Mazen Muna's first Dogg Haus restaurant opened April 1, 2005 and as he puts it "there hasn't been a dull moment for the last nine years."
The Dogg Haus consistently wins "best hot dog" in local media. In 2012 Mazen says he had a "clean sweep" with OnMilwaukee.com, Shepherd Express, Milwaukee Magazine, 4.5 rating on Yelp, Top 100 Milwaukee Restaurants on TripAdvisor, 90 percent on UrbanSpoon and nomination on WISN's A-list."
No doubt, he makes a good dog.
I caught up with Muna recently and not only did he answer the questions I asked, he gave us some big news on a new Downtown locations that's just steps away from CityCenter at 735, the home of OnMilwaukee.
OnMilwaukee.com: What's new?
Mazen Muna: Never a dull moment. The Dogg Haus has expanded greatly from within lately and we're getting more and more calls each day for catering. The catering aspect is great because we tailor each and every event to fit the customer's needs, aiding in brand recognition. We are also now part of a Marquette tradition as we are offering our food at Caffrey's and Murphy's Pub before every Marquette basketball game.
OMC: It seems that "gourmet hot dogs" are a bit of trend on menus, has this impacted your business?
MM: We didn't, obviously, invent the hot dog. Hot dogs have been on menus for a long time. Other restaurants may have them as an "additional" choice but it is our core business. From day one, I wanted to keep it simple. There have been many recommendations to expand the menu into other areas, but I would rather stick to my business model. Focus on one or two things and do them well. It helps a business stand out and for people to remember it when they are in the mood for our offerings.
OMC: If you had to eat just one brand of hot dog, what would you choose and why?
MM: I would choose Vienna Beef with my eyes closed. They use only quality cuts of beef, with no added fillers, which some of the competitors use. Vienna Beef is truly a great company. I have toured the factory many times, and taken my employees on separate field trips there. First, the factory is SQF Certified, which is the highest level of food certification in the industry. The factory has to close 2 times a day for a complete sanitizing from the ceiling to the floors. Besides all of that, quality is what Vienna represents and I wanted to partner with quality.
From a family aspect, I can call the owner or any of his VPs at any time for any reason, meaning they are within direct reach. They are a closely knit circle and very kind people from the office staff, to the factory workers, to the people working in the downstairs Vienna Factory Store. To summarize, they feed the same food that they produce to their families, as well.
OMC: Any expert tips for making/eating hot dogs at home?
MM: First, avoid the microwave. This will ruin the flavor, and make the hot dog chewy or just cook it inconsistently. Next, steam your buns. This is the biggest complaint when people buy food from us to make on their own. 'It just doesn't taste the same,' they say. That is because the buns must be steamed in order to get that pillow-like softness. Finally, avoid ketchup unless it's for a kid. Ketchup takes away from the flavor and hides the true flavor of dog. Cooking wise? Grill for robust flavor, fry for crispness, steam or boil for consistent soft texture.
OMC: You own a car wash/detail business in Downtown, too, right? How is that going?
MM: That is correct. I own Metro Car Wash & Detailing Centre and that is a fantastic business. This was a much needed service for the area. We see everything from Rolls Royces to boats to electric scooters. We offer everything from a basic outside only wash all the way to complete details, paint restoration, and dent removal. Metro has its arms in many buildings Downtown as well.
We take care of clients in the Milwaukee Center, City Center, MSOE, Department of Homeland Security, just to name a few of our contracts. Also, in 2014, look for stationary locations to be built inside of many of Downtown's high-rises, serving only the tenants of those buildings this year, as a value added service for residents of those buildings. Our first location will be within The Moderne.
OMC: Any plans for another Dogg Haus location in the near future?
MM: Yes. Within the next several weeks we will begin the move from the Downtown Dogg Haus on Wisconsin Ave to a new location on Water Street. Specifically, 755 N. Water St., next to Bruegger's Bagels.
Wisconsin Avenue has treated us well, but after a year long survey of where our customers are coming from, it only made sense to widen our stance in the Downtown market and move closer to our customers who may be crunched on time.
The Dogg Haus-Cathedral Square location performance is excellent, and is only three blocks from this new Downtown location so we will still have a close location for those on the east end of Wisconsin Avenue. This new location on Water Street will be nestled in a high density corner, where we are able to solidify our presence for the Downtown market. This leaves no holes.
In regards to other new locations, I cannot say until those deals are done.
OMC: If you could change one thing about the area dining scene, what would it be?
MM: I would love to see a more diverse, quality, affordable, quick serve collection of restaurants that are open late.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.