Mt. Pleasant restaurant serves up hot dogs with a twist

Die-hard meat-eaters and vegetarians alike have a new Mount Pleasant eatery for their hot dog fix.

Dog Central, which opened in August of 2012, has an expansive hot dog menu, with more than two dozen dogs to choose from. Each comes with it's own toppings, plus "freebies" that can be added--the usual ketchup and mustard as well as items more often found on  pizza, like pineapple and black olives.

Customers can satisfy other cravings and even create a more gourmet-style dog with toppings like feta cheese, bacon, and guacamole.

Dog Central was opened by recent Central Michigan University grad Paul McFall. After spending time working at downtown bars and being a college student himself, McFall realized there was a need for an after-hours food hot spot near CMU.

"I'm from Grand Rapids where there are multiple late night dog joints so I brought that concept up here, with a twist on the gourmet side with upwards of 45 toppings available every day," McFall says.

Creating a new hot dog restaurant and coming up with so many varieties wasn't a quick task.

"I watched literally every show on Travel Channel and Food Network having to do with fast food, hot dogs, etc.," McFall says. "I also traveled to countless dog joints all over Michigan getting menu and design ideas."

He chooses to use Michigan-made traditional and veggie hot dogs and even uses buns made in Flint.

"We did extensive taste testing for the dog we picked. It's very hard to please everyone with hot dogs," McFall says. "The one we decided on has proven to be awesome and we get a lot of compliments."

After coming up with hot dog ideas, next came the naming step. Each hot dog has a unique name, like The Mega Dog, The Goober Dog, and The Whatever Dog. This part, though, was easy, says McFall. Once the toppings were decided he came up with the dog names in just a few minutes.

Immediately, the most popular dog off the list was one most wouldn't expect: The MacDaddy Dog, a combination of bacon and macaroni and cheese. McFall credits its popularity to people wanting to try things they hadn't before. Now that Dog Central has been open a few months the frontrunner is The Dirty Dog (chili, cheese, and crushed Fritos) still followed closely by the MacDaddy.

To someone who has never tried a Dog Central creation, McFall says people can get a plain hot dog if they want, but there is another way of looking at it.

"I usually just tell them, with The Goober Dog for example, you like peanut butter, Fritos, pickles, and chili, right? Well then, try it on the dog," he says. "99 percent of people come back up saying the Goober is amazing."

During the average week, Dog Central goes through more than 250 pounds of hot dogs and anywhere from 15 to 40 pounds of chili every night.

They bring in a variety of customers, from late-night hungry college students until 4 a.m. to a daytime mix of people. The late-night hours,  however, is when the lines get long.

"If i had to describe in one word what goes on in Dog Central after midnight, I'd say, 'insane,'" he says.

Bar closing time on the weekends is when Dog Central really sees the action. For about two hours each night the line is almost always out the door. They also run an early evening special on certain days where customers can bring in their bar tab from a downtown bar before 10 p.m. to get a discounts on their dogs.

For those who are champion speed-eater wannabes or just feel daring, the restaurant will be offering the Dog Central Challenge, beginning in spring, where participants scarf down 12 hot dogs, each topped with chili and a topping. Those who succeed will end up on the Dog Central Wall of Fame. Those who can't make it? Well, they will end up on the photo Wall of Shame.

McFall is also in the process of perfecting the dog even more as he reworks the original menu to include five or six new hot dogs that will showcase gourmet toppings including caramelized onions, marinated tomatoes, house-made pickles and other specialties.

Although Dog Central hasn't been open long, McFall hears great things said about the business.

"We get a lot of 'best hot dog joint ever' and 'best idea ever’ comments. We love to hear that," he says.

Dog Central is located at 111 E. Michigan, Suite 5 in Mt. Pleasant. They are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Julia Woehrer is a freelance writer, photographer and social media coordinator. She attended the School of Art and Design at Northern Michigan University where she concentrated in photography and minored in journalism. She volunteers at a local no-kill cat shelter and enjoys spending time with her cats, Bella and Macy.
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