With the Fourth of July about to burst onto the scene, hot dogs are bound to be showing up at backyard barbecues, but you can collar one year-round at Hot Dogs on Harbor.
Quietly located at the corner of Main and Harbor Streets in Morro Bay, the eatery has been a hot dog spot since 1995. During that time, it’s had several owners, but seemed destined to close for good until John and Maggie Urias (who also own the adjacent chocolate store, Morro Bay Mud Fudge) stepped up in November 2008.
“I just felt it was important to keep this business in Morro Bay,” said Maggie Urias. “It’s just such a good fit.”
Indeed, the relaxed vibe jives perfectly with the town’s Main Street attitude, as does the establishment’s straightforward approach to service. Customers simply place their order at the walk-up window outside, usually with John (a World War II vet), then take a seat until the food comes up.
There are only four tables outside, and you are sitting next to a parking lot, but it’s still a relaxing place to watch the local goings on. It’s also dogfriendly, and Fido will even be treated to some nitrate-free Doggie Bites. If you prefer indoor seating, there are a few tables inside the chocolate shop.
Hot dogs are often thought of as grab-and-go fare, but that’s not the case here. Instead of being held in a steamer or warmer, “everything is custom cooked,” Urias said. While that means that you might have a bit of a wait during peak times, you’ll probably agree it’s worth it.
Hot Dogs on Harbor was one of the first local establishments to start serving Hearst Ranch grass-fed all-beef dogs, she said, and “we also use their grass-fed beef in our chili that we make from scratch. Though I really don’t like to use the word, we’re really serving ‘gourmet’ hot dogs and chili.”
Other dog options include Cajun hot links, Polish sausage, linguica, turkey and veggie dogs, and you have your choice of Farb’s white or wheat buns. You can dress up your dog with 14 toppings, which range from basics such as ketchup, relish and two kinds of mustard to sauerkraut, house-made coleslaw, jalapeños, pepperoncinis and even barbecue sauce.
Among the most popular dogs is the Chicago, piled high with sliced dill pickles, relish, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard, onions, spicy green beans and celery salt served on a poppy seed bun. The chili dog is also a hit, as is the distinctive sweet and savory selection Urias recently created, aptly called the “Chili Cone.” Yes, it is exactly what comes to mind: chili, cheese and freshly chopped onions served in a cake or sugar cone.
Another unique menu item at Hot Dogs on Harbor is the Waffle Dog. This is a riff on a corn dog with your choice of dog dipped in house-made buttermilk batter and then baked, not fried, in a specialized machine that gives it a waffle-like exterior.
Sides are also given some special treatment here. Fries are dusted with sea salt and, if you like, vinegar; garlic fries are sprinkled with freshly chopped garlic and parsley; and the habit-forming Red Hot & Cool Bleu Fries are drizzled with sesame oil and blue cheese dressing.
Options for drinks include Sweet Leaf and Guayaki teas, and you can indulge in a root beer float or hand-scooped ice cream cone.
“We’re trying to keep things simple, but put out real quality,” said Urias. “It’s all about the little things.”