CEDAR RAPIDS — Heather Waingrow was a professional truck driver for 15 years before an accident in August 2017 almost took her life.
She’s had nine surgeries since then and has post-traumatic stress disorder from the fateful day another truck driver crashed into her parked semi in Illinois.
She’s still recovering, with at least one more surgery to go, but she finally feels able to look forward; the Cedar Rapids woman is starting a new chapter as the owner of Happy Dogs and More, a restaurant she opened Oct. 9 on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids.
“I’ve struggled very hard. I feel accomplished. I feel like I’ve done something with myself,” she said. “It feels good to feel like I’ve persevered after being so down and out for two years.”
She took over the location formerly occupied by another hot dog eatery, Bigg Daddy’s Dogs and More. When she heard the space was up for sale, she jumped at the opportunity.
“They left on a Monday, and I reopened the next Tuesday,” she said.
A meal at Happy Dogs includes a hot dog, burger or sandwich with a drink and onion rings or streak fries. Customers can add toppings like sauerkraut, jalapenos and chili and cheese to their hot dogs for no extra charge. The menu also features items like friend pickles and mushrooms, shrimp and chicken wings, plus root beer floats and apple pie for dessert. On Sunday mornings, they serve breakfast, with eggs, hash browns, bacon, biscuits and gravy and other staples.
“I wanted to focus on gourmet hamburgers and especially hot dogs, where families can afford to eat,” Waingrow said. “It’s all cooked fresh, all made to order.”
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She said she was inspired by restaurants like Steak and Shake and A&W, which she remembers going to as a kid. She saw a chance to fill a comfort food-centric and nostalgic niche.
“We don’t have a lot of places like that. It’s comfort food. That’s all it is, comfort food,” she said. “And there aren’t many hot dog places around in Cedar Rapids.”
This summer, she hopes to add a drive-through. For now, customers can dine in the restaurant, which has red booths and drawings by children on the wall, or they can order for delivery. Waingrow said they do their own delivery rather than relying on a service like GrubHub or DoorDash. She also does catering.
Her general manager Cyndi Noyer suggested the restaurant’s name.
“She said, ‘You’re always happy, and you have a lot of dogs,’” Waingrow said with a laugh.
She has five small dogs, all of which are emotional support animals that help with her PTSD, she said. They include a rat terrier, a blue merle Chihuahua, a corgi Chihuahua and two teddy bear dogs. The youngest is six months old and the eldest is 16 years.
Originally from Louisiana, she moved to Rowan when she was 15 and went to high school in Clarion. After high school, she got her culinary degree from the National College of Business and Technology in Ohio. She got her commercial driver’s license, driving for CRST, following in family footsteps. Her father, grandfather and uncle were truck drivers.
After her accident, she said she’s glad she had food to fall back on as a career.
“My best friend in Louisiana taught me a lot of Southern ways to cook. I also learned to cook from my grandmother,” she said. “I’ve always loved to cook, loved having family eat at my house on Saturdays, loved cooking big meals.”
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If you Go
• What: Happy Dogs & More
• Where: 2201 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
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• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday (breakfast served 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday only), 11 a.m. until customers are gone Friday and Saturday
• Details: (319) 573-8955, happydogsfoodandmore.com