New Restaurant on Emerson Ave.
Although the D.J.’s Hotdog Co. at 4824 S. Emerson Ave. is in its infancy, owner Gary West has already received enough praise for the food he’s serving to feel like a winner of the “Top Chef” competition.
“The Chicago dog is great,” said Southsider Voice advertising manager Roger Huntzinger. “It’s an all-beef hot dog topped with relish, mustard and fresh vegetables. I’m going to try the Italian beef sandwich the next time. I’ve had it elsewhere, and it was great. I’m sure that D.J.’s prepares it equally well.”
For those who have not sunk their teeth into the latter, it features prime shaved beef marinated in Italian seasonings and served on French bread. A variety of toppings are available.
So how does a former longtime construction project manager wind up serving hot dogs, burgers and brats?
To make a long story short, as the Greenfield resident explained, the company that he worked for was bought out in 2011. Left to fend for himself, he looked into opening a water sports business on a Caribbean island. But after two years of painstaking research and planning, the idea was nixed by the island’s prime minister, who feared that the business would eat into the revenues of similar companies operated by the natives.
Then one day when he and his wife, Joyce, were in the mood for a good hot dog, they drove to the D.J.’s in Fishers and enjoyed a couple of sumptuous dogs. They later met with the owner to discuss opening a D.J.’s.
After all the details were ironed out and a building was leased and remodeled, the couple hired and trained their staff. Then, six days before Christmas, the Davises and daughter Tosha West, a manager along with Daniel Bennett, found themselves opening their doors to the public.
But the Wests didn’t take a blind jump into this endeavor. Gary had worked at a few restaurants during college; Joyce had helped to open several Long John Silver’s; Tosha previously operated a food program at a year-round camp in Georgia, and Bennett had worked at other D.J.’s.
“Between the three of us, we thought, ‘How hard can it be to build a hot dog,’ ” Gary West said.
“Business has been very good; I’m already seeing a lot of regulars,” as evidenced by the amount of loyalty cards being used. “Beech Grove has welcomed us with open arms. We plan on being here a long time, and we have the staff to do it. We are looking at how we can give back to the community.”
Of the 12 hot dogs on the menu, West said the most popular ones are the aforementioned Chicago dog and the Atlanta dog, which is topped with chili, cheddar cheese and diced onions. “Our menu board has been designed to highlight our most popular items by listing them in yellow print.” The Indy dog is more traditional as it comes with ketchup, mustard, relish and tomato.
Hamburgers are also hot items at D.J.’s, which uses between 50 and 60 pounds of fresh, never frozen Angus beef on a daily basis to make one-third and half-pound patties, which can be topped with thick bacon strips when being grilled. The menu also includes build-your-own hot dogs, hand-breaded tenderloins, Italian and Polish sausage sandwiches, side dishes, regular and cheese fries, onion rings and a few desserts. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily except Sunday, when the hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. To-go orders can be placed by calling 992-3176.
“Our bread and food suppliers are overwhelmed by the amount of products that we are using,” West said. “We have nearly run out of meat and buns on a few occasions and had to borrow from the other D.J.’s (there are five other in Greater Indianapolis).
“People are always telling me that our Italian beef sandwiches are as good or better than the ones at Portillo’s (a chain of restaurants that serves Chicago-style food). That’s my customers saying that, not me,” West emphasized.
When the weather warms, alfresco dining will be available for up to 40 customers at a time. Spring will also see the opening of a drive-through, and plans are in the works for a catering service.
And because West’s restaurant is a licensee and not a franchise, he has more liberty in how he operates the store.
“We stick with the basics, but we have the liberty to introduce menu items. If we discover something that is popular, we are asked to tell the other stores.”