MENTOR, Ohio – Summers on Lake Erie are not complete for many beach-going hot dog lovers without a stop at Scooter’s World Famous Dawg House.
For years, hungry folks have dusted off the sand from Mentor Headlands Beach and headed — not home — but to Scooter’s for a dog and fries.
Situated near the entrance of Ohio’s largest beach, Scooter’s was once a filling station and auto-repair shop before the garage doors were removed and the service bays transformed into a quirky eatery that has filled tummies, rather than gas tanks, for the last 22 years, and there is always a line.
Current owner Michael Blauman was a longtime customer, who never let a beach season slip away without several stops at Scooter’s. One day, a casual conversation turned his world around.
“I’ve been coming here for years,” he says. “I heard the owners were looking to retire and find someone who would keep their baby alive.”
Now, seven years into his tenure as owner of the tiny eatery, Blauman has stayed true to the promise he made to Scott and Diane Hagara — to build Scooter’s reputation as the “best hot dogs around.”
The tiny stand claimed third place in the final hour of voting – claiming 13.78 percent of the votes cast by cleveland.com readers — in our search for the Best Hot Dog in Greater Cleveland.
Blauman worked as a head-hunter for IT and medical professionals. He had no experience in the restaurant industry when Scott Hagara revealed an interest in selling.
“I was always a foodie,” said Blauman. “I think my calling was culinary school but I never got there, so when they said they were interested in selling it just steamrolled from there. By the beginning of the next season, I was the owner – though the Hagaras stayed on most of that year to teach me everything about the business since it was all new to me.”
Blauman admits little has changed.
The business is still seasonal – open March through the end of September only — to take advantage of the steady flow of sun-seekers.
The menu is largely made up of the same hot dog creations the Hagaras developed during their tenure, though Blauman has added a few of his own flavor combinations, growing the menu to a whopping 25 hot dog options that come in three sizes — the “Short,” a 6-inch, 1/5 pound hot dog; the “Long,” a 10-inch quarter-pound wiener and the “Homewrecker,” a 14-inch half pounder.
Scooter’s sources its frankfurters — an old-fashioned blend of pork and beef, though all-beef franks are available, from Cleveland’s Five Star Meats.
The stand takes the unconventional route of cooking the dogs in a deep-fryer, which gives the skinless franks a nice pop.
The biggest changes are that Blauman now uses fresh ground beef, as opposed to the frozen patties the Hagaras served, as well as adding salads and chicken to the menu to meet the demand for healthier options.
“You can see it with the regulars. They may have come in a couple of times a week for a hot dog, now they still come, but instead of having hot dogs every time, they may opt for a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich. Or maybe, they’ll just have the hot dog, but without the bun,” Blauman said with a laugh. “Regardless, we do a lot of things besides hot dogs really well. But then, our hot dogs are still spectacular.”
If you are new to Scooter’s, regulars are quick to recommend the Bacon Cheese Dog or the Chicago Dog.
If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, check out the Scooter’s Extreme Dog – topped with bleu cheese, hot sauce and a generous sprinkling of Blauman’s homemade spice mixture and jalapenos.
Most unique to the menu is the Cuban Dog: a grilled sliced hot dog atop Swiss cheese and ham, barbecue sauce and pickles and grilled inside a sourdough panini.
And if you want fries with that – know in advance that Scooter’s “small fries” are a mountain of hand-cut crispy potatoes that will feed your whole table.
When asked if he regrets stepping out of the corporate world to own a hot dog stand, Blauman just smiles broadly and shakes his head.
“I mean, c’mon! It’s hot dogs. They’re fun. I’m having fun. What could be better?”