When you think of beer and hot dogs, you think of indulgent, heavy, cheat meals, right? Brewz n Dawgz is now here to change every preconceived notion you have of this food by offering guilt free and no junk dawgz. Guilt free dawgz may sound like a dream for some of us but we assure you this is reality at Brewz n Dawgz. Owners Roger Lim and Samantha DiTusa and their chef, Krystopher Ramos, have designed a restaurant and menu that offers gourmet dawgz free of gmos, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, and nitrates. Not only that, they’re serving them up in a casual environment designed to let their customers relax and enjoy themselves. This is clearly a very unique restaurant in St. Augustine, so prior to our Food Adventure we wanted to sit with Roger and Krys and learn more about the talent behind this growing restaurant.
“Brewz n Dawgz is self explanatory,” Roger began. “We serve beer and hot dogs but we do it well. We have all Florida drafts, 120 bottles of beer, wine, champagne and mead. Everything that we do here for food is as clean as possible. We use organic if possible, but otherwise we use non-GMO ingredients with no preservatives, no antibiotics, no hormones, and no nitrates. It’s just food. We do the whole clean food movement and we do it well.” Brewz n Dawgz has only been open for 6 months, but they have already created quite a buzz around St. Augustine with their choice to only use clean ingredients in their food. We actually heard about them at another Food Adventure back in September and tried them shortly after they opened. We loved each of our meals. During the dinner, each of us kept exclaiming “Wow, isn’t this the best ketchup you’ve ever had?” “Oh! This spinach is delicious!” and so on. The freshness of the food is so evident in every bite that even those who may not normally love vegetables on their hot dogs will fall in love with the toppings at Brewz n Dawgz.
Roger and Samantha knew when they moved to St. Augustine from Jacksonville Beach that they wanted to open a restaurant, that it was just a matter of timing. Beer and clean eating was at the forefront of their decision making process, and the dawgz were designed out of the lack of healthy casual food for them on their own trips to dine out. Fun fact: Hot dogs are actually the #2 selling food in America, and beer is the #1 selling liquid in America so this natural pairing came together. Roger laughed and told us, “Everyone knows that hot dogs are terrible for you. So we wanted the chance to change their minds. We wanted to create an awareness as far as nutrition and diet, sustainability, and the whole farm to table concept. The goal was to actually have a good place to drink, eat, hang out and be social and not feel bad about it. A quality environment was important as well.”
When their original kitchen manager fell through, Roger put up an ad on Craigslist that was answered by Krys. Krys had been cooking since he was ten years old. His family is from Puerto Rico and they owned a bodega, which resulted in Krys being put into the kitchen early to learn skills from his family. He followed his life experience with attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York, then came back down to St. Augustine a few years ago. Krys worked in several kitchens but couldn’t quite find the right environment that he was looking for to create a long term home. Krys explained, “I wanted to be part of a family, not a corporation and being just a number in the book. Finding this opportunity has been perfect for me. We grow as a family, we communicate, I’m not just a person getting a paycheck.” Roger added, “All our ideas came together as a team and family. Everyone’s opinion counts and everyone’s opinion matters. I’ve been in the business for 20 years, so I know that the people in the forefront who deal with the daily ins and outs of the business know what it needs. Everything can be done better so we know input is the best way to grow.”
Roger and Krys worked together to develop the menu for Brewz n Dawgz, and still utilize their team work to come up with specials and menu revisions. “I’ve cooked everything”, Krys told us, “I have a passion for food in general, it doesn’t matter what it is.” That passion has led to the development of some very gourmet dawgz on the staple menu. Krys told us, “We try to go above and beyond. Our hot dogs aren’t just on a bun. Our Cuban Dawg is pressed. Our Slaw Dawg has a ridiculous amount of slaw on it and they taste delicious. Everything is farm to table. Everything is made in house.” Roger added, “Our chili is made in house. Our dogs are from a reputable source. Our slaw is made daily, it doesn’t sit. Our food is constantly shifting because it’s organic. You can taste the crisp freshness of everything. People who come here for lunch – a lot of times they go to a usual spot and then they go to their cubicles and they’re lethargic and tired because the processed ingredients take a toll on your body. They come back here and tell us that our food doesn’t make them feel that way. We offer the comfort food and the tastes you know as comfort food but there is no bad stuff. Our beef is grass fed, all humanely raised. We recycle here. We are a sustainable establishment.”
