Dining With Denise Neil

Local hot dog maker says you’ll love his food – if he can just persuade you to try it

When you’re a vegan who loves hot dogs, you have only a few sensible options.

Search for a store-bought version that tastes good – or come up with your own recipe.

Pat Handley, a longtime vegan, went for the second option, and he’s come up with a version so tasty, he’s decided to share it with his hometown.

By winter at the earliest or spring at the latest, Handley plans to open a vegan hot dog cart he’ll call Wheat Street Dogs, featuring the recipe he’s perfected that uses wheat gluten and soy.

Handley, who also owns a photo and video business with his wife, Judy, said that the couple had been vegetarians since 2000 and went vegan in 2011. Cooking became a necessity, and Pat had experience. When he was in his 20s and 30s, he spent 15 years working in restaurants.

“It’s really hard to find stuff in restaurants that’s strictly vegan, and at that time, it was pretty tough,” he said. “I had to get back into cooking.”

Handley’s friends, even his non-vegetarian friends, loved his vegan hot dogs and encouraged him to sell them.

“People kept telling me, ‘You should start a food truck or start a restaurant,’” he said. “But I know how much hard work that is. A hot dog cart is pretty inexpensive and something fun I can do.”

The cart just arrived from Tennessee this week, and Handley will now begin assembling and decorating it.

His dogs will be topped with a variety of ingredients and have themes. He’s working on a banh mi dog, a mac-and-cheese dog and more. He will also sell his Italian sausages and may eventually introduce vegan meatball sandwiches and Philly cheese steak sandwiches.

He’ll park the cart in all the “usual food truck-y places” and at local farmers markets.

Handley said he’s confident that non-vegans will like his hot dogs, which have “no preservatives, no chemicals and nothing you can’t pronounce.”

They just have to agree to try them.

“The main obstacle with the cart is going to be getting people to try it,” he said. “But if they do, they’ll be hooked.”

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