November 16, 2012
Capitol Dawg will close its doors after lunch on Tuesday

20120531_PK_HOT DOG_0627.jpgThe ever-energetic Mike Brown phoned two hours ago to break the bad news: His popular Midtown restaurant Capitol Dawg will close its doors after lunch on Tuesday.

"I've been trying everything, but we're just not bringing people through the door. We've never cut quality or service, but we can't seem to turn the corner economically," Brown said.

"This hasn't come on suddenly, it's been brewing for a long time. It's been a struggle to keep the doors open and (make) a reasonable profit. (Blame it on) rising food costs combined with years of a struggling economy - including state worker furloughs - and our location."

Capitol Dawg is near the intersection of Capitol Avenue and 20th Street in Sacramento, where a concentration of restaurants compete for diners' dollars. Nearby are Jack's Urban Eats, Waterboy, Mulvaney's B&L, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Rubicon Brewing Company, Paesanos and Zocalo.

Since opening Capitol Dawg four years ago, Brown created 29 styles of wurst (and two luscious pastrami sandwiches), named mostly with local references in mind - the River Dawg, the Tower Dawg, the Mayor Johnson/Kings Dog. Each got its identity from various mixes of toppings, available in a dizzying variety.

Since Day One, he has been passionate about the authenticity and quality of his products. He sourced wurst and buns from a dozen companies in various cities, including San Francisco and Chicago. Toppings were supplied by small purveyors in the United States and abroad.

In June, Brown was awarded the Guinness World Record's title for "World's Most Expensive Hot Dog" for his California Capitol City Dog (pictured). The three-pound sandwich sold for $145.49, with a third of the proceeds from sales benefitting Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Among the toppings on the 18-inch-long custom-made ultra-dog were New Hampshire double-smoked bacon marinated in maple syrup, and moose cheese from a small farm in Sweden.

"How many people are going to travel 7,000 miles and actually meet the moose that made the milk that made the cheese?" he said at the time. "We walked out in two feet of snow to pet her."

Brown said he felt "absolutely saddened, hurt and disappointed" by the closing, but added, "If you measure success by pride of ownership, customer loyalty and the relevance of our business, then I've succeeded. We just couldn't get over the hump."

Brown, who has "other business interests," will put the hundreds of pieces of hot dog-related memorabilia that decorate the restaurant into storage. "I can't think straight right now about all those little pieces I put up on the walls," he said, emotion choking his voice.

Meanwhile, between now and Tuesday afternoon, he said, "As long as we have hot dogs to cook, we'll be making them."

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