"It came to me in a dream one night," says Larry Bigay. "I have a pad of paper by my bedside, and I woke up early one morning, and started to draw what I'd seen in my dream."
What he saw were visions of hot dogs dancing in his head.
Bigay, who already owns Philly's Cheesesteak Grill in the Mission Trace Shopping Center in Lakewood, turned his dream into Rock-N-Dogs, conveniently planted just a few storefronts down from his cheesesteak joint, which has been open for four years. "I was actually looking for another space for a second Philly's, but I couldn't find the right lease, the right location, or the right infrastructure, so I was getting discouraged," he admits. And then he got a visit from his landlord. "He told me that I'd been really successful with the Philly place and then asked me what I thought I could do do in this space," recalls Bigay, who, at the time, didn't have a clue.
He did what most of us would have done: He went home and slept on it. "When I had the dream, it wasn't just about the hot dogs," he jokes, although he admits to loving frankfurters as a kid. "I saw walls with rock and roll memorabilia, the color scheme and even the layout," he remembers. He had an architect craft some drawings, which Bigay showed to his landlord, and the ink was signed.
"I was born in New York and brought up on Sabretts, so I know hot dogs, but my vision for this was to serve everything from Vienna hot dogs to exotic sausages to great wings to burgers to salads, all at affordable prices," says Bigay, who sources the majority of his sausages, as does Biker Jim and the crew from the Uber Sausage, from Continental Sausage. "I toured their factory and was incredibly impressed with their quality -- it's outstanding -- and I couldn't get over how amazingly clean it was. They just do a super job."
Bigay hustles Vienna beef dogs, turkey dogs and more than a dozen gourmet links: Cajun bratwurst, apple bratwurst, mushroom bratwurst, chicken-tomato-basil bratwurst and garlic-and-onion bratwurst -- and more -- all of which are grilled and maneuvered onto white, wheat or pretzel rolls. He also pimps a "sea-dog," made with beer-battered cod, and his toppings, of which there are many, include peppers of all ilks, coleslaw, a spicy three-pepper relish, sauerkraut and black, green or kalamata olives. And Bigay doesn't stop there: He's got a whole spread of housemade side dishes (baked beans, red dill potato salad and macaroni-and-bacon salad, among them) and scratch sauces -- Greek, Asian sesame, Namaste ketchup and rockin' ranch -- to dress your dogs.
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He's got an old-fashioned jukebox, too, stocked with CDs from the '60s, '70s and '80s to complement his wall art, a mash-up of concert posters and old vinyl album jackets from his own collection, secondhand stores and Craigslist. "I wanted to open a place where people could reminisce and relive their youth," says Bigay, adding that close to 90 percent of what he's amassed is used, and, in some cases, broken, like the cotton candy machine that bit the dust a week after he bought it. "I'm waiting on a part for it, which we should have in about three weeks, and once it's working again" he says, "we'll do eight different flavors of cotton candy, including watermelon, blueberry, grape and lemon-lime -- that one's the bomb."
In the meantime, Bigay, a self-described "sweet tooth," is handing out free cupcakes to kids, making his own carrot cake and other desserts and rocking out to KISS.
Rock N Dogs, open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located at 3333 South Wadsworth Boulevard in the Mission Trace Shopping Center. For additional info, call 303-987-3647.