The Hot ‘n Dog: Where Franks & Comics Collide
Shorty after 3pm each weekday, kids from two Toronto grade schools hang out at a tiny neighborhood hot-dog joint. This is the Hot ‘n Dog, where the specialty is toppings. Lots and lots of toppings. Behind the counter is Keith Jones, a cartoonist (and hot dog connoisseur) responsible for graphic novels like dystopian pet epic Catland Empire and abstract-ish activity book Colour Me Busy. Jones loves comics, frumpy cartoon animals and filling up spaces — interests that synced with a Toronto entrepreneur who, a year ago, decided to open a hot dog shop. Now co-owner, Jones is dressing $2 hot dogs with comic artistry, along with toppings (100 of them in all) that range from wasabi to flaxseed to rainbow sprinkles. We asked Jones about renovations, post-apocalyptic BBQ cars and, of course, hot dogs.
This is kind of an odd place for a comic artist to end up. Do you have any particular feelings toward hot dogs?
I think hot dogs are hilarious. As a kid, they were one of my favorite foods. I like that you can decorate them, just put junk on them. A hundred different things. I made a great dessert dog just the other day. It had two different kinds of jam, chocolate chips, marshmallows, pretzels and bacon bits, maple syrup. Then I mixed in Hickory Sticks and graham crackers. It looked insane. Also I made a chili cheese dog with 10 different things on it for fun. Supposedly, there are kids who have come in here and gotten all 100 toppings on their hot dogs. I haven’t done that yet.
How did you come to run the Hot ‘n Dog?
I met George Karpouzis when he opened up a comic book shop in Kensington. I hung out at that comic book shop all the time. He was trying to sell the Hot ‘n Dog to somebody else, but that didn’t work out. I woke up one day thinking, “I should own that.” So I just went and asked him. I wanted this place to look like a cartoon-land. He knew what I wanted to do with it, and that made him excited to have me.
Is it true you enjoy filling spaces like this?
Oh yeah. I don’t know why, it’s obsessive to me. Might be an insecurity, I don’t know, but it’s fun! I’ve done a couple spaces like this before, redecorated a bar and had some gallery shows. Usually I come in and I don’t know what I’m doing, start with a couple things and new ideas flourish. I remember when I came up with “My Hot Dog is Bigger Than Yours.” I was just staring at this white empty space wondering how the hell I’m going to fill that in. I came up with that line and just laughed for about a half-hour. Great ideas lead to more ideas. I want to make those rotor fan blades up on the ceiling hot dogs. That’s an idea I just came up with.
And you’re selling comics here too?
Yeah, I just brought in a couple comics that I made, to sell. I’m actually going to make a newspaper called Hot Dog Times. It’ll have different cartoonists from all over doing hot dog-themed things. Articles all about hot dogs. I’ve talked to five or six artists who want to do stuff.
What do you like about drawing rude animals?
I don’t know, it just happens that way. I just think they’re weird. I like cartoon characters, but I want them to be doing things that cartoon characters don’t usually do, like swearing and throwing junk around and drinking alcohol.
What do you foresee in the future of Hot ‘n Dog?
Well, I want to get karaoke going in here. My goal is by the end of the summer is to buy a 1986 Chevrolet Caprice and jack it up on dump truck wheels and take all the chrome off of it and paint it with Tremclad, flat red, gut the whole interior, make it yellow, get an old school bus steering wheel, take the trunk, open it, turn it into a Hibachi BBQ and write “All Dogs Go to Heaven” on the side. Just a weird Mad Max BBQ car.
Were you a fan of Pee Wee’s Playhouse growing up? The colour scheme in here seems Gary Panter-ish.
Oh yeah. It’s one of my most favourite shows ever. Actually, I wanted to play it in here but the TV broke. It’ll be a regular thing that’ll be on here. It’s like playtime. Playtime in Dumboland. That’s what hot dogs are, they’re Dumboland food.
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