The current menu boasts 10 types of pre-designed dawgz with meat plus a build your own option. Of those menu items, the most popular are the Rhode Island Dawg, the Spicy Dawg (spicy italian sausage, jack cheese, jalapenos, and spicy ranch), and the Cuban Dawg (pork brat in a pressed bun with swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles). The Breakfast Dawg is also a top seller, served on a buttered bun with bacon, a perfectly fried egg, and hash fries. They also have daily rotating specials with a new option every day for the regulars to enjoy. But come early, Krys and Roger shared with us that the specials always sell out because they’re creative and unique. Surprisingly, 25% of Brewz n Dawgz business is vegetarian or vegan. This was unexpectedly higher than Roger thought it would be. Roger explained, “Everything we offer is about quality, we don’t skimp on wine because we aren’t a wine place. We don’t skimp on vegetarian because we have meat.” One of the most unique items on their menu is their “Eh, What’s Up Dawg?” which is a 24 hour marinated carrot dawg grilled and topped with sauerkraut and datil pepper hot sauce. Krys told us, “I had carrot dogs previously and I thought it was a good option to have. Everyone kept asking for carrot dogs, it was our second most requested item. We marinate it in beer for 24 hours.” Roger also said, “It’s bizarrely good, I hate carrots but this is awesome. Nine out of ten times we are told we have the best carrot dog they have ever had. I thought it was good but what do I know? I hadn’t ever had one before!” In addition to the carrot dawg they also offer a garden dawg and a vegan beer brat with plenty of customization options available for toppings. The vegan and vegetarian options add a whole different element to the Brewz n Dawgz customer service that is unexpected and refreshing. The movement for options for dietary needs is slow moving, and Brewz n Dawgz is ahead of the game with their menu designed extensively for just about any dietary need. Gluten free? No problem. Food allergies? Easily accomodated. Brewz n Dawgz is a safe haven for diners who otherwise would have few choices and also the added stress of hoping it’s prepared correctly.
Furthering that discussion, Roger said, “We’re out of our element as far as St. Augustine right now, but in 3-5 years this will be the norm. Eating clean, sustainable, and local will be everywhere. If we were in a major metropolitan we’d be one of ten restaurants that do this. But right now, we know we are offering a great thing, a great environment, a great product. We have a new menu coming out in May that will be expanded with sliders and a few salads to add some variety to the menu. We are going to switch out some of the dogs with the specials that people constantly ask for and make them staple items. We needed to make sure our core concept was solid and got out to the masses, and now we’ve done that.” We knew on our first step in the door six months ago that this restaurant was unique. That was solidified as we sat down, played a few brutal rounds of Battleship on one of the board games left around the restaurant, and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and superior customer service. This is a common reaction as well, Roger told us, “People sit here and play games for hours. So many people have met each other here. The food is part of that, really the center of that. We have tons of regulars with our location. A lot of people support us and bring their family – mom, pop, and grand kids. It’s so rewarding for us.”
Brewz n Dawgz is growing and innovating. Roger and Krys know that to be different they have to develop a plan to bring their regulars back time and time again. And they have. They’ve created a 99 Bottle Beer Club with 99 bottles of beer to try. The result of finishing is your name on the wall and a t-shirt. They have also developed a Dawg Challenge as well. It consists of a monster dawg that the customer tries to finish. So far, no one has conquered that challenge. Once someone does they will have an established time and the next person not only has to finish the dawg, but beat the time of the previous winner. The environment at Brewz n Dawgz is constantly fun and exciting. It’s a place comfortable enough to visit several times a week and with the daily new offerings and the soon to be expanded menu it’ll be even easier to be a regular. Brewz n Dawgz is special. It’s rare to find an environment this comforting with affordable food that is incredibly healthy. They’re truly a gift to St. Augustine and we know that they will be the cornerstone of the clean eating movement in our city in the years to come.