Aug. 21, 2015 11:39 AM

photo courtesy www.hotdawgstop.com
As fast food goes, hot dogs are a new frontier. And as Acadiana goes, that makes Brittani Aucoin a pioneer. Her Youngsville hot doggerie The Hot Dawg Stop has made enough noise to attract destination diners from the deeper interiors of metro Lafayette, more than willing to traverse city limits and risk the great bafflements of unmarked roads and traffic circles.

But no longer, dear travelers, will you venture so far. Come mid- to late-September Aucoin and co. will bring Hot Dawg Stop’s expansive menu of toppings and frankfurters and fast-friendly service to south Lafayette, taking over the former Bullrito’s storefront on Kaliste Saloom Road.

Aucoin and her family opened Hot Dawg Stop in July 2014 in a strip mall location near Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville, right off Chemin Metairie Parkway. Since the beginning, Aucoin has aimed for franchisability, with a “five locations in five years” goal firmly in place. The operation is buttoned-up and friendly, with a smartly organized, choose-your-own-adventure concept that mimics the consumer-controlled creativity model employed by chains in the burrito and sub realm. To that end it’s similar to New Orleans’ Dat Dawg, but with a home-spun, ballpark kind of vibe.

Choose your dog: all beef, bacon-wrapped, turkey, Italian sausage, gator or crawfish boudin. Choose your toppings: too numerous to count, but the chili is pretty much gold. Grab a side: hand-cut fries or house-made chips. And indulge yourself with a malted milkshake. Too many options? Try one of their house specialties, curated by the hot dog brain trust in Hot Dawg Stop’s employ.

At 21, Aucoin is an impressively young entrepreneur. She’s beaten some well-established names to market in Lafayette and had the good sense to set roots on the growing side of town. The restaurant bug came to her by way of her father’s longtime experience in the restaurant industry, and an abiding love of food around her house. By mid-college, she was still looking for a defined career path when she got the notion to go to culinary school. Her dad shepherded her to restaurant ownership. They looked into buying an existing franchise, but decided creating a concept of their own was the way to go. The world has enough burger chains, they reasoned; let’s give some love to hot dogs, a cuisine that retained the speed and convenience of fast food but provided more room for invention.

The brand is gourmet, but that moniker does the joint a disservice. These dogs don’t have the pretense or frou-frou-ness that makes a lot of gourmet “elevations” of pop food frankly unappetizing. It’s a pet gripe I have with adding delicate ingredients like truffles or brie to hamburgers and pizza. Hot Dawg Stop is gourmet in the sense that it uses the hot dog medium with high quality license, but it does so in a way that celebrates what a hot dog is supposed to be: salty, unctuous and a little bit dangerous. Use your imagination. Get peanut butter and chili. Seriously. Go nuts. Pretty soon you won’t have very far to go to do so.

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