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A fetching Family Dog

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New hot dog/hamburger place opening in Orono

ORONO It looks like Orono might be going to the dogs.

The Family Dog has opened at 6 Mill Street. This brand-new establishment is bringing top-flight hot dogs and hamburgers to the Orono area. And who doesn't love a good burger or hot dog? After all, there's a reason these two items have remained high on the list of our favorite foodstuffs. But make no mistake, the Family Dog's offerings are far from typical.

Co-owner/operators Keith Manaker and Bob Cutler appear to be the best sort of business partners; they are passionate about this project and driven to build it into a success. The two men met a few months ago and discovered that each of them had a real desire to create a new Orono dining experience.

'I always wanted to own a hot dog place,' said Cutler. 'Something small. [And] Keith always wanted to open a gourmet burger joint. We met and started talking and realized that the two ideas had a lot of similarities. You put a lot of the same things on hot dogs and hamburgers.'

And thus was born a partnership.

'I love burger joints, I love dog joints,' Manaker said. 'I mean, I'll drive somewhere for that sort of thing.'

It soon became clear to the two men that they were on the same page.

'It was definitely a shared vision,' Cutler said. 'We agreed on a lot of things. Everything has been a collaborative effort between Keith and I.'

Of course, no restaurant can survive much less thrive without quality menu offerings.

'I'm very intense about food,' said Manaker. 'Even if it's just a burger, it needs to be great. When I ask someone how the food was, I don't want to hear good.' I want to hear awesome.' And I want people to know that it's great.'

There are certainly a lot of options from which to choose. Just about anything that you might want on a burger, hot dog or chicken sandwich is available. Specialty styles include the Blue Lacey (chili, bacon bits, crispy onions and cheddar cheese), the Akita (grilled pineapple, spicy Thai coleslaw) and the American Dingo (Chipotle barbecue sauce, bleu cheese and bacon slaw).

You can also get classic hot dog offerings such as the Coney Island Dog, the Macaroni and Cheese Dog, the West Virginia Dog and of course, the Chicago Dog. All of these will feature Vienna Beef hot dogs.

'Vienna Beef is the premier hot dog,' said Cutler. 'We are the only restaurant in Maine that serves these dogs.'

'No respective joint in Chicago would serve anything but Vienna Beef,' added Manaker. 'We're the only ones who can say we have a [real] Chicago dog. And every dog has to look just right; we've got a poster [of a Chicago Dog] up and [Cutler] insists that every one has to look just like it.'

Of course, ambiance is almost as important as the food when it comes to a restaurant. It's a casual, kick-back kind of atmosphere very family-friendly. Of course, accessibility to students is important to the success of any Orono eatery, and to that end, the Family Dog will feature a late night menu Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m.

In addition, in the coming weeks, Manaker and Cutler are looking forward to building what they're calling a 'Family Dog Wall of Fame,' inviting customers to send in pictures of their own family dogs.

'E-mail us your dog pictures and we'll put them up on the wall,' said Manaker.

There are few things better than a well-prepared hot dog or hamburger. But there's no need to take my word for it head to the Family Dog and you'll see for yourselves.

The Family Dog is open from 11 a.m. 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. For more information, visit thefamilydogorono.com or find them on Facebook.

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