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Hot Dog Dude Perfects American Tradition

Rain or shine, the Hot Dog Dude is there for commuters at Santa Clara’s Great America Amtrak station, 5099 Stars and Stripes Drive, across from Levi’s Stadium.

Howard Gibbons, dubbed the Hot Dog Dude by students at Santa Clara University, sets up his mobile food cart Monday through Friday in time for the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. commuters. He’s also there on stadium event days.

It hailed on a windy afternoon in February as Gibbons, a native of San Jose, served hot dogs, polish sausages and hot links.

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“It’s a sad day when he’s not here,” said customer Keith Jordon, headed home to Modesto on Amtrak.

“I’m here every day. This is my go-to place,” said Nora Ramos, eating a hot dog at the end of her workday at Levi’s Stadium. “They’re the best dogs. Delicious. I love them. Very good quality.

“You come, eat, get on the train two hours to Stockton. By the time you get home, it’s too late to make dinner,” Ramos explained, adding that Gibbons “is friendly with the customers. He communicates with us.”

“I eat a lot of hot dogs,” said Gibbons. “The best way to tell if a hot dog is good is to eat it plain. If it’s good, just imagine when you heap it up.”

The “Street Dog” with grilled onions and peppers and the “Kraut Dog” with pastrami are big sellers. Standard relishes include sweet onions, vine-ripened tomatoes and sauerkraut from Ohio.

Gibbons had other jobs, from owning a courier company to operating a catering truck with a full kitchen. With the opening of Levi’s Stadium in 2014, his catering truck was forced out.

“To stay in business at Amtrak, I had to downsize to a hot dog cart and get permitted [for that location],” said Gibbons, who also does private and community events such as Santa Clara’s Parade of Champions, street dances and Central Park events. Events are the mainstay of his business.

Gibbons said that being successful in the hot dog business requires attention to food safety and proper prep.

“You can’t make people sick!” he said.

Unlicensed vendors without health permits cut down on his business on event days at Levi’s Stadium. They illegally park their red carts just outside the stadium exits, catching exiting fans before they get to Gibbon’s cart on the other side of the road, where he is licensed to operate. They hide in the bushes if security by chance shows up.

German immigrants to New York City in the late 1800s introduced sausages to America. They sold their “dachshund sausages,” which look like the body of a German Dachshund, from street carts. That’s how the name “hot dogs” caught on.

Immigrants from Frankfurt called their pork sausages frankfurters, shortened to franks. In Vienna (Wien in German), Austria, beef was added to the sausages, and they, like the people of Vienna, were called Wieners. The hot dog bun was an innovation in America.

“The interesting thing about being a hot dog vendor is the people that you meet,” said Gibbons, who recalls meeting former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and soap opera stars.

“Everyone has a story, and I do, too,” he said. “You’re reading it.”

Contact the Hot Dog Man at (408) 705-7351 or email him at CruisingCafes@gmail.com to discuss expanded menus and book him for special events. And listen to The Weenie Man song on YouTube!

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7 Comments
  1. Old Dog needs to learn new tricks 12 months ago
    Reply

    that is nice you wrote an article about this guy but he comes across as a looney at city council always getting into the city council members – he’s under the spell of that pizza guy I fear maybe if he was not under his spell I’d go try one of his dogs and if he stopped beating up on council members …. oh well good thing I pack my own lunch

  2. Shawn roy 12 months ago
    Reply

    I like your hot dogs. I’m grateful that you are at train station. I come in for 49er games and I get a dog to eat right there on the platform letting crowd walk ahead then I get 2 dogs to go for inside of stadium. Your dogs are way better and cheaper than inside stadium. Hot Dog Dude rocks!!

  3. Local 393 12 months ago
    Reply

    Loved those bbq tritip and pulled pork sandwiches you had while the stadium was being built. Brother you kept those crews FED!!! Always a pleasure to grab our dogs before heading in for games. Love that you have stadium approved packaging cuz the dogs I get from you are WAY better and way cheaper than getting my game dog at the stands.

  4. Joseph G 12 months ago
    Reply

    Glad to see the hot dog dude featured here. Best dogs around.

  5. Michelle 12 months ago
    Reply

    Love the polish sausage!

  6. SC Native 12 months ago
    Reply

    I commute from this station plus attend games and buy my dinner from Howard often. What i want to know though is why isn’t the city doing anything about all the other street dog vendors that come out on game day? The Hot Dog Dude is operating on a city permit and passes health and safely inspections. On my way into a game once I saw an unpermitted street dog vendors “relieve himself” in a bush behind his cart then turn right back around and start handling food. Hot Dog Dude has a health permit to sell food. I’ll buy my Hot dogs from him.

  7. Howard Ginbins 11 months ago
    Reply

    I don’t know who this person is because you didn’t use your real name. But I will be at the next council meeting and I’ll save you a seat that way you can tell me in person what you have against me. Where your favorite red shirt that way I can pick you up at the crowd

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