New Bay Shore restaurant will combine craft hot dogs with classic rock


Hot diggity! A craft hot dog joint is coming to Bay Shore.

The new restaurant, which aims to open in the new 1 East Main Street building, is the brainchild of rock-and-roller Steve Reno.

He thought of the idea while perusing a coffee table book about the greatest album covers of all time that his wife and business partner, Vina Vollmer, had given him. While reading, a television show droned in the background about the best hot dogs in America.

“I thought wouldn’t it be cool if we served hot dogs and played classic rock from the ’70s?”

And at that moment Rock City Dogs was born.

This will be their first restaurant but the couple, who lives in Babylon Village, has enlisted some help, notably Jonathan Contes, co-owner and co-chef from eatMOSAIC in St. James.

Reno, Vollmer and Contes are close friends.

“He’s the guy who is doing the recipes with all the dogs,” Reno said.

They are still in the testing phase so things might change a bit, but they already have some of the offerings scoped out.

They plan to have nine craft hot dogs (they don’t like to use the descriptor “gourmet”) with names like the Zeppelin Dog and the Deep Purple Dog. Eight dogs will have a name and toppings inspired by rock bands and the ninth will be their signature item: The Rock City Dog.

While they are still sourcing a hot dog supplier, Reno says they will absolutely be nitrite-free, hormone-free, and all-natural. He plans to wrap those dogs in bread from Blue Duck Bakery in Southampton.

The couple says that Contes’ involvement is key.

“That’s going to give us something really special,” Reno said.

Weiners won’t be the only menu item. There will be salads like the Sultans of Swing Salad, sides like Paul Macartney and Wings chicken wings, Stix fries, and Fleetwood Mac & Cheese. They also want to serve burgers (including the Impossible Burger). For alcohol, there will be craft beer mostly from Long Island breweries and craft cocktails created by the mixologist at eatMOSAIC. The children’s menu will be called Kids Rock.

Keeping with the rock and roll theme, appetizers will be called Opening Acts, entrees will be called Headliners, and desserts will be, of course, Encores.

Among the desserts will be Hostess CupCake and Ring Dings. Not some creative confections inspired by the familiar off-the-shelf classics but the real thing.

“That’s it,” said Reno. “It’s Hostess CupCake in plastic.”

He insists that even though there will be other menu items, hot dogs are still the star of the show.

They may need some help on the food side of the business — never having run a restaurant before — but Reno needs no help with rock and roll. In that department, he has plenty of cred. Reno says he’s played in rock bands his entire life and so has his other major partner in Rock City Dogs, Stephen Bennett.

“We were in various bands with quite a bit of success and did extensive touring in the U.S. and overseas,” he said. “That’s the foundation of all this.”

Reno named two other junior partners involved in the restaurant, Art Conway and Tom McGiveron.

The owners plan to open by early summer 2020.

In the meantime, they still have some wood to chop.

A logo is forthcoming from Simmer, a Manhattan-based branding company, and their marketing campaigns are being worked out by Union Square on Long Island who specializes in the restaurant business. The interior is being designed by Dallago Associates who also did Whiskey Down Diner in Farmingdale.

Music is going to be as important to the experience at Rock City Dogs as the frankfurters. They will play all classic rock (no hair bands and no Grunge) with allowances made for certain other musical styles.

“We might do a punk rock night,” Reno said. “But the real focus is on classic rock from the ’70s.”

What makes his restaurant different is that patrons will be immersed in all senses. Not only the audio experience of rock and roll but a visual one as well. (Taste and smell are reserved for food.)

At first, Reno thought he’d have albums painted on the wall but paring down the selection to a few favorites would be near impossible. Then he had another idea.

“What if every 10 minutes we project a new image onto the wall?”

He wants to create an interactive experience, one that will appeal to the nostalgia of older generations and the social media mind of a younger demographic.

“We think it will spark conversation with people.”

He also thinks that younger people are done with the standard Long Island restaurant offerings.

“I don’t think Millennials want to go there,” he said. “People need stimulus now. Places like Dirty Taco are doing so well because there’s an energy in it. There’s an interactive aspect to everything including restaurants.”

While rock and roll is the vibe he insists that the decor will not be a pastiche, full of memorabilia like other places.

“It’s not going to be kitschy like Hard Rock Cafe,” he said. “There are no guitars on the wall.”

Rock City Dog partners Steve Reno and Stephen Bennett rocking out back in the day.

Top: Woman holding a hot dog by Unsplash’s Peter Secan.