HOPKINTON — When you consider the cost of gas, the waning patience of hungry passengers, and the likelihood of traffic, driving halfway across the state for a particular food doesn’t seem worth it. Until you try a Snappy Dogs hot dog, that is.
Located a few miles south of the Mass. Pike, the little red trailer sits in the corner of a parking lot behind a local mom-and-pop grocery store. A wooden sign painted with a red hot dog hangs over the road, swinging as cars rush by on the old highway. Customers look at the daily special described on a leaning chalkboard and queue up on the sidewalk. One special recently was Birthday Girls Dog topped with caramelized pears, brie, and chocolate-coated bacon. As co-owners Teresa Boyce and Lisa Volpe Hachey say, “We took the basic hot dog and elevated it.”
Unlike traditional food trucks, Snappy Dogs was built from the ground up with a foundation made from a landscaping trailer found online. With some additional lumber, and the help of handy friends and family, Boyce and Volpe Hachey transformed the trailer into a little red cook shack complete with a patio for the grill.
The menu is basic, but also well-rounded, including three sizes of all-beef Pearl hot dogs (the biggest is called the Great Dane and weighs half a pound), veggie and turkey dogs, chicken and spicy beef sausage, as well as a jalapeno dog for adventurous eaters. And no hot dog would be complete without toppings: Try the slightly spicy chili and shredded cheese for an additional cost or sample the homemade condiments arranged on a vintage baker’s rack next to the trailer. Using seasonal fruits and vegetables, relishes include grill-side standards such as dill and red onion, and unusual flavors like a spicy, sweet-tart cranberry relish and a dark emerald-hued zucchini relish spiked with coriander. Or order the vinegar-based Dr Pepper BBQ sauce, a hot jerk ketchup, balsamic reduction, or wasabi mayo.
Every dog is grilled to order and served on a freshly baked roll or split-top bun from Colella’s Supermarket next door. Since the dogs are the main attraction, sides are limited to bags of chips. For dessert, there are homemade cookies and oblong-shaped whoopie pies, aptly called Whoopie Dogs, in flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate gingerbread.
Boyce and Volpe Hachey like to keep the menu rotating. Before the final episode of “Breaking Bad,” Snappy Dogs featured a hot dog topped with green chile chicken stew and crushed nachos. And this month, customers can get their holiday fix with a Thanksgiving Dog topped with homemade dressing, cranberry relish, and roast turkey. The duo will close the truck at the end of the month.
With ample experience in the food industry — Boyce worked front-of-house in several cafes in Hopkinton and Ashland, Volpe Hachey trained at the Cordon Bleu in London — the two maintain their outdoor kitchen with precision. In less than 100 square feet, Boyce and Volpe Hachey, each in a bright half-apron, work together to create a sort of interactive hot dog assembly line, one that requires a bit of audience participation. Volpe Hachey takes orders and shouts them across the trailer, hands a vintage metal tray prepped with the appropriate number of empty buns to the customer, and sends them down the line.
Wearing a straw cowboy hat, Boyce monitors a maroon propane Weber grill, feeding it fresh hot dogs and sausages whenever a new order is called. In between filling empty trays and stirring a small pot of chili, Boyce chats with customers (greeting some by name).
A mix of young and old, locals and weekend road-trippers, huddle around the trailer or sit behind it on mismatched lawn furniture and picnic tables. Children play with hula hoops between bites of food and neighbors catch up while waiting by the grill. With a steady line and customers who linger after the hot dog is long gone, it is easy to see why Volpe Hachey calls Snappy Dogs the “Cheers Bar of Hopkinton.”
SNAPPY DOGS 18 Grove St., Hopkinton, 617-383-7627, open through Nov. 23. Go to www.snappy-dogs.com for hours.Katherine Hysmith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.