In For a Tune-up, w/ a Side of Fries

The timing couldn’t have been better. I had just been talking about craving a good hot dog when a VCS Eats posting caught my eye. It was advertising the pre-opening training service at Garage Dogs – Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Rippers. My wife and I don’t typically venture over the grade between Camarillo and Thousand Oaks to dine, but working on impulse and the desire for a dog, we decided there was no better opportunity.

Upon arrival, we were greeted at the door with a warm smile and cheerful welcome by co-owner, Jennifer. The menu provided plenty of options; custom dogs named after automobiles, burgers and sides. It took a few minutes to decide, as my taste buds were having trouble honing in on a selection. We settled on a Mustang, a ripper* with dill relish and a soy dog the same way for comparsion. Don’t forget the perfect companion to a great dog, a piping hot side of fries.

All of the dogs were delicious, with a good snap and juiciness. Not one to frequent the vegetarian selections, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture of the soy dog. The Mustang stood out though, as does it’s automotive inspiration rolling down the freeway. It comes topped with this wonderful, housemade relish of carmelized onions that have been cooked down in…wait for it…root beer, which provides a unique compliment of smoky, velvety molasses with a hint of spice to the meaty beef hot dog.

As I mentioned, the hot dogs were partnered with a fresh, hot order of fries tossed with seasoning salt. Everything was so good, we didn’t end up leaving room for the chocolate shake that was talked about on the way to the restaurant. But then again, we plan to stop in for a tune-up as regularly scheduled, so we’ll have more opportunities.

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Service Specs about owner Ron Leavitt and Garage Dogs:

Ron has been a resident of Thousand Oaks for over 30 years. During that time, there has always been a desire to open a sandwich shop in the community. Looking around the area though, he didn’t think there would be anything unique about another sandwich place. He and his fiancee, Jennifer, determined that a ‘good hot dog joint’ was a better alternative and offered the opportunity for “great business if the menu was also distinctive.”

Having spent much of his adult life around the auto industry, bringing the two passions together seemed logical for a restaurant theme. 

“We decided to make the interior look like an upscale garage,” stated Ron.

Decorated with large B&W photos of mechanics and auto signage, the space has an attention to detail similar to that of a classic auto collector’s garage. Holding onto those ties he’s created throughout the years, Ron pays homage to his fellow wrench-heads through those photos.

“You may have noticed pictures of mechanics on the wall, they are all local mechanics.  Much of my initial marketing will be to tap into my relationships with the local auto industry.”

The food required just as much focus and attention as the restaurant decor. Ron provides some insight to the menu.

“The hot dogs come from New Jersey.  There is only one other place that carries the same hot dogs and that is Fab Hot Dogs in Tarzana.  Most all the recipes are the creation of Joe Fabrocini of Fab Hot Dogs.  Joe was my consultant in the opening of Garage Dogs.  There are a few signature items I have that Fab’s does not. The Garage Dogs Root Beer and the Garage Sauce (the sweet and spicy onion sauce) are part of our effort to bring  exclusive items that cannot be found anywhere else.”

And what direction does Ron think customers will head in terms of condiments and hot dog style?

“There are many hot dog connoisseurs out there and for each one you ask you will get a different answer.  The Ripper is a very unique item that is definitely a favorite.  I believe the majority of people like their dogs steamed.  The top selling dogs I believe will be our Garage Dog (an L.A. Dog), The Gran Torino (Chicago Dog) and the Camaro (Cheese Coney).  Many like the basic mustard onions and relish.”

If you’ve got a rumbling and need a tune-up that only a flavorful, natural casing hot dog and fries can supply, stop in and see Ron, Jennifer and the Garage Dogs crew at 2626 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks, CA. They’ll fix you up.


 *A ripper is a hot dog cooked in hot oil until the skin begins to split or “rip”.
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