SINGAPORE - They made a ferocious entry to Singapore, but scattered as quickly as they came - and with nary a whimper. This time two years ago, there were at least eight standalone outlets offering different takes on gourmet hot dogs, or hot dog sandwiches made with premium sausages rather than your low-brow canned frankfurter.
But recent young shoots aside, a scarce few of those ventures seem to have lasted the distance. Gourmet dogs and craft beer joint Li'l Papa's Wieners Beerstro, which closed in Craig Road in June, last month re-opened as craft beer retail kiosk The Papa Shop in Kallang - sans the hot dogs.
Earlier casualties include Superdog at Vivocity, The Purple Mustard at Icon Village in Tanjong Pagar, Zen Dog at The Sail at Marina Bay, and gourmet dog and artisan coffee joint Homebodies in Boat Quay, which has since been reconceptualised as Ah Sam's Cold Drink Stall under the same owners. Even O My Dog at Great World City, which opened in September 2011 serving dogs made with grain-fed meats in flavours such as truffle mushroom and bak chor mee, has now scaled down its operations to a weekend-only affair.
Cold response to hot dogs
Why exactly haven't gourmet hot dogs taken off here?
Low-priced hot dog buns from local confectioneries, cinema snack counters and even furniture retailer Ikea's deli counter have a part to play, say gourmet hot dog purveyors.
"A plain bun with a boiled chicken frankfurter inside for 50 cents or a dollar, to most people, that is a hot dog, plain and simple," says The Purple Mustard's co-owner Willie Sng. "And once the general public has a perception of a hot dog bun as something made from low-quality, processed meat, it is hard to change their minds that it could be something better," he adds. Gourmet hot dogs typically start from $6 and can go up to $12 with premium condiments.
"Singaporeans don't view hot dogs as a meal. When they go out for lunch, they want a meal, and they want to sit down," says Dan Segall, who previously partnered with local actor-turned-fitness guru Robin Leong to run hot dog counter Zen Dog. "In New York, you'd grab a hot dog and soda and eat while walking back to your office for lunch."