Swizzlers: new players in the ball park frankfurter game


Swizzler is the offshoot of a Wake Forest University class project by, from left, Ben Johnson, Jack Zimmermann and Jesse Konig. / Photo for AFR by Julie Gilkison

sizzler / Photo for AFR by Julie Gilkison

Sizzlers are spiral cut to maximize the meat exposed to the grill.Photo for AFR by Julie Gilkison

Whatever you do, don’t call a swizzler a hot dog. The brainchild of three recent Wake Forest University graduates, this update on the American classic is not your average ball park frank.

They don’t want to be associated with the mystery meat and soggy bun that they see as the common ball park dog.

What started as a school project in 2014 for Jack Zimmermann, Ben Johnson and Jesse Konig, all 23, is now a full-fledged, full-time business in the Washington, D.C. area. The three men live together in Arlington, Va., and prepare their food and store their truck at Union Kitchen, a D.C. food incubator.

What differentiates the swizzler from the dog you’ll be nabbing at the stadium this summer is the preparation.

The guys get their 100 percent grass-fed beef from a producer in Chicago, Ill., spiral cut the dogs to maximize the meat exposed to the grill and serve farm-fresh toppings on locally baked pretzel rolls.

The LdV is a caprese salad dog on a pretzel bun. Fries on the side. / Photo for AFR by Julie Gilkson

The LdV is a caprese salad dog on a pretzel bun. Fries on the side. / Photo for AFR by Julie Gilkison

There are three to four swizzlers on the food truck’s daily menu. The most popular swizzler is the LdV, or Leonardo “Dog” Vinci, which features fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and arugula drizzled with balsamic glaze and house-made pesto sauce. “We just tried to think outside the box for toppings and looked internationally for inspiration,” Koenig said. “The caprese [salad] is so classic Italian, so we experimented with it and ended up adding in an amazing pesto recipe Jack got from his nanny and there it was.”

The Deacon, with chili, homemade honey-mustard coleslaw and classic Carolina barbecue sauce was inspired by their time at Wake Forest in North Carolina. The LdV and Deacon are menu staples while other offers change seasonally.

Konig, who grew up in Central New Jersey, contributed to the J(ersey) Dog, an interpretation of the Garden State on a bun. With sauerkraut, diced onions and spicy brown mustard, you couldn’t get more Jersey unless Springsteen was serving you himself. “We use a New York deli-style mustard — the kind you find at a real Jewish deli in the Northeast, like one I worked at in high school,” said Konig.

The twice-fried, truffle-oil drenched, sea-salt topped French fries are a perfect complement to the gourmet franks. The frites add crisp crunch to top off a nearly foot-long swizzler.

The swizzler makers keep their fans up on their rapidly changing schedule with social-media updates.  With the baseball season now open, Washington Nationals’ fans may see Swizzler’s blue truck outside the stadium grounds.

About 600 swizzlers a week are now being sold, and the three entrepreneurs are all in. ” This is our full-time gig — our only stream of income,”said Konig. “If we are gonna do it, gotta go 100 percent.”


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