By Tegan Burkhard | Photos by Emily Brashier
On a crisp autumn afternoon, several families gather outside the newest Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs location to relax on the outdoor patio. A feature unique to this location, it draws in a different crowd than the original 23rd Street shop in Oklahoma City.
While patrons at the Oklahoma City location devour their Fuhgeddaboudit Italian sausage dogs and Jack Russell rabbit sausage orders inside, in Edmond, visitors can choose from plenty of outdoor seating options. A gathering of friends can take a seat on the covered patio at the front of the shop to bite into their duck sausage Pond Dogs, topped with provolone, caramelized apples, onions and balsamic glaze.
On the back patio, families are encouraged to bring their kids and chow down on their delicious dogs at the wooden picnic tables.
“When you see a little kid come running in the door going, ‘I want a hot dog!’ with a big smile on his face, that makes your day,” says Laurel Wilkerson, co-owner.
On the back patio, a small patch of grass allows for competitive, family-friendly games of corn hole and horseshoe. Stainless steel dog bowls also signify that here, mutts of all varieties are welcome to join the family outing as their owners enjoy their tasty Mutts hot dogs.
“We’re all about mutts, so you can bring your mutt and have dinner,” Wilkerson says.
Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs & Burgers has been a staple of Oklahoma City since 2011, but the original owners never intended to expand beyond the bounds of 23rd Street. It wasn’t until Kevin and Laurel Wilkerson approached one of the founders, Chris Lower, with the idea of opening new locations that Mutts’ future morphed into the metro.
After selling off their last remaining pizza franchises, the Edmond couple was looking for a new venture in the food business.
“My husband looked at me and said, ‘If you could own anything in the city, what would you own?’” Wilkerson says. “And I said, ‘I’d own Mutts. I love Mutts.’ And he laughed and he said, ‘Well, we should own Mutts then!’”
Lower gave the Wilkersons’ proposal some thought and after letting the retired Army veterans shadow the beloved hot dog restaurant for a year, he turned over the reins.
“I think the timing was right for everybody,” Wilkerson says.
With their newfound knowledge of how to successfully run Mutts, in August 2016, the couple opened the pet-friendly patio and storefront doors on Santa Fe Avenue in Edmond.
“The number one comment has been, ‘You’re just around the corner from my house,’” Wilkerson says. “So I’ve decided that about 20,000 people live just around the corner, because we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback like that.”
Wilkerson says that although ownership has changed hands, the original concept of Mutts remains the same (aside from the patio), and the menu continues to offer the same classic favorites.
Customers can keep it simple with a standard dog like The Boardwalk, topped with chili, cheese, mustard and onions, or they can spice up their order with a unique dog like Hair of the Dog. This breakfast-inspired hot dog consists of sausage links, French fries, melted shredded cheese, Bloody Mary ketchup and an egg, all housed inside a poppy seed bun.
Besides classic beef franks, Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs also delivers special breeds at both locations, from the Bavarian bratwurst and Kung Fuey chicken dog to the Big Easy Andouille sausage with shrimp and Tatonka bison dog. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available here.
“We like to say, ‘When’s a dog not a dog? When it’s a mutt,’” Wilkerson says. “Because it’s really the protein is the platform and then we put all the different gourmet toppings on it.”
The original concept chef, Kathy Mathis, also added a host of burgers and corn dog options to the menu at Mutts. If the gourmet burgers and hot dogs leave enough room, guests can also fill the void with savory sides like duck fat fries, coleslaw, red-skinned potato salad, fried pickles or veggie chili.
Following the opening of the Edmond location, the Wilkersons have also started construction on a Midwest City Mutts near Tinker AFB. In fall 2016, this new Mutts will serve the airmen who crave the local gourmet hot dogs during their lunch breaks. Although this location won’t include a pet-friendly patio, pet owners are still encouraged to bring in photos of their furry friends to add to the “mutts wall” that is posted at all three Mutts’ locations.
As though the Edmond, Oklahoma City and Midwest City locations weren’t enough to satisfy customers across the metro, Mutts food trucks also deliver a smaller selection of the gourmet hot dog offerings to a wider reach of residents. Mutts will park its two food trucks at food truck parks like Bleu Garten or send them off to catered events, such as weddings and school functions.
“It’s fun to go out into the community,” Wilkerson says. “You get outside of the four walls of your stores and just see a different crowd—sometimes who may or may not know you exist.”
For now, the Wilkersons are continuing to man the fort at the Oklahoma City location while meeting new families and community members from the food truck windows and patio picnic tables. Armed with the original recipes and operations techniques, the Wilkersons hope to bring the dogs they initially fell in love with to more Oklahomans.
“When you get the chef-driven concept of the gourmet toppings and just the different combinations of flavors, that makes it a little different and fun,” Wilkerson says.