It wasn’t chili dogs that brought me to Dogello’s on yet another 105-degree day in Austin. It was coffee ice cubes.
Joe Holland’s trailer in the parking lot of Freewheeling Bicycles was formerly The Good Bike coffee stand, so when he opened up in January, he kept serving their signature Cuban coffee for existing customers. Hot or iced, he now makes it with Third Coast Italian espresso and cane sugar, French pressed all together and then mixed with 2% milk.
I don’t take sugar in my coffee ever, so I found it a bit sweet, in a dessertish Frappucino/Thai iced coffee sort of way. Fortunately, regular unsweetened coffee’s also on the menu. The coffee ice cubes not only keep the drink at full flavor and strength, but melt more slowly. “Over time it turns into almost like a slushy for adults,” says Holland.
A Los Angeles native, the 47 year-old Holland has lived in Austin since 1999, working for various software and e-commerce start-ups. When his last job ended in November, he finally said, “I’m going to do this thing which surprisingly has been my dream.”
That dream: to make the perfect chili for the perfect chili dog, inspired by his favorite LA franchise Cupid’s, which has been around since 1946
Holland serves Hebrew National all-beef kosher hot dogs (he started out with natural casing Vienna Beef, but - blasphemy! - not everybody liked their chewy snap), and engineers his chili specifically to be more of a sauce. It’s meaty but not too thick, and while it’s nothing like a bowl of red, it still doesn’t include beans. Holland also sells it by the bowl, but doesn’t really recommend it.
What really sets Dogello’s apart from other tube steak trucks is its four different kinds of spicy fruit relish. “These days if you open up a food trailer you’re almost obligated to do some sort of gourmet thing,” Holland says. He had experimented with a raspberry-chipotle chili, but it didn’t really move. At the same time, he noticed people were still topping off their cheese, chili, onions and mustard with old-fashioned pickle relish.
So now you can get Dogello’s hot dogs called “The Bronx Cheer” (raspberry-chipotle), “Mango Heat” (mango-jalapeno), “Spiceberry” (blackberry-serrano) or the “Cheery Dog” (cherry-green chile). Blackberry-serrano was my favorite–the best balance of fruitiness and sinus-clearing heat. Overall though, I prefer to let my chili dog just be a chili dog, and enjoy a hot dog with the relish (perhaps with a similarly upscale mustard) on its own. Which many people do. “They tell me that it is a refreshing hot dog,” Holland says.
Dogello’s isn’t open late for party crowds, but given its location, Holland hopes to be a UT institution. “I would love it if Dogello’s was here 60 years from now, and parents were talking about it, saying, ‘Oh yeah, I used to go there when I was a [student],’” he says. On football Saturdays, Dogello’s offers a “quarterback sack” special: five meal deals (chili dogs, a bag of chips and drink) for $15.
And to promote the stand, Holland sometimes goes to Cain and Abel’s down the street on dollar beer night, buying a few rounds while in his hot dog costume (pictured above). Which is also when he gives out these:
- JASON COHEN