Dogs that Dare to be Different: Damn Good Dogs
It’s been almost a year since Damn Good Dogs opened their stall at Stock+Grain Assembly, High Point’s food hall, to start serving up gourmet hot dogs with surprising toppings like their signature Damn Good Sauce, blue cheese crumbles, caramelized onions, and more.
But it’s been a decade since Jaquay Williams first had the idea to make a living selling hot dogs. At 22 years old, the New Jersey native was a security guard with a lot of business ideas, but it was a simple hot dog cart that changed the trajectory of his life. One day, walking out of a retail store, Jaquay noticed an older woman selling hot dogs to passerbys out of a simple cart. Intrigued by the idea of such a simple business model, he asked her about the business.
"$500 a day,” Jaquay remembers the woman telling him – that’s how much her cart was pulling in. The more Jaquay researched launching his own hot dog cart, the more signs seemed to point towards dogs. One more driving he heard a radio program where the host asked listeners if they wanted to learn how to make $100,000 in a year. Call it frankfurter intution, but Jaquay had a feeling that the host would say “hot dogs.” He called up Diamond, his now wife, and said:
“If he says hot dogs, we’re going full fledge into hot dogs.” Of course, that’s exactly what the host said. But as Jaquay pursued a career in security and eventually law enforcement as a police officer in Greensboro, NC, the dream of dogs faded into the background. Until 2020. As the world came to a halt, Jaquay began to re-evaluate his future. When his best friend and fellow police officer also decided to open up a crepe food truck, Jaquay decided “this was too many signs.” He had to pursue the dream.
Around $700 later, a homemade hot dog cart launched the start of Damn Good Dogs in August of 2020. But by the end of the year, Jaquay and his brother had constructed a food truck out of an empty trailer, and were taking their damn dogs all over Greensboro.
What makes these dogs so damn good?
“It’s quality over quantity always,” Jaquay says. Having worked in the fast food industry when he was younger, Jaquay remembers the fast-paced, quantity-driven product he saw delivered at chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken. But at his food truck, Jaquay wanted people to be astounded by the quality of his product. It starts with 100% all-beef dogs.
“Other hot dog food trucks would tell me, ‘That’s too expensive. Are you sure you don’t just want to use Sam’s Club hot dogs?’” Jaquay recalls. But his stance on giving his customers a gourmet hot dog experience never wavered.
In addition to the quality, Jaquay brought a whole lot of creativity to the hot dog game. To Jaquay, ketchup and mustard was the least he could do. Instead, he wanted to let his creativity soar, thinking up new varieties to help people experience all the hot dog has to offer.
“No one else is doing blue cheese crumbles and buffalo sauce on a hot dog,” Jaquay teases. Combinations like the classic New Yorker (with sweet onions, sauerkraut, and spicy brown mustard) or the Carolina (homemade chili, coleslaw, diced onions, and mustard), meet more surprising menu items like the Philly Dog (caramelized peppers and onions, cheese, and philly steak). Plus Jaquay is known to offer limited editions of some pretty innovative ideas (like a taco hot dog!).
“Everybody thinks this is what we know that works, and if it works, we're not going to change it,” Jaquay says. “But for me, even though I see it working tremendously, I'm constantly changing things.”
He jokes that his wife, Diamond tells him to stop adding to the menu, but to focus on winning simplicity. But for Jaquay, the freedom to be in charge of the menu’s evolution is his favorite part of the business. Nowadays, there’s a lot more to Damn Good Dogs than just hot dogs. Since moving into his stall at Stock+Grain, Jaquay and Diamond have added to the Damn Good menu, now offering smash burgers, fries, vegan options, and even nachos.
“We should change the name to Damn Good Burgers and Dogs,” Jaquay laughs, noting the burger’s surprising rise in popularity. He says that some people seem “mind boggled” at how good a burger could be from a hot dog shop. But thanks to his consistency in quality, it’s hard to find something that isn’t damn good at DGD.
And while Jaquay would be the first to tell budding restauraunters that owning a shop is hard work, he says he has “zero regrets” in pursuing his passion fully.
“The love I had for it at the beginning changed,” Jaquay said. “I started to get excited to see the looks on people’s faces when they ate my food.”
Learning a new market in High Point and earning customers who already have tried and true hot dog favorites has been a challenge, but one Jaquay is up for. “Making sure the quality stays the same,” and building an atmosphere of family and food at Stock+Grain are some of his priorities now. And who knows, Jaquay says. The DGD food truck may be up and running again soon, and (if he and his wife agree), he’d love to add more items to the menu like chicken wings.
"Everybody doesn’t do hot dogs like I do.”
Jaquay Williams, Owner of Damn Good Dogs
But three things are guaranteed at DGD: gourmet, quality, creativity. It’s those key ingredients that make Jaquay keep working at what he does so well. Even when skeptics told him “everybody does hot dogs,” he was confident that his are something different than the rest.
“Everybody does hot dogs,” Jaquay says, “but everybody doesn’t do hot dogs like I do.”
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team