Musicians Matt and Jenna Hagarty are no strangers to the DIY approach, so it’s no wonder they took on the task of opening up their own casual restaurant in Hastings-Sunrise on their own, with a lot of help from their friends. With a menu comprised mostly of inventive hot dogs, and a space created for the community to hang out, What’s Up? Hot Dog is getting ready to rock.
Matt Hagarty says that the idea for What’s Up? Hot Dog was a long time in the making, and is a riff on a beloved hot dog joint he frequented when on tour stops in Calgary. With a name borrowed (with permission) from comedian Scott Aukerman’s podcast catchphrase, the Hagartys took over the former Master Chef Café on East Hastings Street and got to work renovating the place.
The booths and stools are vestiges of the former restaurant on site, as is a plastic orange tree Hagarty says was beloved by loyal Master Chef Café customers, though the countertop and tables have been upgraded with beautiful slabs of reclaimed wood. On the wall are old punk show posters and photos from prolific Vancouver punk shutterbug Bev Davies. There are vintage arcade games and a jukebox awaiting endless meals of diners’ bucks, and a baseball game showing over the counter area.
Yep, baseball. What goes better with a ballgame than some hot dogs, right? Hagarty, a Blue Jays fan (who says he’s open to showing other teams’ games if the crowd calls for it), says What’s Up? Hot Dog is going to be a baseball-watching joint, because it’s hard to find a place to catch a game in Vancouver–at least with the sound on. No hockey here–“there’s enough places in the city for that,” says Hagarty–but maybe some Whitecaps games and some movie nights, too.
The Hagartys, who live a few blocks away from their restaurant and discovered the spot while out on a walk in the neighbouhood, are applying the spirit of the punk scene, which is about rallying together for a shared goal and building community, to What’s Up? Hot Dog. Their goal is to create a place where everyone feels welcome, whether that means diners with kids, music fans, and customers who don’t eat meat.
On the menu are a handful of hot dogs the Hagartys concocted with the input of friends and customers at their recent pop-up events. WUHD will soon be using beef hot dogs custom-made by Two Rivers meats, though while the final details are being worked out, the restaurant will open using an all-beef Canadian hot dog until the custom dogs are ready.
The hot dogs will be piled with creative toppings but still be at an affordable price point in order to stay on budget for their neighbours in the area.
Hagarty says his favourite dog, and the most popular in the pop-ups, is their dog topped with pulled pork and an apple slaw. About half the dogs can be made in a vegan version, with equally playful toppings. For the vegan dogs the meat will be replaced by a carrot (inspired by Los Angeles chef Neal Fraser at his hot dog spot Fritzi Dog) and piled with anywhere from two to four toppings, so vegans and vegetarians can still have a fully-loaded hot dog experience. Look for a “Taco Dog” with mole sauce, a Mac and Cheese Dog, along with a classic burger, and waffle fries.
In the coming months the Hagartys will pursue licensing so What’s Up? Hot Dog! can get a full bar and some beers on the menu, and there will be theme nights featuring special hot dogs and other eats, and other great reasons to come by and hang out, like trivia nights, and, red tape permitting, live shows.
The entrepreneurial couple, who play in the same band, have had to press pause on their musical lives while knee-deep in getting What’s Up? Hot Dog! off the ground, but once the restaurant is rocking, they’re hoping to find time to make music again. Plus, they’re building the kind of spot where they hope their colleagues can come and hang, too.
The Hagartys are betting on Hastings-Sunrise being an ideal spot for what they are creating. “It’s got a whole lot of life to it, and right now is changing kind of quickly,” Hagarty says of the area.
“In punk rock it’s all about community,” explains Hagarty. “We wanted to created a place that anyone can go to, that’s really all-inclusive.”
What’s Up? Hot Dog!
Address: 2481 East Hastings Street, Hastings-Sunrise
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday Noon to Midnight