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Innovation & Job News

Gourmet hot dogs are latest to join D.C. food truck lineup

It's January in D.C. so that means it's time for…hot dogs? Hell, we'll take hot anything to combat the frigid temps the Capital Weather Gang keep throwing our way. The trio of founders at Swizzler, one of the latest startups to join the ranks at Union Kitchen, are keeping the cold away by selling gourmet, grass-fed beef hot dogs nestled in pretzel rolls from Lyon Bakery to hungry lunch crowds in NoMa, Chinatown, on Capitol Hill and on campus at George Washington University and at Georgetown.

Jesse Konig, Jack Zimmermann and Ben Johnson launched their hot dog food truck in D.C. at the end of October at Truckeroo, a food truck festival near Navy Yard that runs monthly April–October. But the origins of Swizzler (named for the way the hot dogs are spiral cut) predate the D.C. kickoff. The trio were students at Wake Forest University when they first launched the business, winning a class competition and earning enough money in the process to pay their way to Rio for the 2014 World Cup.

Bringing the business from Winston-Salem, N.C., required some thought and research. "D.C. has a lot going for it, in terms of food," Zimmermann says. "It definitely has the best food truck market," of the cities the founders researched. "There are also lots of Wake Forest alumni in the area." Johnson is originally from Northern Virginia as well, so having connections to D.C. helped.

Since launching in October, "things have been going well," Konig says. "We've been surprised how quickly you can build an audience within a short amount of time. We've got some regulars [who] come back again and again."

Swizzler offers four different gourmet-topped dogs on its regular menu, as well as the Lumberjack, a January special: a grass-fed dog covered in bourbon-candied bacon, organic apples, sharp cheddar cheese and a maple-dijon glaze. A single dog sells for $8.41; adding a side of hand-cut fries brings lunch to $10.

Konig says the company is looking for new locations to serve its dogs; hungry customers can request that Swizzler visit them through Twitter and Facebook as well as track the truck's status.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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