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Man Bites Dog: Buddha Dog's Tasty Paradox

Posted by Frank / Listed on August 23, 2007 / review policy

There's a particularly stubborn old Zen koan in which a young pupil asks his master whether a dog can indeed posses Buddha-nature. The master (in typical zen obliquity) implies that the question itself must be unasked for any wisdom to be attained.

This pseudo-mystic morsel offers a useful bit of question begging distraction while awaiting your order from the grill of this pleasantly Scandinavian-decored Roncesvalles satellite of the much loved Picton wiener shop (and it takes a ponderously long time for my order to arrive which is surprising since my Friday night visit sees me the only patron in the place).

So then, just what is the nature of a Buddha dog?

That they're tiny is obvious. That they're surprisingly tasty may shock some.

The wieners themselves ($2 each) are locally sourced and roughly 4" long-- apparently a marketing ploy aimed at giving kids just enough to satisfy them and grown-ups a bit of variety to mix and match flavours (pimp your wiener with cheese and sauce upgrades at $.25 a pop). Y'know the tapas trend has truly exhausted itself when even hot dog joints are jumping on the 'small plates' bandwagon.
Your Buddha dogs (trust me, you'll want more than one...possibly more than three) then get grilled on a panini press--first solo and then along with the bun to melt the cheese and create a nice variety of textures: the hallmark 'snap' of the dog plays well off the soft crispiness of the bun, and the assortment of homemade condiments.

My three dogs come dressed with: brie and red pepper jelly (Friday being brie day, as if you didn't know); jalapeno jack and beef chili; and smoky ketchup and old cheddar.

Oddly enough the standout is the brie and red pepper jelly dog; the musty creaminess of the brie and sweet savouriness of the jelly enhance the wiener's natural spice allowing a tiny package to pack a surprising flavour punch. The ketchup and old cheddar dog is tasty but unremarkable and the chili and jalapeno jack dog gives an example of too many intense flavours undermining the experience by competing with each other.

No doubt eating that much tubesteak can work up a thirst which can easily be slaked with a bottle of Buddha dog's deliciously sweet and tart 'Pucker-up' lemonade (also available in a strawberry infusion for $2.50 each) a near perfect drink for a humid summer afternoon.

The novelty of grabbing some tasty, locally sourced 'artisan' hot dogs on a day trip out to Picton would appeal to most foodies getting ready to jump into their 's' class for the long ride home but expecting people to jump on the subway for those same dogs is another thing entirely. Buddha dog isn't close enough to the action to appeal to the apres-club crowd who's taste buds are so dampened with spirits they could care less about how gourmet their dogs are (Buddha dog closes around 8 so it's a moot point anyway). And as gourmet as the dogs are, it's hardly a place for an anniversary dinner or a foodie destination.

Don't get me wrong, these dogs are very tasty, the problem lies in the fact that i'm not sure the hotdog by nature was ever in need of an apotheosis-- especially not to the tune of $12 or so with a drink. So as flavourful as the dogs were it's hard to imagine a return visit being high on anyone's dining list.


Buddha Dog Hours:
Monday - Saturday: 11-7
Sundays & Holidays: 11-6



Jack / August 25, 2007 at 04:52 pm
What the heck a meat-oriented restaurant run by a couple of WASPs is doing calling itself "Buddha Dog"? That alone is enough to make me stay away.
Debbie / August 26, 2007 at 07:29 am
Yum, tiny food -- sounds right up my alley. The brie and red pepper jelly dog sounds especially appealing!
TEM / August 30, 2007 at 07:55 pm
In a nutshell, this place sucks! My husband, daughter and I just returned from a trip to Picton and visited the Buddha Dog restaurant and to say we were disappointed is truly an understatement. Here we have a place specializing in hot dogs and when we received our orders my husband and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The wieners were so tiny that I swear it took me just three bites to finish mine. The bun's were cold and tasteless. And both my husband and I ordered the chili con carne choice and it was so sparse that we had to lift up the wiener to see if there was anything underneath it. My husband left the place is disgust but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt so ordered another one, this time the caramelized onion flavor. Yet another disappointment! Even my two year old spat her's out and the lemonade, in my opinion, tasted really weird.

