Japa Dog has become a mainstay of downtown Vancouver’s food scene since Noriki Tamura began selling his trademark Japanese fusion hot dogs at the corner of Burrard and Smithe streets six years ago. Now Tamura is ready to expand his brand beyond the confines of the West Coast city, and realize his dream of taking on the seasoned vendors of New York City. “People from around the world come to the Big Apple to achieve their dreams,” Tamura wrote in an email to Maclean’s. “We want to achieve our dream—to become the number one hot dog business in the world.”
Japa Dog, which sells its goods from street carts and indoor restaurants, specializes in hot dogs that take on distinct characteristics of Japanese cuisine. Customers can gorge on edamame-stuffed bratwurst for $5. There are also all-beef hot dogs topped with soy or teriyaki sauce, bonito fish flakes and a special Japanese mayo. Most of the ingredients, aside from the buns and meat, are imported from Japan. Tamura is always hard at work on new East-meets-West culinary fusions, sampling new combinations in an effort to expand the menu. “Sometimes, I eat 10 sausages a day,” he says. Vancouverites can’t get enough. He’s hoping Manhattanites will feel the same way.
The first-ever Japa Dog location outside Vancouver is set to open in New York’s East Village by early December. Next, Tamura hopes to take the brand across Canada, into Los Angeles, Hawaii and, eventually, Asia—but only if things go well in New York. Tamura, for one, has no doubt New Yorkers will fall for his unique take on street meat. “Nobody beats our hot dog,” he says. “I believe 300 per cent.”