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Wild About Bill’s

Posted on Mar 01, 2014 in Wild Bill's Beach Dogs , March-April 2014

Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs owners Bill Dawson (left) and Heavenly Dawson (right) with Let’s Be Frank hot dog genius Sue Moore. Photo by Wendy O. Dixon

Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs offers a doggone good meal by Wendy O. Dixon

The hotdog is likely America’s favorite food. It represents the nostalgic and simple way of life many Seaside denizens and visitors embrace. Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs, which sells hotdogs from one of Seaside’s line of Airstreams just steps from the beach, features dogs made across the country and shipped especially for the little eatery on scenic Highway 30A. The franks and sausages are made of grass-fed beef or heritage pork, the animals are humanely raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, and the links are naturally cured so they are free of sodium nitrates or nitrites.

Let’s Be Frank, a famous hot dog company that has gained national attention and lured celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Carson Daly to its modest food cart, was started in the summer of 2005 in San Francisco, Calif., outside the San Francisco Giants ballpark by street food enthusiasts Sue Moore and Larry Bain. Their aim was simply to change the world one hot dog at a time. “We started out selling dogs from a hot dog cart outside the Giants stadium during football games,” Moore says. “There’s nothing better than having ball park fans give you feedback on the dogs. We’d get everyone from the scalpers to the front office Giants people to give us feedback. So we got all kinds of opinions.”

Moore, formerly the “meat forager” for Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse, and Bain, longtime restaurant professional, member of the San Francisco Sustainable Food Systems team, and advocate of the benefits of local, healthy foods, joined forces to return the much-demeaned hot dog to its rightful position — an icon for a healthy food system.

With a “Dogs Gone Good” motto, the goal was that their frank would become a way to nourish both eaters and growers. Let’s be Frank supports the ever-shrinking group of family farmers and ranchers committed to raising their animals in a humane, conscientious, and healthy manner.

After hearing rave reviews from Seaside co-founder Daryl Davis, Wild Bill’s owners Bill and Heavenly Dawson contacted Moore about becoming restaurant partners. “I really didn’t take it seriously at first because it’s expensive to ship,” Moore says. “But Heavenly was very persistent.” Now the dogs are shipped directly to Wild Bill’s, giving Seaside folks a taste of the same grass-fed and family-farm goodness those on the west coast enjoy.

Wild Bill’s has a hot dog to suit all ages and reflect every taste with a simple menu that includes five dogs — all made from grass-fed beef and family-farm pork or turkey; the classic frank dog, the heat dog (for spicy tastes), the Mutt Dog (a perfect blend of beef and pork), the brat dog (pork) and the bird dog (family-farmed pasture-raised turkey). “And they only have around 160 calories and little sodium,” Moore says.

For the perfect dog, the Dawsons were determined to find a bun made with organic ingredients that could withstand the heft of a dog and all its fixings. They worked with Publix bakery at WaterColor Crossing, which experimented with different bread recipes to get the texture just right. Made exclusively for Wild Bill’s, the buns are delivered fresh daily and steamed just prior to serving. Next, the Dawsons focused on finding the most complimentary toppings. The spicy mustard, made from a special recipe by the Dawsons, receives rave reviews from their customers. The onions, served either caramelized or raw, are locally grown by Farmer Paul who sells vegetables at the Seaside Farmers Market.

A favorite topping for any dog, Let’s Be Frank’s artisanal Klassic Sauerkraut, made by a German family Moore found in Los Angeles, is naturally fermented in small batches using a special varietal of cabbage grown near the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo. And the Let’s Be Frank’s signature Devil Sauce makes for a diabolically delicious spicy topping. “You can keep it simple with the classic frank,” Moore says. “Or go all out with chili and onions.”

Recently celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse visited Wild Bill’s and watched as Heavenly Dawson made a special dog for him, which was such a hit that it will be added to the menu in the coming weeks. “He loved it,” Heavenly Dawson recalls, adding that the new dog will be called the EM (caviar) dog in honor of Lagasse’s visit to Wild Bill’s. The frank dog is topped with chopped onion and boiled eggs, as well as cream cheese, Essence of Emeril spice mixture, caviar and chives. Heavenly Dawson recommends trying the special dog with Pop Champagne. “And, of course, you have to drink it through the straw like they do in France,” she says.

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