For the past two years or so, Jerry Lowell and son Jerrett Lowell have been selling hot dogs off a cart at festivals and community events throughout Michigan.
The Lowells, both of Almont, decided to start the business venture after the recession took a toll on Jerry Lowell's 25-year career in construction.
"The economy took a dump, so we wanted to do something different," said Jerry Lowell, 47.
But the Lowells soon realized that rolling a cart around events was only profitable in the warmer months, and they needed to open a restaurant to gain more business year-round.
So they searched the Metro Detroit area and came across Clawson — a community they say fits their business model: "small-town charm, big city taste." Big City Dogs opened its doors to the public June 27.
They expanded their menu from plain hot dogs with ketchup and mustard to more than a dozen unique hot dogs. Perhaps the most famous is the Chicago-style dog in a poppy seed bun, topped with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, sport peppers and celery salt. Other hot dogs include the Detroit coney dog, Mexican dog, breakfast dog, BLT dog and Clawson dog which is wrapped in a tortilla topped with bacon, chili, cheese, onions and mustard.
Big City Dogs also offers a veggie dog, which has a dill pickle (in place of a hot dog), lettuce, tomatoes and salsa, and a build-your-own hot dog.
The hot dog prices range from $1.80 to $2.55. Sides include fries, mozzarella sticks, nachos, coleslaw, soups and salads.
The Lowells say some of the the hot dog recipes were original, while others they mixed up and taste-tested on their own. Jerrett Lowell, 23, said the hot dogs are made to order. "Everything is fresh," he said.
"Everyone loves hot dogs," Jerrett Lowell said. "I love talking to people and giving them great food."
Holly and Julia Belian of Ferndale stopped in Big City Dogs on Friday after visiting next door. As a Chicago native, Holly Belian said she was excited to try the restaurant's Chicago dog.
"We had to find out if they had a good Chicago dog," Julia Belian said.
"Awesome," the Belians said when asked how they enjoyed the hot dogs.
Patrons such as Martin Carey of Clawson said they were simply happy about having the Chicago-style hot dog right in their backyard.
"I live down the street," Carey said. "I was excited because it's closer than Hippo's Hot Dogs (in Troy)."
The Lowells say the Clawson community has been very supportive of their new restaurant, and they usually get two business rushes a day. Jerrett Lowell said they do have their sights set on expanding Big City Dogs.
"If this one is successful, we'd like to open up more," he said.
Big City Dogs is located at 139 W. 14 Mile in Clawson. Its hours are 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Click here to visit its Facebook page.