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willy dog hot dog cart

We always like to learn more about our winners.  The man behind our 2014 Hot Dog Vendor of the Year, Jim Bontaine has a story to tell.

It’s funny how a disagreement with an employer can completely change your life.  For some, it means joining the local police force, for others it means taking a step away from corporate life to be your own boss.  It was this decision that led him to take ownership of the Willy Cart, now lovingly known as the Willy Dog.

Jim started in the food service business when he was young.  He spent summers working at his family-owned a trailer park in Cayuga grilling hot dogs and burgers every Sunday.  While his dad worked in Toronto during the week, he and his mother ran Conway Park.  Jim did a bit of everything.

After his father’s passing, they gave up the park and Jim held sales and management jobs in a variety of places.  All of that experience taught him how to run his own business… And I know the students of McMaster are happy his path brought him to Hamilton, Ontario.

He started with one cart outside of a local beer store on Dundurn Street twenty years ago.  He quickly branched out seeking nighttime locations, eventually expanding to 4-6 bars weekly at night, while maintaining his day spots.  He got to know the students in town and upon their requests; Jim explored a spot on campus.  After a brief negotiation, his on-campus location was approved in November 2003.

Jim and his staff have rarely missed a day in the last 10 years.  In his time on campus he’s gotten to know the McMaster students, worked to raise funds for their organizations, and become a part of the fabric of the community.  In fact, the Art Gallery of Hamilton requested Willy Dog at the wedding reception on behalf of their clients, students that met while getting their ever-present, always delicious hot dogs.

Students at McMaster can study a variety of degrees, but Jim always reminds the students to “Study Dogology this term” on all of his promotional fliers.  He was even approved by a university committee to have an authentic maroon Mac jacket made up with the Willy Dog logo on the arm, “Dogology 101” on the back indicating his inaugural year of 2003 on campus.  This jacket is a source of pride for Jim and his place in the McMaster community.

Jim sees many of the same students week after week.  To cater to McMaster’s international student and faculty clientele, Jim has added all sorts of toppings to his offerings.  Willy Dog’s customer favorites are ketchup, onions, crushed BBQ chips and Sriracha sauce.  Some recent additions are cilantro chutney and tamarind hot ‘n spicy date chutney.  The variety of toppings on his all beef, halal chicken and veggie dogs keeps his menu exciting for his customers.  When Jim isn’t on campus, he can be found with an extended menu catering private events or with his Willy Dog Cart in many of Hamilton’s special events, such as the Super Crawl in September.

Jim has been able to build a great business, one in which he takes great pride.  “This business isn’t for everyone,” he says.  “Don’t expect overnight to suddenly make money.”  The responsibilities of owning your own business are challenging, let alone the long hours of standing and the weather.  After speaking with Jim, it sounds like none of that bothers him.  His students and his involvement in Hamilton constantly energize him.

What’s next for Jim and Willy Dog?  He’s so excited about the food truck industry and considering expanding onto four wheels.  He’s also got his sights set on a takeout location in the west end of Hamilton.  It looks like the students of McMaster and the people of Hamilton have let this entrepreneur grow and thrive.  We’re always happy to support those visionaries that build their empire, especially when it’s one delicious hot dog at a time.

willy dog hot dog cart

Do you like hot dogs?  With more than 45 percent of the 5,000 votes cast in our recent poll, it’s apparent that Hamilton, Ontario loves the Willy Dog Hot Dog Cart!  We are proud to announce that they are Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 HOT DOG VENDOR OF THE YEAR.

We are happy to celebrate this great news with Jim Bontaine, the owner of the Willy Dog Cart.  He’s made McMaster University his year-round home rain or shine and the students deserve a huge shout out!  They overwhelmingly supported Bontaine and his hot dog creations.  That’s the type of news that keeps us interested in the mobile food community.  The community!

To accommodate his diverse student clientele, he’s created over 30 toppings for his dogs.  There’s something for everyone from every corner of the globe to cover your veggie, beef or halal chicken dog.

As the Spring term starts, we wonder what the future holds for this McMaster University institution.  Will we see more colorful carts around town?  Will there be over 40 toppings by Fall term?  Whatever comes next, we can’t wait!  All we know is that Bontaine and Willy Dogs will be there to serve the best hot dog dishes!  Based on Willy Dog lovers, we think a road trip is in order to try as many of those creative toppings on every dog.  We heard there would be a riot if he ran out of barbeque chips!  Hmmm…  I’ll leave my pitchfork at home and bring extra napkins with my appetite.

Rounding out our top 5 Hot Dog Vendors of the Year are: 

2. Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs – Buffalo, NY – 30%

3. American Wiener – Tampa, FL – 14%

4. Short Leash Hot Dogs – Phoenix, AZ – 4%

5. Good Dog Hot Dogs – Houston, TX – 3%

Hungry for more?

We’ll take a deeper look into Willy Dog in a feature article later this week.

In our quest to keep our readers up to date with the latest stories relating to the food truck industry has compiled a list of the stories that hit the wire this weekend from Boston, Hamilton, Washington DC and Durham.

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January 25

Local food truck trend goes into overdrive – BOSTON, MA – Come April, the city will have 56 trucks dishing food across Boston neighborhoods, up from just 15 when the city first cautiously kicked the tires of the trend in July 2011. Food trucks are coming to new parts of the city, including East Boston, Roxbury, and Charlestown, and those locations that started with one truck now have three or more, bringing a diverse mix of cuisines and cultures to the streets of a city once famous for its parochial tastes.

