J Dawgs restaurant in American Fork.
Editor’s note: Natalie Barrett experiences what it’s like to dine out with her 4-year-old daughter, Elle.
The Utah County eatery that sparks family traditions and satisfies everyone from my 4-year-old Elle to her “Grandpa Great” (who is 93 years old) only has one item on its menu with two options to choose from: a beef hot dog or a polish hot dog.
J Dawgs was launched in 2004 by a BYU student fondly known as J. As detailed in the online history, he didn’t have much going for him as far as career, love life, car or money. "One day, after passing a 12-by-12, abandoned red shack covered with concert posters, J thinks, 'That'd be a great spot for a hot dog stand,'" the history reads. He sold his guitar and decided to go for it. According to the history, he mowed lawns to support his growing dream of renovating the shack and "hosted taste-testing parties" to perfect "the dawg."
A hot dog is just a hot dog, but once you add the criss-crossing cuts down the “dawg” where the special sauce sits along with sauerkraut, banana peppers, pickles, onions and other condiments, it becomes more than innovative. It’s a whole new experience.
The special sauce is the kicker. It’s sweet and tangy, and it is the real draw. There is no other place that has it. Take the spiciness of the polish dog, grill it to perfection, add the criss-crossing cuts to hold the sauce and sell it at $3.50, and you have a winner.
The most gratifying part of my trip to J Dawgs on 80 N.W. State Rd. in American Fork with Elle was when the fizz was settling on my Pepsi and Elle had just taken a bite but wasn’t able to fit her mouth around the entire hot dog. Instead, she got a mustache of mustard and special sauce and gave me a huge smile. I leaned over to rub noses, and she laughed and laughed when she saw her sauce rubbed off on my nose and cheeks, too. Playing with your food is a necessity for Elle, and to see me jump in on the fun made her week. She could hardly stop belly-laughing to eat the rest of her meal.
J Dawgs has already expanded from its initial shack, first to an actual building on 858 N. 700 East in Provo, which still constantly had lines too long to keep the customers from lining up on the street, to two more restaurants, one in Orem on 287 E. University Pkwy., and in American Fork.