Chad Ginther loves to cook, and he is doing much more of it following the recent relocation of his restaurant, Bigg Daddy’s Dogs and More.
The 2,400-square-foot building at 2201 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, represents a major expansion from his previous location. In 2013, Ginther and his wife, Deanna, opened a 782-square-foot eatery in a former service station at 629 12th Ave. SE.
The move to a brick-and-mortar building came five years after Ginther launched his enterprise with a mobile food cart at the corner of Third Avenue and Second Street SE in downtown Cedar Rapids.
“Our business continued to grow over the last five years, and the building didn’t, unfortunately,” Ginther said. “We had been looking for a larger location for more than a year. We had to do some remodeling before we could make the move, including putting in a range hood, but we were ready to open on July 6.”
Bigg Daddy’s sells three varieties of hot dogs — Nathan’s Famous, a New York-style all-beef hot dog; a Chicago Vienna foot-long; and a Chicago Vienna half-pound all-beef 10-inch dog. Ginther expands those basics with a classic chili cheese dog, a Chicago dog and the Southerner, which adds beef brisket, barbecue sauce and onion over a hot dog.
Ginther smokes his own beef brisket for four and a half hours, then bakes it for an additional four hours before slicing it. Hamburgers are handmade from fresh ground beef, and he also makes his own coleslaw, chili and baked beans.
Ginther said some menu items that were available only on certain days have become permanent fixtures.
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“We used to just do ribs or rib tips on Friday, and we are now offering them every day of the week,” he said. “Tenderloins used to be offered only on Tuesday, and we are now offering them — breaded or grilled — every day.”
Bigg Daddy’s is open seven days a week, a departure from the past when it was closed on Sunday.
From a staff of four on 12th Avenue SE, Bigg Daddy’s has grown to 11 employees. Customers order at a counter, take a number and their order is delivered to their table.
While he was ready to expand, Ginther said the larger staff and overhead increases his overall workload and responsibilities.
“There’s so much more to handle,” he said. “I have so many of my longtime customers who are following me, but I’m also concerned about losing customers who came to that area of town.
“We have seating for 50 people, and we are still offering carryout and delivery. We are continuing to do catering, which is very good business. I just had a call from a company wanting food to serve 200 people later this month.”
Ginther’s mother, Cheryl Ginther, who suggested that he set up a mobile food cart in 2008, continues to operate it from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, usually parked at the corner of Third Avenue SE and Second Street SE in downtown Cedar Rapids.
“My mom never wants to give up and grow old,” he said. “She loves the customers and the customers love her. They want their food quick so they can go back to the office or they come over after they have worked out at the MAC and then go back to work. Our customers range from doctors, lawyers and executives to ambulance drivers, firefighters and postal workers.”
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Ginther continues to sell breakfast burritos at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market and many of those customers have become weekend customers at his restaurant.
Ginther entered the food service business with a job at a fast-food restaurant in his teen years.
“My inspiration came from working at the Royal Fork Buffet on Blairs Ferry Road NE,” he said. “I started as a dishwasher, and the owner liked me. He moved me up to line cook, and that’s where I learned to cook and absolutely loved it.”
He then worked for Kum & Go on C Street SW, which was heavily damaged by the Floods of 2008 and ultimately demolished.
“I was moved to different stores to help out and was offered a position at a Kum & Go in Watford City, N.D. I wasn’t ready to leave a town of 100,000 people for town of 2,000 people,” he said. “That’s when I took my mother’s suggestion and opened the mobile food cart. I started out making $50 to $70 a day while the downtown area was rebuilding. Over the years, sales have gone up steadily with more people moving, hustling and bustling.”
If you go
What: Bigg Daddy’s Dogs
Where: 2201 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Details: (319) 573-8955, biggdaddydogs.com