At The Shack, Robert Sir Louis is taking a childhood favorite — hot dogs — and making them fun.
The menu features unique twists on the standard hot dog, such as The Mac Daddy, with macaroni and cheese and bacon; The Dog Pile, piled high with homemade chili and cole slaw; and The Q, with a jalapeno cheese bun topped with an all beef jumbo hot dog, baked beans, chopped brisket and shredded cheese.
Sir Louis said they are turning some of their favorite sides into hotdog toppings.
"There's nobody doing what we're doing," he said. "We're putting things on hot dogs that people just don't think about."
The Wollop, which comes with a jalapeno cheese bun, Earl Campbell red hot link, grilled onions, bacon and cheese sauce, was the brainchild of John Wollop, who works at The Shack. And The Brother Pressley, topped with homemade pimento cheese, bacon and Louisiana hot sauce, was thought up by the music minister at the owner's church.
Sir Louis said they make most of the toppings, such as the cheese sauce, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and pimento cheese, from scratch.
Sir Louis' favorite is The Q, while his wife and business partner both favor The Wollop. And although Wollop created the hot dog named after him, he prefers The Bandito.
They encourage customers to come up with new recipes and have a hot dog named after them. They also are working on new ideas, including The Dog Father, which will have Italian toppings; and the Holy Guacamole.
"We're playing with all kinds of ideas though," Sir Louis said.
Other hot dog recipes include The Bandito, which is basically a Frito pie on a hot dog, a classic Chicago Dog and The Reuben. On The Shack Daddy, made with a half-pound, 10-inch Black Angus hot dog, "about the size of a small baseball bat," Sir Louis said, customers can pretty much choose their toppings.
"You cannot eat one of these dogs without a knife and a fork," he said. "We try to make a dog a real meal."
The Shack also offers The Plain Jane for the less adventurous, The Junior Dog for kids and Bratwurst.
The restaurant, with a walk-up window for customers to order and tables outside, also serves Snow Balls, shaved ice with about 40 flavors, as well as nachos and Frito pies. Sir Louis said they are trying to keep the menu simple.
"The big thing is getting people to know we're out here," he said, adding that they are trying all kinds of creative things, such as people dressed up as a hot dog and bounce houses, to get the word out. "This has got to become a destination."
Sir Louis and his wife Echo Sir Louis, of Hideaway, along with church friends Daniel and Carrie Routt, of Lindale, opened The Shack across from Tyler State Park July 10. They all have other full-time jobs, splitting up the duties of running the new business, which has four employees.
Routt and Sir Louis were both entrepreneurs and began discussing the idea of opening a hot dog stand in a vacant spot next to Routt's other business, Kid's Kitchen, which serves lunches to area daycares and preschools.
"He had a vision to create a place that had a good hotdog," Sir Louis said of Routt.
Sir Louis, 51, a salesman for Cisco Foods, formerly owned a silk screen and embroidery company in Garland and said he likes the challenge of putting something together. His wife of 20 years is a stay-at-home mom to their four children.
Before The Shack opened in the small building, it housed a hamburger joint and a doughnut shop. He said they chose the location because of the traffic on Farm-to-Market Road 14 across from the park and because of the convenience for the owners.
Their goal is to open other locations of The Shack, starting with one in Lindale. Sir Louis would like to open about 10 of the small restaurants in five years, in smaller towns like Van and Canton.
"The thing that has been the most encouraging is the response from the customers," Sir Louis said of the new business.