Backstory: Dog Day Afternoons

Joe’s Grilled Gourmet Dogs is back in business.

By Rob Smith

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June 4, 2021

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Perhaps the most beloved vendor on the mall next to Seattle’s professional sports stadiums is back in action.

Joe Bernstein has operated Joe’s Grilled Gourmet Dogs for more than two decades. The pandemic sent his business into a tailspin and he was a man without a stand last year.

He returned on opening day for the Seattle Mariners, and he uttered his signature catchphrase, “Would you look at the size of this one?” for the first time in more than a year on April 1.

Bernstein is no ordinary vendor. He’s a celebrity who chats up customers and they become his friends. He keeps in touch with customers around the world, from Germany to Australia. His customers even started a GoFundMe page to help him pay his hot dog stand’s rent.

“It’s hard to explain the relationship I have with my customers,” Bernstein says. “No. 1 is the product. No. 2 is service. It’s that simple.”

He took a job as a cashier and clerk at the South Hill Costco last year and plans to keep it. Customers immediately recognized him. One even began jumping up and down while Bernstein was bagging groceries, yelling, “That’s my hot dog guy!” He works from 3 a.m. to noon every day and then drives into the city to sling the tastiest hot dogs in the alley. He was voted Costco’s employee of the month last July and was also named employee of the year.

He’s just as creative with his recipes as he is with his schedule. Check out the popular peanut butter and maple syrup dog. Or get the Seattle dog with cream cheese and caramelized onions.

Joe Bernstein is back in business.

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