The Hot Dog Shop (6405 Brittmoore), a restaurant/sports bar out in the northwest Houston wilderness near Beltway 8, has existed for 25 years. It's been a teeming suburban punk/rockabilly/ska venue for a considerably shorter period.
Normally, this is where the Nightfly would segue into our "This Is What This Place Looks Like" or "This Is What Kind Of Vibe This Place Has" section. But there are only two things you really need to know about the Hot Dog Shop's aesthetics: You can smoke inside, and — amazingly — it specializes in hot dogs.
From that, you can be reasonably certain that whatever you're imagining the place to look and feel like is absolutely correct. We're so sure of this, in fact, that we won't even bother to go through those perfunctory descriptions. So.
The Hot Dog Shop actually started as a lone hot dog cart in 1983, owned and operated in downtown Houston by a charismatic fellow named Frank Della Sala. Combine his magnetism with a dogged work ethic, and it's easy to see how one cart became two, two became four, and so on and so on until they were nearly everywhere downtown.
In two years, Della Sala had effectively made himself into a hot-dog kingpin. He's the Frank White of Franks, the Nino Brown of Buns, the Machine Gun Kelly of Mustard and Ketchup, if you will.
Then Della Sala flipped those carts into the full-fledged, stand-alone restaurant you're picturing today. Ever since, it has operated successfully and well outside of the reach of any Hip or Trendy tag. And especially outside of the reach of a Lively Music Scene tag.
Ironically, it took a Zombie to bring it to life.
Betty Zombie has been a show promoter in Houston for the past two-and-a-half years. She's booked gigs for everyone from Montreal's the BRAINS to Houston's The Latch Key Kids.
She started promoting punk rock/psychobilly/ska shows at the Hot Dog Shop in February at the recommendation of former Meridian owner Bob Fuldauer, a friend of Della Sala's.
It was the first time those types had been booked, and an immediate success.
"The first night I did a show there, it was amazing," says Zombie. "It was full of people.
"The distance [from central Houston] has never been an issue. We can get 80 to a couple hundred kids at a show," she adds. "Some people come from Pasadena. People are contacting us now to book shows at the Hot Dog Shop."
The Hot Dog Shop has actually featured live music since 1995, although almost always cover bands. These new shows, though, are attracting a younger, more exuberant crowd — one that otherwise might never have bothered to venture out to what is unquestionably an enjoyable place to see live music.
"The first time I came was to see Skaretas, and they were awesome," says Elizabeth Jasso, a 26-year-old optician. "They have a huge variety of music here: Rockabilly, ska, screamo. Plus, they let you smoke, which is awesome."
Tonight, Skaretas, Conflicto and Ska Bones all take the stage for a $5 cover, all of which goes to the bands. Skaretas offers up a particularly lively, energetic set.
In addition to the smoke, jumping and singing and "dancing" and general merriment fill the room. The 18-and-up crowd enjoys themselves, the bands enjoy themselves, even an employee wearing a shirt that wryly states "Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck" appears to not hate the world entirely.
And after hoping to establish the Hot Dog Shop as a live music venue for 15 years, Della Sala is happy too.
"It's all worked out really well," he says. "We appreciate what the bands are doing and they appreciate what we're doing. It's a good marriage."
Cue trumpet fanfare for two celebratory announcements:
First, the Hot Dog Shop will be celebrating its 25th anniversary over the coming weeks, and is planning a proper party. Keep an eye on Houston Press music blog Rocks Off for more info when we have it.
And this, folks, marks the 100th Nightfly article written under our tenure. That's more than 80,000 words about Houston nightlife, or about 35 Teen Wolf references and 92 Patrick Swayze jokes. Thank you for the support. It means a lot to receive e-mails week after week about what's written here and other places. Praise be to Craig D. Lindsey, the original, and greatest, Nightfly.
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