Frankly, The Hot Dog Guys of New Kensington are proud of their product
Call most people “hot dogs” and they probably won't take it kindly.
Refer to New Kensington brothers Paul and Jim Barton as “The Hot Dog Guys,” and they'll happily take your order.
Their business philosophy of “Keep it Simple” brings them to their 10th anniversary this year as a colorful and most-welcome sight for hungry travelers who want to grab a quick bite to eat just off the Allegheny Valley Expressway's exit 14 in Tarentum.
Their lunch-cart trailer, with propane cooker attached to a van emblazoned with their logo, is set up in a tiny gravel pull-off area most Tuesdays through Fridays in good weather. “We watch the weather reports closely, especially when lightning is involved,” Paul Barton says.
Temporary signs on Route 366 announce they are “just ahead.”
Paul Barton still likes to say, “We're like some kind of monument here,” and he is on the mark with his observation. Customers express their disappointment on days the brothers aren't around because of a command appearance at a company parking lot or another event.
“Truckers have said we are their last chance for a meal before heading to Pittsburgh and Kittanning,” Jim Barton says.
Their clientele includes families, bicyclists, motorcyclists and, basically, “anyone who loves hot dogs — even some who claim they don't,” Paul Barton says.
The brothers credit the truckers with helping grow their condiment list from seven to the current (and counting) 25. A staple on their menu is the All the Way dog, the suggestion of a trucker from South Carolina, containing chili, mustard, onions and coleslaw.
The Bartons rejected peanut butter as a possible condiment, but then relented for two days in 2012 — once on the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, then on Dec. 21 to celebrate the fact the world did not end that day, as some were predicting.
However, they are adamant in their insistence that ranch dressing, which one customer suggested, will never rest atop one of their dogs. “We don't hate ranch dressing, it just doesn't taste very good as a hot-dog topping,” Jim Barton says.
As for that menu: “We keep it simple due to lack of storage space and to keep our overhead low,” Jim says.
They offer two lunches:
• “The Deal”: one hot dog, beverage and chips for $3.75
• “The Big Deal”: two hot dogs, beverage and chips, $6
Dogs without beverage or chips are $2.75 each; nachos with melted cheddar cheese, $3; a 12-ounce pop, ice tea or a 16.9-ounce bottle of water, $1 each.
“Our dogs are deli in size. It only takes six of them to make a pound,” Jim Barton says. “They are made with choice cuts of meat. You can really taste the difference.
“Forgive me if this sounds a little corny or cliché, but I believe that success comes from caring about quality, and making it important, no matter what. We want to provide a quality product with quality service without ‘nickeling and diming' the customer.”
Customers seem to appreciate that they are not charged an extra fee for toppings, says Paul Barton, who is a full-time minister at Allegheny Valley Church of Christ in New Kensington, and former general manager and morning-show host for Christian radio station WAVL-AM. Jim has been sports director and an announcer for the station.
They both previously worked in the restaurant business.
As an experiment to see whether their limited menu would be viable indoors, the Bartons opened a shop in 2010 on Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell. In February of this year, the brothers decided it wasn't for them. A new owner (no relation) opened Sloppy Dogzz in the same space in May.
The Bartons are community-oriented, raising money and awareness for local causes such as helping senior citizens with heating bills or sponsoring a girls fast-pitch softball team who don “Hot Dog Guys” uniforms.
They also collect and display patches from police, firemen, EMTS and military to honor them.
“Not only have the people embraced our product, they seem to enjoy the novelty of what we do, as well,” Jim Barton says. “Many have stopped by just to have a picture taken with us.”
The Hot Dog Guys are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. most Tuesdays through Fridays, off Exit 14, Route 28, Tarentum. Details: 724-309-2166. Phone orders also are accepted.
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He ca n be reached at 724-226-4 664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.