Richard Larios, Timothy Cam and Philip Ozaki understand you don’t have to be an Angeleno to enjoy bacon-wrapped hot dogs. They also understand L.A.’s desire to eat dirty dogs during daylight. Thus on Friday, August 1, the three men are opening Dirt Dog, a small but heartfelt hot dog shack in University Park, just north of USC.
The new shop — which will be open on their first day from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. — will pay homage to L.A.'s insane love of these street dogs by offering an entire menu based on bacon-wrapped hot dogs. We sat down with them during building inspections last week to talk about legitimizing the danger dog with a stand-alone restaurant.
Squid Ink: Why did you guys decide on USC-adjacent, an area not known for its culinary scene?
Richard Larios: We factored USC into the project, but we also really wanted to be close to the community where I grew up. When this popped up, we felt it was perfect. It wasn’t far from school, it wasn’t far from downtown. I consider this South Central, I grew up around here. My sister-in-law grew up here, My brother still lives around here.
Timothy Cam: Here, we can target the students, we can target the local businesses. To me, [University Park] is very LA.
RL: We love L.A. culture, hence we adopted L.A. street food as our cuisine. We’re an L.A. company, and 10% of our profits go back to the neighbors. It’s really about giving back to L.A., and paying homage to the culture that is Los Angeles, through the food.
SI: Tell us a bit you background and your roles at Dirt Dog.
RL: I’m from Central America, I’m the community manger/PR guy/dishwasher.
TC: My parents are Vietnamese-born Chinese, and I was born in S.F. This idea has been my dream since I was in high school. I’ve been thinking about it since I first tasted downtown streets dogs while visiting the family business in downtown.
Philip Ozaki: I’m half-Japanese, half-white, and I’m the chef here.
SI: How are your dogs different from all the dog concepts currently flourishing in Los Angeles?
PO: We’re using skinless all-beef Nathan’s 5-1.
See also: 10 Best Hot Dogs in Los Angeles
TC: I think our concept is very different. We tried so many bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and we were repeatedly disappointed by what was out there — versus my memory of the first street dog in downtown. We’re not deep trying, we take our time. The dogs take 25-30 minutes on the griddle, but we’ve streamlined the process to make sure the customers aren’t waiting that long. We went and tasted 30 dogs, then chose our favorite. Nathan’s didn’t pitch us; we went to them.
SI: So you’re just giving the portable (and illegal) carritos a brick and mortar home?
TC: It goes way beyond. Our buns are from Melrose Bakery, we use center-cut baking, all our sauces are made in-house, all vegetables are fresh and cooked daily. We believe the product is honest.
PO: We have four dogs all built around bacon-wrapped dogs: house dog, green dog cooked with chimichurri sauce, topped with guac; a red dog, basically our spicy dog topped with habanero sauce and chipotle aioli spread; our brown dog, the sweet dog, with terriyaki onion, bell peppers, finished off with Kewpie mayo.
SI: What about simply an au natural danger dog?
PO: Anything you want to create, if we can make it, we make it. We’re absolutely able to customize.
SI: It seems, before the first outpost is even open, there’s a vision to take this to a franchise level, ASAP. You’re all ready to go?
TC: It’s what we’re hoping for. We want to start jumping around in L.A., but we do plan on going nationwide. We want to be the largest hot dog chain in the world. That’s my goal. Three hundred something Dirt Dogs globally seems very possible.
SI: How did you guys arrive this concept, from your previous gigs?
TC: I work 70 hours a week and run LACrafts, a Hispanic party supply operations, where I first met Richard.
PO: I’m from Pasadena, but got kicked out to Mississippi for “bad behavior” and ended up washing dishes at a restaurant for $5.75. After rebuilding homes after Katrina, I came back to finish school and ended up working at Plan Check for a year. The food principles are similar: upscale comfort with care.
[The house Dirt Dog arrives.]
SI: What are we eating here?
RL: We’ve gone pretty crazy. Every dog has its own garnish. And the madman chef can tell us more about it.
PO: This is the house dog, it comes with a green chile spread, the veggies (green pepper, onions) are cooked in “bacon Thousand Island” and then topped with mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, then finally bacon bits. The chips are served with our “ketchuptio” — chiles, ketchup and Tapatio.
SI: How many calories do you think this is, chef?
PO: A thousand?
SI: And what’s in the works for the menu expansion?
PO: Street corn! We want to do breakfast tamales plates every morning. There’ll be three kinds: chicken, pork, beef, and it’ll be served with bacon and two poached eggs.
RL: We’ll be serving Andante Roasters Coffee for breakfast. It’s quality coffee, and we were able to create a signature roast after working with Tommy at Andante. We’ll have an in-house tamales lady, walking around with a bell, screaming “tamales”!
SI: That sounds awesome and a bit annoying. Please don’t tell us the calories count on the breakfast plates. Final thought?
TC: The bacon-wrapped hot dog is the under-represented culinary icon of Los Angeles, and it deserves to be an entree. We’re going to set the record straight.
See also: 6 Great Old-School L.A. Hot Dog Stands