D.C.'s first gourmet hot dog truck, Swizzler, champions an organic approach to food making.
The “LDV”, short for the Leonardo Dog Vinci, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, arugula, homemade pesto, and balsamic glaze.
Fresh out of college, new Washingtonians Jack Zimmerman, Jesse Konig, and Ben Johnson have recently launched the area’s first gourmet hot dog truck, Swizzler. We chat with them about their organic approach to food making, the concept behind the new business, and much more.
How did the three of you come together and develop this idea?
Jack Zimmerman: It started while we were juniors in college a couple of years ago. We wanted to make some extra cash so we could go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Shortly after we came up with the idea, one of our professors announced a class-wide challenge to launch a business venture on campus. We entered enthusiastically, ended up winning, and realized our concept might have more potential than just airfare.
You just graduated five months ago. How did you pull all of this together so quickly?
JZ: With a lot of help. We are members of a great culinary incubator, Union Kitchen, which has given us the resources necessary to get up and running. With the encouragement of hungry friends and class professors at Wake Forest University, we also had a great support network at school, which helped us prepare for what was to follow after graduation. And of course [we’re lucky to have] the support of our parents, families, and friends.
You went to school in North Carolina. How did you land on D.C. to launch Swizzler?
Jesse Konig: After looking at a few different options, the nation’s capital had everything we were looking for. Being such an international city, we think our globally inspired menu will be a great fit. D.C. has a great food scene, but lacks a truly gourmet hot dog truck. We hope to fill this void and become D.C.’s go-to mobile gourmet hot dog vendor.
Why hot dogs? Why a food truck and not a restaurant?
JK: When you look at the food industry’s growth over the last 10 years, so many different cuisines have been re-mastered and taken up a notch. The hot dog, one of America’s greatest traditions, has somehow been left by the wayside and it's our mission to change that in Washington D.C. As a young company, we found that a food truck was a perfect fit for us. It’s the most cost-effective way for us to get our brand out there and it allows us [to] test all of our crazy food ideas—like our fresh-cut fries topped with Parmesan cheese and truffle oil—with a wide range of hungry folks.
For now, your menu is all hot dogs. Do you foresee expanding your offerings?
Ben Johnson: Swizzlers, fresh cut fries, and custom sauzzes are definitely what we do best. That being said, we love trying new things, so I’m pretty sure that will translate into more options on the menu over time. We encourage people to reach out to us with any and all ideas they have, maybe it’ll make it on the menu!
What is different about Swizzler?
JZ: For us, it’s about more than just good food. We understand that that small window during lunchtime is a unique opportunity for people to break up the day, relax, and refuel. Our goal is to offer a lunch experience that helps people enjoy their time away from the office. I think what makes us different from other hot dog vendors is the fact that we know exactly what's in our dogs, and we stand behind it as a high-quality product.
Your dogs are made from organic-grass fed meat. How important are social responsibility and earth friendliness to your approach?
BJ: The grass-fed, pasture-raised approach means happier animals and meat that is lower in total fat, higher in vitamins and antioxidants, and a lot tastier. It takes a little bit longer to raise a cow this way, but the end product is definitely worth the wait.