It’s Third Thursday in Bourbon County. Folks are gathering for dinner and a concert on the courthouse lawn. Big Daddy’s Wiener Wagon is just across the street from the stage, and “Big Daddy,” Philip Enlow, is slinging dog-themed hotdogs.
He’s a little sheepish when asked about the name.
“It’s all about the dogs,” he said, referring not to the food-truck fare but to his pets back home. His wife, Beth Richardson, always refers to Enlow as “Big Daddy” when talking to their dogs. It seemed only natural to include the nickname in the title of the new business they started about a year ago.
“Tons of people who don’t buy a hotdog take a picture of the logo,” which features a wiener in a straw hat with spats and a cane. Enlow and fellow wiener-slinger Frank Bradford try to have fun, even when the heat is oppressive and the customers are few, as was the case on a recent Third Thursday.
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Bradford likes to concoct off-the-menu hotdog recipes so complicated that even he can’t remember all of the ingredients days later. A recent effort included macaroni and cheese, onions, cheddar cheese, nacho cheese and bacon.
All the hotdogs on the Wiener Wagon menu have canine themes. For example:
The Bulldog has spicy mustard, celery salt, relish, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle and spicy pepper. The Dalmatian has spicy mustard, sriracha, chili, Swiss cheese, onion and jalapeño. The Beagle has ketchup, mustard, onion and relish. The Snoop Dawg has mustard, chili, cheddar cheese and onion.
The roots of the wiener wagon go back to Enlow’s wife. The two, who were married 17 years ago, bought the historic Tarelton Tavern Farm about 10 years ago. Parts of the original tavern built in 1790s can be seen inside the modern house.
Richardson didn’t know much country living but “learned to farm on the internet,” she said. She started making gelato in her home kitchen using some of the fresh ingredients from the land.
“One person too many said I should sell it,” Richardson said, so she started Spotz Gelato in 2013 with one truck. It was a vintage mobile home revamped and repainted a bright pink with large yellow, blue and green dots.
Richardson is the culinary whiz and creative force behind flavors like blueberry muffin gelato and piña colada sorbet, and Enlow does the mechanical work to make the trucks functional and fun to look at.
By 2014, the business had grown so much that they invested money to build an industrial kitchen in their backyard. That kitchen produces enough gelato to run three trucks at area festivals and, especially, weddings.
But Richardson noticed a trend. People loved gelato at festivals, but at certain kinds of concerts and later in the evening at some weddings, when the adult beverages started to flow, not so much.
“Drunk people don’t buy ice cream,” she said.
So she and Enlow pondered what might appeal to that segment of their market and came up with the wiener wagon. What makes their wieners special, she said, is the spiral cut that lets all the crazy toppings meld with the dog. As many toppings as possible are Kentucky Proud products, she said, and they are hoping to find a Kentucky Proud wiener. They also have regular employees, including Bradford and Faith Lowe, who works in the kitchen.
Both Richardson and Enlow have day jobs. She is self-employed as a legal researcher. He works for a company maintaining and repairing dialysis equipment. But they put in the extra hours because in the not-too-distant future, they hope to retired to Central America, somewhere near the beach.
They’d probably create or move the wiener wagon and do a lunchtime shift during the week. After that, toes in the ocean.
Said Enlow: “That’s the dream.”
If you go
Third Thursday in Paris
A free summer concert series on the lawn of the Bourbon County Courthouse from 5 to 9 p.m. Coming up: Aug. 18, Radiotronic Sept. 15, The Mercy Men.