Marcus Pierson likes a good hot dog, but he had trouble finding one in Lincoln.
“It was despicable,” he said. “I come from Colorado, where there’s Mustard’s Last Stand. But there are no hot dogs here. When people told me I had to go to Sonic or the gas station for one, I knew I had to change that."
And so he did.
More than a year ago, he began delivering gourmet hot dogs under the name Fly Dogz from his home. Then he began appearing at area events, including a tailgate spot at the Grand Manse in downtown Lincoln for Nebraska football games.
Next came a two-month stay at the Night Owl Pub at 13th and Arapahoe streets. More success there led to his own storefront.
In March, he opened, with his wife, Maura, Fly Dogz in the corner of a small strip mall at 3111 O St., where it’s not unusual to see lines snake out the door and around the building’s corner during lunch.
“Everybody laughed at me when I started delivering hot dogs,” Pierson said. “They said, ‘Nobody will go for that.’ But everybody did.”
That’s because Fly Dogz fills a void in Lincoln’s dining scene.
There are city restaurants that have hot dogs as a part of their menu, but none specialize in them -- not since The Dog House operated out of the service station at 40th and A streets in 2007.
Specialize is the key word here.
Fly Dogz offers a variety of dogs, ranging from Nathan’s to Fairbury to vegetarian and vegan. Patrons can build their own or order one of the specialty dogs. The topping are many. The house specialties include the must-have Chicago-style hot dog, the signature Fly Dog (on a hamburger bun) and the Nas Dog, Pierson’s son’s creation that’s become a hit with customers.
The Nas Dog has nacho cheese, tomatoes, cream cheese, lettuce, avocado and celery salt.
“It’s blowing up,” Pierson said. “I’ll do events and have people specifically request the Nas Dog.”
Fly Dogz uses a convection oven -- no boiling -- to cook its hot dogs and toasts its buns. The result is a plump, juicy dog that holds up and doesn’t fall apart -- no soggy buns, which is a plus when they are delivered or transported home for eating.
Because there are so many choices, it can be overwhelming, so that’s why I suggest ordering off the specialty menu. I chose a chili cheese option -- because it’s one of my guilty pleasures -- with a beef cheddar dog. It came smothered in chili, nacho cheese sauce and crushed Fritos. The dog was as good as those I make at home, better, actually, because the dog was of higher quality than what I tend to purchase.
Dogs range from $3 to $5. I opted for a combo meal, adding a dressed-up, purchased potato salad and bottled soft drink to my gourmet dog. The only other side is chips, though there are many varieties of them. Fries are available only on Fridays and Saturdays.
With tax and tip, my bill came to $8.50, which is comparable to fast food prices. Grade: B+
Fly Dogz offers delivery throughout Lincoln after 5 p.m. and stays open until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Delivery fee is $3 or $5 for Air Park. Hot dogs don’t take long to prepare, but the kitchen is small, so when it’s busy the 2- or 3-minute turnaround time can turn into 4 or 5 minutes. A drive-through window would be nice but is not possible at the current location. Grade: B+
The dining room is small -- seating for 20 or so at tables and a counter -- but is fun, matching Pierson’s gregarious personality. The walls contain hot dog-themed images by William Andrew and a giant chalkboard. A hoop hangs from the ceiling in the corner. If you fly a paper airplane through it, you’ll receive a prize. Grade: B+
Fly Dogz has, as noted before, vegetarian and vegan dogs. There’s a sign at the counter also saying it can accommodate gluten-free eaters. The toppings are many, so patrons can dress up their dogs to create a filling meal. The only thing different I would do is add more vegetarian sides beyond chips, potato salad and weekend fries such as macaroni salad, carrot sticks, etc. Grade: B+