Garage Dogs  
2626 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.,
Thousand Oaks
$3.25 – $7.95

Few foods feel more American than the hot dog. Sure, there’s good old apple pie, but when it comes to savory eats, the hot dog is pure, simple good food. Ever versatile and portable, it can be topped with ketchup and mustard and downed in a few bites, or it can be loaded with toppings and turned into a gourmet meal of sorts. In this vein, the folks at Garage Dogs in Thousand Oaks have built a casual eatery around this bite of culinary Americana.

The menu at this automotive-themed spot offers a list of gourmet dogs named after quintessential American automobiles, like the Chevelle topped with baked beans, ketchup, mustard and even parmesan cheese. Or the Corvette, which comes topped with sauerkraut, red onion sauce and brown mustard.

Those looking to do a custom job on their dogs will find a list (aptly named the parts department) of toppings, including chopped avocado, southern coleslaw, jalapeño salsa and even green chilies to go on top of the, um, vehicle of your choice. There are all-natural beef hot dogs, bacon-wrapped foot longs, turkey and veggie dogs, spicy and mild polish sausages, and Wisconsin beer brats — something for every mood.

From this list, we chose the Jersey Ripper. Apparently a New Jersey thing, but new to us, it is made from a blend of beef and pork with a special casing designed to hold up in the deep fryer. We were told that they cook for eight minutes in the fryer, at which point they usually begin to rip open, earning their unusual name. We chose simple ketchup and mustard to top ours, and enjoyed the crispiness the frying imparted to the dog — a nice contrast to the normal snap of a traditional hot dog.

Of the gourmet dogs we sampled, a few stood out as favorites. The Garage dog is wrapped in bacon before being topped with mustard, mayo, ketchup, grilled peppers and onions, and a generous pile of sliced jalapenos. The Gran Torino is a version of the Chicago-style hotdog, all the way down to the pickle spears, poppy-seed bun and a dash of celery salt. The Mustang was another one with a bit of a kick as it is topped with the homemade Garage sauce, a sweet and spicy blend of caramelized onion relish and hot brown mustard.

For those in a burger kind of mood, there is a selection of quarter-pound burgers topped with the usual fixin’s, in addition to a turkey burger and the Prius veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun. We enjoyed the chili cheeseburger, topped with the house-made chili, caramelized onions, tomato, pickles and mustard. The savory chili was well balanced by the sweet onions.

Alongside our hot dog feast, we sipped Cokes and a chocolate milkshake, and munched on an order of garlic fries. Thin-cut and crispy, they are topped with loads of chopped garlic and served with a creamy herb dipping sauce.
As it would be at any good garage, service at Garage Dogs is speedy. Our food rolled out within minutes of placing our order. The space is small with a handful of tables inside, two umbrellaed tables out on the sidewalk and a few picnic tables out back.

We went for an early dinner and easily found a table, but be forewarned that lunches can be more crowded. Worst-case scenario, grab your dog and chow in your car — there isn’t anything more American than that, is there?

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