What’s more fun than owning your own hot dog shop? Pretty much nothing, according to Martin Olsen, owner of MO’s Hot Dogs. Olsen purchased Sac’s Tasty Hot Dogs shop in late May and has been having the time of his life since.
Was it his lifelong dream to own his own hot doggery? Not really, although he loved hot dogs growing up as much as anyone. Still does, in fact. No, it’s more like a child with a great new holiday toy that he didn’t expect.
“When I sold my software business and retired a couple of years ago,” said. “I was looking around for a project that would be fun. I looked at a lot of restaurants, restaurant chains and franchises, then this came on my radar in early May.”
Octaviano Tavizon of Sunbelt Business Brokers put the deal together.
“He was awesome,” Olsen said. “We closed on it by the end of the month so it was really quick.”
“I’m an expert now; I’ve been in the restaurant business for three weeks now,” Olsen chuckled. “But the good thing is it’s a nice, simple business.”
Loyal customers of Sac’s will appreciate that Olsen will keep the same menu items.
“People raved about the hot dogs at Sac’s,” he said. “That’s actually how I heard about Sac’s. A guy I played golf with said he was going for a hot dog at Sac’s after we finished and that they were the best in the area. So I came down and checked it out for myself and thought they were fantastic.”
But Olsen is not going to sit still.
“We’re changing the décor, adding more kinds of hot dogs, beer and wine, soft serve ice cream and big screen TVs,” he said.
“We want to make MO’s a fun place to hang out. We’re also adding some sausage, polish dogs and non-beef hot dogs like chicken and apple.”
Olsen said people have asked about a vegetarian hot dog and he and his team are trying to find a vegetarian dog that will stand up to steaming.
“We’re also going to add nacho cheese,” he added, “Who doesn’t like nacho cheese?”
Is steaming the best way to cook a hot dog? “It is for ours,” Olsen said. ”It makes them plump up and gives them a nice snap when you bite into them.”
He said the Cheese Dog, with tomatoes, onion, mustard and of course, cheese, was his top seller.
But he said that MO’s chili dog isn’t far behind. The most he would give up about the chili recipe was that it had beans. “It’s an ancient family secret,” he winked.
Olsen said it’s a lot of fun to have hot dog enthusiasts from different parts of the country come in to try his fare.
“People from the Chicago area — they have the Chicago dog — it’s got to be a specific way with bright green relish and the peppers. So we’re looking at bringing some of that stuff in. On the East Coast, they have bratwurst and a lot of different things and everyone has a favorite. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m working on it,” Olsen said.
What about the philosophy of not putting ketchup on a hot dog?
“I don’t do ketchup myself. I like spicy mustard and bacon. But there are a lot of people who like ketchup on a dog.”
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Olsen said he doesn’t have the same hot dog every time. “I have a different one every time I come in,” said Olsen, “And I eat them a lot.”
Well, what fun is it if you own a hot dog shop and you don’t get to enjoy a dog whenever you feel like it?
Is there such a thing as putting too much condiments on your dog? “We have a super chili cheese dog that has almost everything on it but sauerkraut and it’s incredible,” Olsen said.
Among other ideas Olsen and his team have in mind is taking MO’s Hot Dogs mobile.
“Not a real big truck, something an old VW bus would be great,” Olsen said. “You don’t need a lot of room to make hot dogs.”
He’s also strongly considering opening more MO’s locations both in the Napa area and beyond. “I’ve had a lot of interest already,” he said.
Are you going to find MO’s Hot Dogs in your local grocery store anytime soon? Olsen wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re also trying to make MO’s more kid friendly, and even dog friendly.” He didn’t mean just sticking a bowl of water in front of the store for dogs, which he said he has done.
“We have customers who come in and buy a plain hot dog just for their dogs. There’s a guy who comes in every week and buys a hot dog for himself and one for his dog and they eat in his truck,” Olsen said.
And MO’s also provides hot dogs for events. “We did a winery event the other day with 70 hot dogs,” Olsen said. He added the store is looking to grow his catering business.
Finally I could talk no more about MO’s hot dogs, it was time for a taste test.
I opted for the popular Cheese dog, thinking my stomach would thank me later for not ordering the Super Chili Cheese Dog. It was a good call and I found happiness at the very first bite.
Thanks to their casing and being steamed, the dogs indeed did have a nice snap when you bit into them.
“No surprise,” said Olsen, “They’re made like Casper’s hot dogs used to be.”
Olsen has started new hours for the store, extending the hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and keeping the store’s 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours the rest of the week.
“We want to catch the dinner crowd or maybe people on the way to the movies,” Olsen said. He added that if the extended hours prove popular, they would consider staying open until 7 p.m. every day.
You can also get your MO’s Hot Dogs delivered via DoorDash and Grubhub, and if you’re a veteran, you get a dollar off.
“The only thing we’re missing right now is more people to know about us,” Olsen said.
MO’s Hot Dogs is at 1453 W. Imola Ave. in the River Park Shopping Center.