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August 17, 2012 5:45 AM

Hot dog! Seattle gets a floating food truck

Posted by Rebekah Denn


Splash on over to the city's floating food truck.

Chris Rice (bartender at Ethan Stowell's upcoming Rione Xlll) and Emma Schwartzman (an alum of The Corson Building and Boat Street Cafe, as well as Stowell's restaurants) are operating "Summer Dog," a hot dog boat most commonly found on the water near the UW Waterfront Rec Center or the Arboretum, though yesterday they were also trying out the South Lake Union waterfront park. The 24-foot pontoon boat is "like a floating playpen," said Schwartzman, albeit one equipped with a professional grill and fridge. It's got the same permits as any mobile food unit, she said, "ours just happens to be on the water."

How it works: They tie up at a buoy and take orders from any kayak, stand-up paddleboard, sailboat, motorboat, or other vehicle for people to float their way. They tie up together, take orders, and hand over the finished food. "They're within arms reach."

The food is "very straighforward," Schwartzman said. They're selling $6 dogs "just like your downtown street-meat-style hot dogs," including pork and Kosher beef and veggie dogs and bratwurst, served on Franz buns. There's "every kind of classic condiment you can think of, including the requisite cream cheese and sriracha." Rice is the grill chef and "likes to get a nice caramelization and char" on the dogs, while Schwartzman handles toppings. Drinks are $2 standard sodas; think Coke, Fresca, root beer.

Rice has worked for Stowell for years, bartending at Tavolata for the past five. Schwartzman worked as a hostess and then a server at Union, bartended at Boat Street, then decided to go to the Ballymaloe cooking school in Ireland. She cooked at The Corson Building on her return, and now owns her own styling and design consulting business. That last isn't as tangential a move as it might sound. "What I loved about cooking was thinking about flavor profiles and the construction of dishes -- the whole confluence of all these lovely sensory things. That's what I love about design, too."

With those resumes, wouldn't we expect them to be cooking mini-Kurobuta-Mangalitsa "haute dogs" on hand-kneaded wild-caught-yeast buns, or something?


"There's a time and a place for everything..." Schwartzman said. "I love all sorts of gorgeous homemade super-gourmet things, but when it comes to something simple like ketchup, I think Heinz got it right. The same sort of approach to hot dogs works for us...

"Both of us have worked in fancy places, and we love lovely fancy food, but we also like to take a break from that and just do something totally regular."

Rice got the idea for this venture after seeing a hot dog boat on the Hudson River on an Anthony Bourdain show. A boater for many years, he's "out on the lake all the time anyway, and he thought it would be a lot of fun."

It's been smooth sailing overall since the couple debuted the business a few weeks ago, though "the logistics of it turned out to be a little trickier than we thought. We didn't realize we'd have to be tied up, we thought we could putt putt around and visit other people's boats. That doesn't really work... if we're not tied up there's too much rocking and rolling."

"We get a lot of waves and hoots and hollers."

Check out their schedule here, or here, and they'll be catering parties at waterfront parties and homes as well. "We'll be out as long as the sun is out."

I had thought that Summer Dog was the first "floating food truck" in town, but Joanna Iverson wrote to alert me that she and her brother had operated "Coqui Cabana" on Lake Union and Lake Washington for three years, enjoying "the best customers and a fabulous time" before "mediocre summers and unobtainable liquor permits" led them to seek other adventures. (It took the health department two years to figure out how to permit them, she said -- they wish Summer Dog well and are glad to have paved the way.) My apologies to Joanna -- clearly I need to get out on the water more myself.

Corrected Aug. 21 to add mention of Coqui Cabana and remove reference to Summer Dog as the city's first floating food truck.

Photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

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