Grand Rapids, Michigan is a one hot dog stand kind of town. I'm not saying that it is a small town. Quite the opposite, in fact - there are several Starbucks in Grand Rapids. But for my entire life the question of where to get great hot dogs has always been answered, Yesterdog. Yesterdog is a simple, anti-chain, hip, local hot dog eatery, but I've seen it run its fair share of hot doggeries out of business.
I was skeptical when I saw Jonny B'z pop up next to the Winchester, not because I thought the food would be bad, but because I doubted that the restaurant would stay in business long enough for me to even visit. Jonny B'z has been in business now for at least half of a year and I've been there four or five times in the last month alone. The hot dogs are great and I expect Jonny B'z to, as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "stick around."
Here's why: Jonny B'z does not pretend to be the local taste of the people. In many ways it is just another hot dog restaurant. It has no single reason for being. It is clear, however, that the hot dogs are inspired by a careful study of the many cultures of dogs across the United States and then some. The hot dogs are flat top grilled and placed in a European-style grilled bun, available Chicago-style, Carolina-style with slaw, Cajun-style with a sausage, or even German-style with kraut. You can get gumbo or even a brisket sandwich there. Whereas Yesterdog is a local delicacy, Jonny B'z is a traveling sideshow of hot dog wonders. What it lacks in a single solitary hot dog identity, it makes up for in diversity.
I haven't had a dog at Jonny B'z that I didn't like. The Jonny Dog, topped with catsup, mustard, pickle, onion and chili is pretty fantastic. The Hampton Meeks is a personal favorite, garnished with mustard, chili and slaw. The Kraut Dog is self explanatory and satisfying, balancing kraut with mustard and onion. The Chicago Dog impressed my girlfriend, a hot dog connoisseur with specialties in Hotdogus chicagosis, a delicacy with mustard, pickles, relish, tomato, onion, sport peppers and celery salt. But if ever there were an uber-dog, it would be the Cajon dog (cleverly mixing "Cajun" and "Jonny"), a spicy sausage available any way you want it. I had a Cajon with the same toppings as the Hampton Meeks and it was quite delicious. The french fries are off the hook, and there are four different flavors of salt that you can use on them, celery, vinegar, bacon cheddar and Mediterranean.
If you're in the neighborhood, make sure you stop by Jonny B'z. Grand Rapids, Michigan is a two hot dog stand kind of town after all.