When Christian Subashi’s maternal grandparents bought a home in Sea Isle in the 1960s, it’s unlikely that they realized they’d be not only establishing a family home but tipping the first domino in a small (but mighty!) culinary legacy here.
Their son-in-law, Lou Subashi, a Pennsylvania teacher and a veteran, nabbed one of only seven vending permits, and started a hot dog stand in the summer of 1982. Folks lined up every day at the cart, the LouDogs flag flying over it like a beacon on the 75th Street beach. And at Lou’s side (minus his dad’s famous mustache) was five-year-old Christian, “working” by putting up the chips. And learning.
“My dad always said KISS, as in ‘keep it simple, stupid,’” Christian said, and indeed the cart offered up Hatfield dogs, your standard ketchup, mustard, relish hot dog condiments, and chips. It also harbored two secrets: where in the world those steamed rolls came from—these were not your basic Stroehmann hot dog rolls from the grocery store—and just how many of those dogs were sold in a day. Let’s just say a lot—a whole lot.
When Lou passed away in 2010, Christian—now a teacher himself—discovered that the vending permit Lou had secured would not transfer, and that looked like the end of the line for what had been a small but iconic family business with a 30-year history. One can’t just set up a hot dog cart without the proper permit, and Christian debated what to do in the aftermath of his father’s loss.
And in a bold move in the summer of 2012, he took his father’s propane cart, had it retrofitted to be powered by electric, and moved it into a storefront. Now in its 10th year at 38th & Pleasure, LouDogs continues the legacy started by his father, providing delicious dogs—and a bit more. For one, the familiar cart is there, providing a bit of nostalgia to a couple of generations now of LouDog clientele. But Christian also tweaked his father’s KISS philosophy, ironically in ways that could only happen within a storefront.
Patrons are greeted by a regular menu with a dozen dog variations on it, from the LouDog itself (Lou’s German mustard, ketchup, diced onions and hint of kraut “to taste”) to the Mad Dog with crumbled bleu cheese and buffalo sauce to “your dogs” where you can create your own frankfurter masterpiece. The blackboard handing next to the wall menu announces the Dog of the Day, typically “something outrageous I find in a book or magazine or on the internet,” Christian says—a recent example being Hoisin Barbeque with Scallions. Under that is “Lou Tending,” which lists the names of the staff members working that day, “Lou TV,” letting you know what’s playing on the television, and “Lou Tunes,” which Pandora station is playing on the sound system.
A couple of other innovations Christian has implemented since picking up his father’s mantle (and moving it inside) is the addition of homemade mac and cheese (try it on the Lassie with chipotle ketchup) and his mother’s chili. Don’t want a dog at all? The Original Walking Taco is for you: a bag of Frito’s into which is dumped seasoned ground beef, homemade (that’s right and it’s great) pico de gallo, and cheddar cheese. Stick a spoon in it and off you go.
LouDogs is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 11am to 8pm, and weekends in September. It’s also open on Polar Bear Plunge weekend every February with “a line out the door, all day long, all weekend.”
Christian is now a father himself, to four-year-old son, Owen. So…he’s got a year before presumably he’ll be working with his own dad, continuing this family legacy.
Walk into LouDogs for a quintessential Sea Isle summer experience, and walk out with $5 or so lunch or dinner in the palm of your hand, and a fascinating bit of history behind it.