Overall, we found this place to be utterly pretentious and the fact that each individual hotdog is "cheap" is not a good enough reason to go back. You would need at least three or four which would put you back minimum $6-8 and at the end of the day, you probably would not be satisfied at all. It works in Picton because they get a lot of one-time tourist customers who don't know any better like ourselves, but I honestly can't imagine this place lasting in T.O.

As the saying goes, much ado about nothing....get some street meat instead!


mc / September 7, 2007 at 11:49 am
I love Buddha Dog, I have gone there near weekly since they have opened in TO and I love it even more. It is beautifully simple: a hot dog, a gourmet sauce (one of around 10) and a gourmet cheese (3-4). There are hundreds of combinations, each different and delicious I?d imagine ? I intend to try them all. You can also get fresh cool salads and seasonally amazing soups in Picton. They know and LOVE their product and are very proud of it; it?s Ontario, it?s local and it?s fresh and it?s all about a small and flavour filled meal where each dog is as unique as a course at a fancy restaurant. People in the city are daily spending 3-4 bucks on the same bland latte everyday when for less these little dogs can BLOW you mind for taste. It?s like wine tasting for snack lovers. Vegetarian? If you actually talk to them they are actively hunting for a deluxe veggie dog, I?ve heard them talk to a few customers about this. And ?Buddha? does not equal vegetarian, that?s a pretense, think of it rather as culinary enlightenment, fresh simple prajna. I?ve been at the Picton store when one of the local farmers comes in to update them on the daily availability of sauce ingredients ? Prince Edward County, the best agricultural pocket in the province funneled into each little Buddha dog, that?s how real and good they are - this is not just some gimmick. Sure they are a bit pricey when you grab 3 with sauce and cheese and a drink but this is real food we?re talking about? there is a time and a place for street meat and this is not street meat. Are you going to complain walking down the ever-growing and more expensive organic isle in the grocery store? And as for pretentious - come on, they?re not at all, it?s a start up rural business between friends showcasing independent producers in a unique part of the province starting up in a rough big city neighborhood. But I can?t blame someone for being suspicious, I mean it?s Toronto, the city is fraught with pretentious people in pretentious restaurants in fancy neighborhoods looking for a cheap meal. Get something real and new and good and go to Buddha Dog. Enjoy each bite with your eyes closed; it?s that kind of meal. I just hope they change the city instead of the city changing them.
Rob / September 10, 2007 at 08:11 pm
I think the comments above missed the point.

The fooides of Picton believe in organic food and what not, and have created a hot dog that is not the traditional 'lips and a$$holes' dog. It's not cheap, and it's not for everyone. If you appreciate delicate flavors, and want something new, this is a great product. If you want your ball game hot dog, then hit the street vendor.

I tried them and loved them.
James / September 13, 2007 at 05:01 pm
This was the most infuriating experience I have ever had in a restaurant. Bad service, bad food, bad prices. Bad bad bad. I hope they go out of business, it's an embarassment to my neighbourhood and I know a lot of people who feel the same way.
Brian / September 15, 2007 at 12:00 am
Sorry but the dogs are tiny and <b>way</b> over priced. They are not at all juicy, nor are they exciting in any way. And where is the basic mustard? No where to be found - they are too pretentious to offer hot dogs' best topping.

How do I really feel?

1) They are an <b>insult</b> to locals and <b>thieves</b> to tourists.
2) There is no question in my mind that mc at September 7, 2007 is a shill. Firstly I don't know a sole who has that kind of passion for the crap they serve and it is <b>WAY</b> over the top with stats and enthusiasm!

Give me break.

<strong>GO BACK TO PICTON!</strong>
Steve and Sherri / September 15, 2007 at 12:07 am
LOL "Ive been at the Picton store when one of the local farmers comes in to update them on the daily availability of sauce ingredients"

LOL - I suppose it went like this - Today we have the freshest red peppers ever <i>Bill</i>. I suggest you begin making some red pepper jelly right away! But avoid the onions, they are a tad bit bitter this week.

