I Heart Hotdogs: A Visit to Willy Dog’s GTO

Let’s just get this out of the way: I love hotdogs. Love them. I could eat them for every meal until my arteries clogged and/or I eventually turned into one. Hotdogs: Awesome.

So who was excited when Hamilton legend Willy Dog opened a new brick-and-mortar storefront? This girl! And who was even more excited when we were invited for a free tasting? THIS GIRL!

Willy Dog has been a Hamilton institution for over 20 years, and for the past ten the hotdog cart has had a permanent location at McMaster University, right outside the building I work in. Sometimes the delicious hotdog smells make their way into my office, and those are the days I wonder if I have actually died and gone to hotdog heaven. I might have eaten a couple dogs over the years.

Willy Dog's GTO: Small in size, huge in deliciousness!
Willy Dog’s GTO: Small in size, huge in deliciousness!

The new storefront, called Willy Dog’s GTO (Great Tastes Only) is located in nearby Westdale village, just a few minutes away from McMaster. It opened at the end of November to lots of hype, with local food bloggers, business owners, and general food enthusiasts anxiously awaiting the open doors. It’s a combination of take-out, delivery, and catering, expanding beyond the simple hotdog cart menu to offer burgers, fries, poutine, salad, sweet treats, and a ridiculous combination of toppings.

We went for supper on a Saturday night with a plan of bringing food home to pair with some local beer. The storefront is small and simple, tucked away in a cute spot just off King Street West, on Paradise Road South. Just a few places to sit, but really, do they need anything more? I can imagine some great outdoor seating in the summer, but for now, the set-up is perfect. Order at the counter, drool as you watch your food cooking, take food, eat. Die with happiness.

Anyway, the food. GTO’s menu allows you to build your own hotdog, sausage, or burger (they have halal and veggie in addition to beef) or you can order off their specialty menu. My inability to make decisions led me to the specialty menu, so I ordered the 5 Alarm hotdog while Sean took on the The Swiss. We also ordered fries to share and I picked up an elusive Donut Monster donut, which was to be enjoyed later (in theory), and we took everything home.

Well… The fries only made it halfway home. They were so wonderfully, incredibly good that in no time we were left with an empty container. Handcut, perfectly fried, and just lightly salted – mmm! I’ll go back for these on a weekly basis. I can only imagine what they’re like in poutine!

Everything here is yum.
Everything here is yum.

My 5 Alarm hotdog was unreal. Topped with Monterey Jack cheese, fried jalapenos, banana peppers, spicy mayo, and chipotle ketchup, it was a perfect amount of spice with a little bit of sweetness. I paired my dog with the Hamilton Brewery’s Blue Collar Ale, which was a great light and hoppy match for the spicier meal.

Sean loved his Swiss hotdog, which came with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and crispy onions. He devoured it before I’d even started, and his only words were “Wow.” I guess it was good? He had All or Nothing’s Hopfenweisse and thought the pairing created a perfect balance of smokey hotdog and subtle citrus and slightly creamy beer.

In summary: Yum. We loved every bite of Willy Dog’s GTO and can’t wait to go back. The food was amazing, the chef (Phil) was super friendly, and the availability of Hamilton vendors was a huge plus: They also carry goodies from Hotti Biscotti and Donut Monster, as well as coffee from Relay Coffee. I recommend going there immediately–you won’t be disappointed!

Sean’s Edit: Jenn actually undersold her love for hotdogs! Seriously, the woman LOVES hotdogs. Right up there with pizza. The thing I love about hotdogs, aside from their amazing flavour, is how well they pair with beer!

We picked the two styles of beers I love most with hotdogs. Pale ales and wheat beers pair beautifully. IPAs also work really well. Ontario, and Hamilton especially, offer excellent choices in these areas thanks to The Hamilton Brewery and Collective Arts Brewing.

What I’m particularly excited for next is finding the right beer to pair with Willy Dog’s GTO poutine! *drool*

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