Hooray for punk rock hot dogs!

When I was a kid, my favourite food counter was Wizzy Woozle. Ever heard of it? It was a tiny, weird little joint tucked into the upper level of the Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver. The only items Wizzy Woozle sold were hot dogs and chocolate malts. Wizzy Woozle is long gone, and I feel like I’ve been on the hunt for a great hot dog ever since.

When I was a teenager, I formed a garage punk band called The Smugglers. I was the lead “singer” of that band for many years, touring endlessly in a beat up van. The Smugglers are long gone, but I’ve missed those days ever since, too.

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As if personally catering to my nostalgic cravings, a very new and very cool diner called What’s Up? Hot Dog! opened up with a blast last week in Hastings-Sunrise. Guess what they specialize in? Would you believe me if I said exactly this: hot dogs and punk rock?! It’s true!

Located at 2481 East Hastings near Nanaimo, What’s Up? Hot Dog! joins a row of other fine, independently owned establishments like the East Café, Horses Records, Black Rook Bakery, Roundel Café, and the Brighton Pub, on what is very quickly becoming one of the coolest and most vibrant city blocks in Vancouver.

What’s Up? Hot Dog! is owned and operated by the friendly husband and wife team of Matt and Jenna Hagarty. Both are musicians: Matt has played in local bands like The Jolts and The Isotopes, while Matt and Jenna together have a band called Tender Hearts. Matt came up with the concept for What’s Up? Hot Dog! when he simply couldn’t find a hot dog good enough to suite his tastes in Vancouver, or even a cool place to just hang out, so he and his wife built their own.

They found their choice Hastings-Sunrise location by wandering around the area that they most wanted to open a business. A long-running café called Master Chef had recently closed and Matt and Jenna happened to be at the right place at the right time (they apparently signed the lease in the nick of time, too: according to a reliable source, the now-legendary Tacofino was very close to landing the exact location of What’s Up? Hot Dog! for a second “spill-over” joint for their hugely popular commissary a block down, and were disappointed they didn’t get it).

Matt and Jenna’s reverence for the history of Vancouver punk is obvious, appreciated, and on display throughout their clean and colourful shop. On the walls above each vintage booth is a tidy collection of framed gig posters and photos from Vancouver’s punk past through the generations: The Subhumans, The New Town Animals, The Evaporators, and, yes – full disclosure – even The Smugglers. Good rock ‘n’ roll blasts at healthy levels from the speakers while you chomp down on their gourmet dogs. For leisure activity, there’s a pinball machine, a video arcade game, a jukebox, and movie screen that shows live baseball games. Beer is coming soon.

As I sank my teeth into a scrumptious Holy Moley (a massive, Mexican-style dog topped with chicken and spicy toppings that are all made in-house), “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” by The Ramones pumped out of the speakers, one of my all-time favourite songs. Wiping the chocolate mole off of my chin with a wide smile, I realized with deep nostalgic thanks that I really did feel like that hot dogs-and-punk rock loving kid all over again.

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