coney (the classic chili cheese dog made famous by Coney Island).
JJ's Red Hots will also feature gourmet sausages, including andouille sausage, bratwurst, and even salmon sausage, which they will pair with an impressive collection of wines.
Luther's interest in the hot dog restaurant business is a family affair. His father was a restaurant executive and Luther grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., cultivating his love of hot dogs by enjoying them often at a favorite local eatery. After years of looking for a dog as tasty as the one he grew up eating, he finally came to the revelation that if he was to ever experience the hot dog from his youth, he would have to make it himself, which is where the concept for JJ's Red Hots began.
There are a lot of folks that "poo poo" hot dogs as some sub-par form of food, but JJ's is all about dispelling the myths around hot dogs and treating them like the quality food products they are. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're a hot dog lover or a critic.
How you cook them matters.
Grilling or broiling hot dogs are OK, but hot dogs were meant to be char-grilled. This method brings out the smokiness, the savoriness and the complexity of the texture. This particular style of cooking heightens the enjoyment of the natural hot dog casing by creating a slight crunch.
The toppings matter.
A squirt of mustard and ketchup isn't going to do it, folks. JJ's is religious when it comes to the care taken in choosing the chili, the slaw, the condiments, and unique toppings that grace their dogs.
Hot dog buns matter.
Hot dog buns can truly compliment a delicious hot dog, rather than be an afterthought. Luther has chosen a potato bun for his dogs.
Health and quality matters.
With the bun, mustard, and some relish, they're only about 300 calories. No one should ever be ashamed to eat a hot dog made with natural quality ingredients. It only tastes sinful!
JJ's Red Hots is located at 1514 East Blvd. Visit www.facebook.com/JJsRedHots for more information.