Steven / November 4, 2007 at 02:11 pm
A $3 street vendor hotdog is better tasting then any of these buddah dogs and you don't have to eat 8 and spend $20 either. This place will be out of business in 2 more months tops.
Rebecca / November 17, 2007 at 10:43 pm
They are good, but how do you make a meal out of them? Three buddha dogs isn't very satisfying nor is it really healthy, no matter how many condiments you add. Can't they apply their principles to other dishes and expand their menu a little bit?
Keegan / December 18, 2007 at 01:03 pm
Buddha Dog people!
its keegan. totally was in at the one in PICTON!!! and billy we are totaly coming to see you! and eat lots of buddha dogs! cause they taste so yummy! they make me warm inside. i need to go. cause I am at school. Keep Smiling
Hamish Grant / January 11, 2008 at 09:22 am
Another post in support of the Buddha Dog! I love this place, seriously, the dogs are awesome and yes, they're not street dogs so why go in there expecting them to be so? This is a taste sensation kind of experience. It's not fast food - it does take a bit longer to make the orders. Service has always been friendly and cordial for me and my guests. Everyone I know who's been there has really enjoyed themselves.

The owner is planning on opening a patio this summer although his expansion plans, as well as those of anyone else operating a business on Roncey this year, will be mitigated by the renovation of the streetcar tracks along Roncesvalles this year.

All you haters can go fly a kite!
pickles / January 15, 2008 at 10:34 pm
buddha dog has "expansion plans"? that's like george bush seeking a third term. it's the most hated restaurant in the west end for good reason.
Kyle / May 1, 2008 at 01:51 pm
Awesome place, food is great the servers are friendly and polite. As for all you other haters just go dig a hole and sit in it. This is especially for Steve and Sherri, if you want some "Street Meat" from some guy who hasnt showered in days and picked his nose and made it part of the relish go ahead.

Personally Ill go to the Buddha Dog.
Franco / June 20, 2008 at 12:11 pm
um, so where are the "good" well priced non pretentious eateries around Bloor West, please fill me in.

That last comment was retarded by the way, what the hell?? At least say something constructive, yo.

I'm going back and I told a bunch of other people to that bad?
Matt / September 11, 2008 at 10:43 am
The jury is still out for me on this place. The first time I went it was delicious, but I had some brutal indigestion afterwords, and so did my fiance. I went for the second time on Tuesday night just before they closed. The meat was tough and the dog was mostly cold. The sauces were good however.

I'm going to give it a couple more shots because the guys who work there seem decent and the atmosphere is pretty great. If they are succesful in getting their liquor license then it will likely become more of an evening destination; but if the beer is on the same price scale as the dogs, which themselves are a tad ridiculous: $2 for a 3 1/2" dog is not a good business model, no matter how good the ingredients.
Trudy / October 12, 2008 at 07:52 pm
The Buddha would roll over in his grave knowing they are using his name to sell dead animals. DISGUSTING!!!! I wouldn't step foot in the blasphemous place.
Eric S. Smith / January 3, 2009 at 03:35 pm
These hot dogs are fun, and they go very nicely with a glass of the Sandbanks Baco Noir. You're paying a premium for the novelty and the quality of the tiny little dogs -- it's a treat.

(As for the Buddha business, I thought that everybody knew that joke. The irony is that, what with the fancy minimalist preparation, you can't actually get one with everything.)
Tristan / February 14, 2009 at 01:00 pm
All these comments except for a few are negative. If you don't like it don't talk about it and most defintely don't write things that will make them go out of buisness. Viva la Buddha Hotdog
wiseman / March 21, 2009 at 09:01 am
Running business by using a holy being's name is a blasphemy. The profits you earn and the gluttony pleasure you get are eating your luck away definitely.
Stephen van Egmond / April 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm
I live in the neighbuorhood and like it as an occasional treat. You have to like your food small and fussy, and this is firmly in the quality over quantity department. It's a nice place to drop in on while you're strolling down Roncies or heading over to the park for a picnic. You wouldn't go here to impress somebody.

I really think they could make an excellent secondary business selling some of their condiments.

