Mercy Dogs will soon serve gourmet hot dogs near the University of Denver

The University of Denver community will soon be able to sample Darren Reilly's unique hot dogs.
The University of Denver community will soon be able to sample Darren Reilly's unique hot dogs.

Lunch options near the University of Denver are about to get more interesting. In less than two weeks, Mercy Dogs will begin serving local Continental brand hot dogs and brats near the intersection of East Evans Avenue and South University Boulevard.

Menu items include the signature "Mercy Dog," which comes with homemade mac and cheese and potato chips, a dog topped with peanut butter and bacon called the "Memphis Dog" (grape jelly upon request), and a chicken apple brat with cream cheese and caramelized onions, among others. Cream cheese and caramelized onions? Wait, isn't Biker Jim already doing that?

In addition to a small board of regular dogs, owner Darren Reilly plans to keep things interesting by introducing different ingredient combinations every week. He peppers conversation with his inventive ideas, such as a "Sicilian" dog topped with fried salami, marinara and Parmesan, or, come winter, one with clam chowder or maybe a Boston-style dog with baked beans.

Why hot dogs? They have the broadest appeal, Reilly says. Plus, "I just like hot dogs!" he exclaims.

Prices range from $2 for a build-your-own dog to $4 for the brats. Reilly also carries tofu pups for vegetarians and plans to start rolling out grilled cheese sandwiches soon.

A California native and restaurant industry veteran, Reilly moved to Colorado with his wife, Elizabeth, a few years ago. Burnt out on the hours and lifestyle of a restaurant general manager and looking for something to call his own, the couple came up with Mercy Dogs, so-named for its charity-driven mindset as well as the couple's two-year-old son, Mercer. Mercy Dogs donates to different charities on a monthly basis.

"There's a lot of corny names out there," Reilly explains. "We wanted something more than that, something that could translate more into a real restaurant." Reilly says he would like the cart to evolve into a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Reilly has been up and running on Fillmore Plaza in Cherry Creek since April, but thinks the change in location will expose him to more foot traffic. He's been a regular at the Concert for Kids farmers' market on Wednesdays and has also worked the griddle for City Park Jazz attendees this summer.

Look for Mercy Dogs just west of Evans and University starting September 7. Reilly plans to be there Monday through Friday, weather-permitting, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you can't wait until then, you can find him near Second Avenue and Fillmore Plaza next Tuesday and Thursday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.


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