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CHEAP EATS: Willie Dogs

Posted at 11:55 AM, Oct 26, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Many cities in the U.S. have food they're known for. Chicago has deep-dish pizza. If you to go to Philadelphia, you have to get a Philly Cheese Steak and of course Kansas City is known for its barbecue.

As 3 News Now Anchor Serese Cole reports, the owner of Willie Dogs - made here in Nebraska - wants his gourmet hotdogs to become Omaha's official hot dog.

"I love hot dogs!"

That's what Ryan Barry told us. In fact, he loves hot dogs so much - he quit his day job to make his own.

"I took about six to eight months to create the recipe," he explained. They're called Willie Dogs.

"It's not uncommon for someone to come up and say, 'It's the greatest dog I've ever had'," Ryan smiled. His goal is to have his dog be the top dog in Omaha.

"I wanted to make something synonymous with Omaha," he explained.

"New York has got theirs...Chicago's got theirs. I love them when I'm in Chicago. But we're Omaha. We're kind of the home of beef and baseball...and I figured we should have our own hot dog. So that's what I set out to create - and that's what I have with the Willie Dog," he explained.

His venture started four years ago with this hot dog cart. Then came the food truck. Three weeks ago - he opened up shop at Aksarben's Inner Rail food hall.

"Being a born and raised Omaha guy, Aksarben was just a special place. It was this magical land on 72nd Street and now I get to be part of that and Willie Dogs get to be part of that," Ryan beamed.

At Willie Dogs - you pick your dog first. Then you pick your style: Willie Way, Traditional, Classic or Chili Willie. The Willie Dog, the Willie Way is the most popular combo.

"This is a handmade dog - natural casing - and then we cold smoke it for a couple of hours," he explained.

The hot dogs are premium beef with a bit of pork fat. It comes with brown sugar onions that are slow simmered with butter and brown sugar and his signature Aioli sauce.

"We call it Willie Good sauce because it's Willie good," he chuckled. "Nice and simple - straight up. So we don't need a whole lot of toppings on things. It's about the dog on the inside that makes it an Omaha dog."

Next, he showcased the smoked Polish sausage - traditional style. It's served with sauerkraut and their Kros Strain Fairy Nectar IPA mustard.

The chili dog - known as the Chillie Willie - rounds out the top three sellers. For Fall, Ryan is trying something new - the Autumn Brat.

"It's got a little pumpkin puree and those warming spices that are very associated with Fall- so some allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg. But none of those are too overpowering. We didn't want like a pumpkin spice brat," he grinned.

Another Willie Dog favorite is the Smoked Peach Baked Beans.

"We do a peach pie filling, smoke that a little bit - then we do our baked beans and seasoning blend and kind of smoke it all together," he shared.

And for dessert - cinnamon roll pretzels.

"They're blowing off the shelves," he said.

The soft Bavarian pretzels are buttered, coated with a cinnamon sugar mix - then frosted with cream cheese frosting.

"What a lot of folks do is they get it with a bowl of chili," Ryan shared.

Here, you order what you want - how you want.

"We like to say there's no wrong way to Willie Dog," Ryan laughed.

Willie Dogs combines the proud Omaha native's two passions - his city and his dogs.

"There's the stadium, there's the CHI Center," he said while showing off the skyline at his new place. "This is just like the hot dog cart we started."

"It's kind of a life story," he smiled.

Willie Dogs is at the Inner Rail Food Hall in Aksarben at 1911 South 67th Street. It's open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Hot dog prices range from seven to nine dollars. This week's special: Burnt End Sausages with House Slaw.

To stay up to date with their specials and more, go to Willie Dog's Facebook or Instagram pages or williedogs.com.

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