[image-3]Our latest tally has us at 45+ food trucks popping up in the Charleston area. In addition to the cost of the actual truck (eBay has new trucks listed from $40-100,000 with used trucks starting at $12,000), gas, and renting shared kitchen space, there’s one cost that has no price attached: It’s hotter than Hades inside.

That’s OK for Bearded Dogs food truck owner Zach Platis, though, who moves about comfortably in the stainless steel mobile kitchen (a former Frito Lay truck) parked outside of Tradesman Brewing Co.

Platis relocated to Charleston in September to escape the icy temps and daily humdrum of his old 9-to-5 up north. “I’m a grad of Penn State and spent five years in the business world of Philly and thought, ‘I don’t like the cold, I don’t like sitting behind a desk.’ So I came down here.” [image-4] A permanent ‘out of office’ escape to the Lowcountry is nothing new, but to pursue a hot dog themed food truck?

I’ve always wanted to open up my own business, I’ve been in the restaurant business my whole life,” explains Platis, who started officially operating out of his food truck Tues. July 3. And the dogs? “Everybody loves hot dogs, and there are so many possibilities with what you can put on it.”

Platis’ father is in town for a month helping his son get settled. Platis senior is a veteran restaurateur, having owned and operated more than 12 restaurants. He’s retired now and even though Zach didn’t take him up on the offer to take over any of his three mid-Atlantic restaurants a couple of years ago, George is excited to see where this whole food truck biz goes.

“I don’t want to say I was skeptical,” says George. “But when I got to the commissary, everyone was very nice, and I was pleasantly surprised. There were 15 to 18 trucks there, good quality trucks and food. People have to make a living, and all of these trucks wouldn’t be in business if they weren’t able to support themselves. The business is here.”
[image-2] From festivals to breweries to even office parking lots — Zach says they cooked upwards of 100 dogs outside of a law office recently — there’s a growing home for food trucks in the city. Maybe because it’s convenient — no driving, parking, being seated, all that mess. But mostly, we think, food trucks are booming because they’re fun.

“It’s been an eye-opener for me,” says George. Zach shows me their calendar — keep in mind these guys started slinging at the beginning of July, and they’re already booked up. “The first place we want was Two Blokes, we’ve been to Munkle, we’re lined up for Twisted Cypress, Westbrook, Ghost Monkey. I’ve reached out to all these people, and they’re giving me a shot. That’s all I’m asking for.”

Grab your own dog (the other one) and check out Bearded Dogs at The Barrel this Wed. July 18, National Hot Dog Day, from 5 to 9 p.m. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” notes George. “You can come up to the truck and get a traditional dog with sauerkraut and relish or chili. But you can also order the Hound Dog made with Texas brisket and blueberry barbecue sauce. Or the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, that comes with pita and celery and carrot and is topped with crab dip.”

Might we suggest the Bill Murray, made with sport peppers, spicy relish, shrimp, pickle, and crispy onion ($8). All the dogs are under eight buckaroos and come with a heaping portion of hot, hand-cut fries. If you’re not a meat eater, order as many fries as you can — it’s like a trip to the Boardwalk without the gulls. And for the event at the Barrel, four percent of the truck’s sales will go to the Charleston Animal Society. Hot diggity dog.