Trucks across the city now serve ­everything from Southern comfort food to Asian barbecue. The trend has become so popular that local truck chefs have their own food festivals and cooking contests, and some operators are even opening their own brick-and-mortar restaurants. Meantime, there is a growing network of businesses such as truck repair and emergency staffing to support them.

Find the entire article <here>

Gorilla Cheese partners split up – HAMILTON, CANADA – One of Hamilton’s glowing business success stories is turning into a messy divorce.

The partners behind the popular Gorilla Cheese food truck have split, leaving the future of the business in doubt and debt.

“We intended this to be an amicable divorce, but as with any divorce things are starting to get complicated,” said Graeme Smith, who with Scott and Susan Austin, started the wildly popular food truck business in July 2011.

“Now we’re in a state of day-to-day trying to get by.”

Find the entire article <here>

January 26

Food truck will deliver message of Mideast peace – WASHINGTON DC – Make way for the Peace Truck.

Moustafa M. Soliman, a 76-year-old Egyptian American author and activist, wants to spread the message of attainable peace between Arabs and Jews with a food truck that serves kosher eats from one window and halal treats from another.

Find the entire article <here>

January 27

Food trucks emblem of Durham’s ‘D.I.Y. District’ – DURHAM, NC – Chef Stacey Grisham said he was a little concerned about cold weather Sunday, but he needn’t have been.

“It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day,” he said at about noon, as he and more than 30 other vendors were opening for business at the food-truck rodeo in Durham Central Park.

The Refectory Cafe, where Grisham is head chef, was making its first appearance at a food-truck rodeo on the cool, but sunny, afternoon.

Find the entire article <here>

You may have missed it, but the mobile food industry is growing faster than anyone would have guessed two years ago. It can be difficult to keep up with the new trucks and carts as they pop up throughout the country. Because of this, Mobile Cuisine assists our readers weekly by posting the names and information about these trucks, so if they happen to be in your area, you can begin to follow them, or at least keep any eye out for them on the roads and cart pods.

Southern Gourmasian
The Southern Gourmasian can be found on the streets of Little Rock, AR

Columbus, OH


Twitter: @rueben_esque

The little food trailer that COULD!!!

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

Lucky Ducky Dogs

Twitter: @LuckyDuckyDogs

Lucky Ducky Dogs Food Truck – Fun With Meat! Fresh artisan bread (not hot dog buns) provide the pillow for our gourmet sausages and delicious toppings.



Twitter: @PompeiiDFW

Serving classically modern Italian cuisine all over the DFW Metroplex.


Hamilton, Ontario

The Meatball Shoppe

Twitter: @meatballshoppe

Canada’s First Gourmet Meatball Truck Hitting the Streets in Summer 2012


Little Rock, AR


Twitter: @phillystogo

Serving authentic Philly style cheesesteaks all around Arkansas. Follow me to see where I will be next!

Southern Gourmasian

Twitter: @SGourmasian

Little Rock Food Truck. The Southern Gourmasian.


Los Angeles, CA

Good Greek Grub

Twitter: @GoodGreekGrub

Bringing Greek street food to the streets of L.A.


Nashville, TN


Twitter: @thetrailerperk

We are a full service coffee, tea & espresso specialty shop on 2 wheels. We serve gourmet lattes, mochas, Signature drinks, ice blended & much more. Go Titans!


Orlando, FL


Twitter: @Wako_taco

Food truck offering modern Mexican food!


‘Wiches & Brew

Twitter: @Wiches_Brew

Mobile food truck featuring handcrafted gourmet sandwiches and sodas.

Philadelphia, PA

Farm Truck

Twitter: @Farm_Truck

Enjoy the seasonal eats and local produce of Farm Truck, a mobile farmers market and restaurant. Soon to be up and running! Founders Eliot Coven & Kris Pepper

Portland, OR

Fiji Indian Curry

Twitter: @fijiindiancurry

Indian Food. Gluten Free,and dairy free curry. Meat and Vegan food. Food Cart Pod on NE Alberta & 23rd.


Reno, NV

Battle Born Truck

Twitter: @BattleBornTruck


Washington DC

Capital Chicken Waffle

Twitter: @CapitalCW

The DC area’s first & only chicken & waffles food truck! Stay tuned for updates, coupons, grand opening details and much, much more! *coming soon*

If you are aware of any new rolling bistros, please let us know so that we can add them to our weekly listing of new food trucks as they hit the streets near you. Email us at MFV@mobile-cuisine.com


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Hamilton, Canada – The push to relax the rules for Hamilton’s food trucks has hit a snag.

Councillors stalled a decision about changes governing the city’s mobile eateries at their meeting Wednesday night, arguing they didn’t know whether those changes would cause unforeseen legal circumstances.

Staff have recommended new rules that would allow food trucks to park as close as 20 metres to fixed-location restaurants. The bylaw as it stands requires food trucks to stay 100 metres from restaurants.

Although that recommendation passed unanimously at the planning committee last week, Councillor Russ Powers introduced an amendment at Wednesday’s meeting that would require food trucks to stay 100 metres away from the borders of the seven business improvement areas in the city that have opposed the bylaw changes.

However, Tim McCabe, the city’s general manager of economic development and planning, said those rules could be even more restrictive than the bylaw in place now. For example, the nearest restaurant could be 400 metres away from the border of a BIA — meaning the food truck could actually be parking 500 metres away from the nearest bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

Ron Sabo, acting city solicitor, said the city can’t legally mandate the location of businesses unless it can legally prove there are consumer protection, health and safety, or nuisance issues.

Councillors ultimately voted to send the issue back to the planning committee for further discussion. Councillors Jason Farr, Bernie Morelli, Sam Merulla and Chad Collins opposed the move.

Find the original article by Emma Reilly at The Spec <here>

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