published on July 6, 2018 - 4:30 PM
Written by Edward Smith

Rocket Dog Brats and Brew has signed a lease for Manchester Center’s food court once it is completed.

Rocket Dog is looking at moving in during the first quarter of 2019 into the food court, according to Rocket Dog co-owner Sarah Lisitsin.

In an interview last year with The Business Journal, general manager Morel “Moe” Bagunu of the Manchester Mall said the marketplace will have 20 food vendors sharing 50,000-square-feet of space. Local eateries will take center stage, including Green Family Grill, Smokin’ Burrito, Yummyz Street Treats and Southern Twist, he added.

While most of the public offices, including the Fresno Police Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles, will occupy the second story, the restaurants will take the space below as part of an on-going renovation, according to Lisitsin.

Part of the aim of the food court will be to feature homegrown brands. It will be “an artisan concept where we are using nothing but local restaurateurs,” said Bagunu in the interview.

The location will be the third for the restaurant that serves a revolving menu of craft beers and gourmet hot dogs.

The first one near Shaw and Blackstone avenues opened in September 2015 and a new location opened in January on the northeast corner of Willow and Nees avenues.

At this point, moving in is completely reliant on the mall’s timeframe, but Lisitsin has said that once it’s done, the move-in will be easy and that mall ownership has been very cooperative addressing their individual needs.

Like most food court restaurants, all they’ll need is a kitchen to serve people. Patrons will have far more space than they do at either of the other restaurants to enjoy some of the more artisanal hot dogs, of which Lisitsin says, “You’re not supposed to eat this in your car.”

She anticipates 10-15 people working at the location, of whom management will draw from their more experienced staff at other locations before hiring to fill those vacated positions.

Unlike a lot of other places people can get hot dogs, Rocket Dog Brats and Brew serves their franks with a fork and knife.

One of their more popular menu items is the Napa Dog — a sweet chicken sausage on a toasted baguette with house-made fig onion jam made right in-store using Fresno State wine. It’s topped with fresh basil, crumbled goat cheese and a balsamic reduction.

Alongside the dogs, Rocket Dog serves craft beer. With the Napa Dog, Lisitsin suggests pairing a lighter, sweeter brew like the Red Trolley ale, which she says has a good flavor but won’t overpower the flavor profile.

Besides frankfurters, Rocket Dog also has salads and sandwiches.

The idea for Rocket Dog Brats and Brew came when her business partners, husband-and-wife team Bethany and Gary Hsia, came from Malawi and wanted to develop a steady source of income outside of their veterinarian practice to help support their work in Africa.

So, over a casual conversation, Bethany and Gary partnered with Lisitsin and her husband, Kevin, to create an original restaurant.

Gary runs the numbers and looks at locations while Bethany handles human resources and social media. Kevin runs the beer and some of the networking while Sarah develops most of the recipes and decor.

The inspiration for the menu began with the beer. “We wanted to ride the wave of craft brew,” Lisitsin said. “It’s established itself as more than a fad.”

They wanted something to complement the brews, but felt that tacos, pizza and other beer-related fare saturated the market. They discussed options, deciding that no other place had “gourmet, over-the-top hot dogs,” as Lisitsin puts it.

“We wanted to strike a balance between comfort and sophisticated expectations people have for their restaurants nowadays,” Lisitsin said.

“A hot dog is a blank canvas that you can make taste like anything,” she said.


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