Go Eat! 'Somewhere, someplace, somebody wants a hot dog'

Go Eat! 'Somewhere, someplace, somebody wants a hot dog'
SEATTLE -- He's known to many as simply "the hot dog guy."

"I truly, honestly, passionately care about what I'm doing," says Dante Rivera, who launched Dante's Inferno Dogs in July of 2000.

"I was thinking, 'Land the cart. The rest will fall into place,'" he says. "I landed the cart, nothing else fell into place. So, it was just me being tenacious, knocking on the door of the Health Department... until I became legitimate and got permitted and launched my operation."

Prior to Dante's Inferno Dogs, Dante owned a juice bar/coffee shop inside the Olympic Athletic Club.

"It provided me with a commissary so that I could launch the hot dog cart," which, at $9,000, was his largest purchase at the time.

His first location was in front of the old Carnegie Library on Market Street. Business wasn't so great.

"No. Not at all. But it was fun and I was enjoying myself."

Since then, Dante's Inferno Dogs has grown to five carts with a thriving catering clientele to boot.

"We are a novel catering company who moonlights outside the bars and at farmers markets, not the other way around," Rivera says. "I really, really enjoy it. Even after ten years, the novelty has yet to wear off."

Last summer, Dante launched his pet project, Snacks Ballard Bodega -- a modern-day mercantile that showcases products from local vendors like Molly Moon's, Skillet and Zane and Zack's.

"Similar to Dante's Inferno Dogs, they have a presence at the Ballard Sunday Market, or markets around town. What I'm providing them is a retail space to sell their goods."

Dante's boyish charm and welcoming smile mask the chaos that's often times going on behind the scenes.

"You're dancing through so many hoops, you're dealing with the Health Department, you're dealing with employees; and not just the employees, but you're dealing with their boyfriends, girlfriends, moms, dads, scheduling -- there's a lot of work that goes into it. You're on your feet, you're dealing with the public. It's an exercise in patience and tolerance."

As one of Seattle's original street food vendors, Dante's Inferno Dogs epitomizes the allure of the mobile cart:

"It's the waiting in line, it's the smell of the dog grilling up in the sauteed onions, it's chit-chatting with the vendor, it's the vendor getting to know your name. It's the whole street experience."

You can find Dante's Inferno Dogs in Ballard, Fremont, U-Village and just about anywhere else a hungry crowd awaits.

"Somewhere, someplace, somebody wants a hot dog. It's my job to find them."

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