Native New Yorker Michael Matranga missed the flavor of what he calls “dirty water dogs” — hot dogs sold by street vendors in New York City — so he made it his career to bring it back.
For the past year and a half, the 49-year-old former golf caddie has operated Dawg Daze, a food cart that serves authentic New York street cuisine. He’s proven popular in many corners of town, popping up on the northwest side and east sides, as well as downtown.
We spoke to Matranga about his passion for street dogs and how he’s managed to generate a following.
Q: What does it mean to you to operate Dawg Daze?
A: I’m the only guy in town doing Sabrett hot dogs. They have been sold on the streets of New York City since 1916. They’re the best hot dogs. They’ve got natural casing and are the authentic dirty water dogs boiled in New York City street carts.
Q: What else do you offer?
A: Polish dogs, Polish links and Italian sausage. I do a bunch of styles. I do a Sonoran dog that I am told by Mexican customers are closer to Sinaloan dogs. They’ve got thick-cut applewood bacon, chorizo, garlic salsa and onions, plus I’ll put shredded cheese, onions, tomatoes and jalapeños on it if you want. I also sell a Chicago dog on a poppy seed bun, Italian ice, ice cream, Otter Pops for the kids, homemade Ghirardelli chocolate brownies and a wide variety of soft drinks. I’ve got a small, little cart, and the amount of stuff I offer is pretty amazing. People say, “Man, I can’t believe you do all these things out of a cart.”
Q: Do you have regulars who will follow you all around town?
A: Of course I do get my East Coasters. My New York, New Jersey and Connecticut people. They come up to me and tell me they think it’s time Tucson got Sabrett dogs. I do have people who go on the website and find me. A couple of guys from Long Island and Jersey come and find me.
Q: What’s your favorite northwest side spot to set up shop?
A: Friendship Villas at La Cholla (6505 N. La Cholla Blvd.). It’s an assisted-living home. Every other week in the fall, they’ll have a market set up there. I’m trying to grow it and bring in some other food trucks.
Q: What’s the advantage to operating out of a food cart as opposed to a truck or a restaurant?
A: I think what the cart allows me to do is operate places that don’t normally have the room for a food truck. It’s also good for private parties at somebody’s house where they don’t want a truck parked on their driveway. I can wheel it into the backyard. So I find the advantage there. Also, the overhead is probably a little less for me.
Q: How many days a week do you work?
A: As many as I can. I absolutely love it. I loved being a caddie, so the outdoors have always appealed to me. At this age, I wasn’t going to be able to carry golf bags, so I needed to do something that would let me be outside and let me be my own boss. That’s what this has done for me.
Q: How do you stay cool?
A: I drink a lot of water and stay in the shade. I gotta do what I gotta do. Money is a factor. I’m struggling. I’ve only been at it for 18 months, but I’m still really building. It’s grown from Day One till now. Summers are rough out here.