They have some balls with their choice of name, I have to say. It still bugs me.

kelly / May 14, 2009 at 10:35 am
I don't understand people who say the buddha dogs are too small, portion wise one dog plus a salad or a side of soup is the perfect sized lunch. It seems as though lots of reviewers here eat way bigger portions than they should.
jane / May 16, 2009 at 10:33 am
i don't get all the negativity towards this place. i try to support all local businesses. unless they treat their customers really poorly. which i don't think they do here. i don't mind buddha dog. i don't consider it a meal just a nice treat to have. i like the atmosphere and the staff has always been really nice when i've been there. if you want a "normal" hot dog you can go to a stand. you can't really compare the two. if you don't like buddha dog then don't go but i don't think they have done anything that offensive to warrant all the really negative comments.
jane / May 16, 2009 at 10:33 am
i don't get all the negativity towards this place. i try to support all local businesses. unless they treat their customers really poorly. which i don't think they do here. i don't mind buddha dog. i don't consider it a meal just a nice treat to have. i like the atmosphere and the staff has always been really nice when i've been there. if you want a "normal" hot dog you can go to a stand. you can't really compare the two. if you don't like buddha dog then don't go but i don't think they have done anything that offensive to warrant all the really negative comments.
Randal / May 28, 2009 at 10:34 am
I stopped in Picton and tried the Buddha Dog. The dog tasted fine but the real enjoyment comes from knowing that the ingredients are local, fresh, and support a more intelligent way of sourcing and eating food. If you like Wal Mart and Bic Macs you won't like Buddha Dog, but if you have taste and a concious you will really enjoy the time spent there.
theresa / May 30, 2009 at 03:30 pm
Ah, Buddha! Ah, Buddha Dog! We have enjoyed many Buddha Dogs over the years. We love the sweetly dense buns, the tiny (no burp) dogs and the delightfully fresh toppings.

These doggies should never be compared to street-meat or carnival offerings. They're Buddha Dogs. The owners, Mac and Hunter - the Andrews - are delightful people who are very community spirited. They have helped to move The County from ordinary to extra-Black-River-Cheddar-cheese-ordinary.

To know the Andrews is to love'em. Thanks for being one-with-everything guys!
jack / June 5, 2009 at 02:22 pm
i guess size does matter?
Carina from PEC replying to a comment from TEM / July 20, 2009 at 06:38 pm
Where ever you're from I'm not sure why you think you can pass judgement on how successful this restaurant is when you do not live in Picton. I have lived in Picton my entire life and I loved Buddha Dog from the day they opened. The restaurant is everything our community is about, supporting one another and not to mention I find the dogs delicious. You've missed the point entirely. This restaurant uses all local ingredients and that's what makes it appealing, healthly (not full of presevatives like most lunch options here) and mouth watering! The meat is from a 3rd generation butcher in Wellingtion whom we all know and love. The buns are baked fresh everyday from the bakery I have gone to since I was a young child, The Pastry House (not to mention Peter the chef is a hoot), the cheeses come from our local cheese factory, Black River and the sauces are made with local ingredients (mostly organic from Vickis Veggies) and crafted by world famous chefs from around the area (Mike Potters, Lily and Mike Sullivan). There are so many different combinations that you can tailor several different dogs to your favourite flavours (point of the dogs being small). I prefer sweet and spicey. I get 4 dogs almost everytime and love to get the local, fresh organic salads in the summer. I literally eat there at least 3 times a week and when you live in a small town, local gourmet is much nicer then our other 2 on-the-go options; pizza and subs. And for about $10 for 4 I'm full and it costs about the same as a sub would. Oh and when I was a student they gave us a discount, and also knew us all by name everytime we came in. If you call that bad service .. then I'm not sure what would please you. Perhaps you went in on a busy day and weren't able to get their full 5* treatment. But Picton is still just reemerging into the tourism scene and most locals are not used to having to deal with impatient, unfriendly city folk, it takes time to numb yourself to people with the go-go-go rush-rush-rush mentality. Don't get me wrong, street meat is good but I'd take local fare anyday to support my community and to enjoy the health benefits. Street meat and Buddha dogs are on 2 different playing fields and I find it insulting to even compare the 2. In short, why don't you just stick to the city life and leave our small town for those who appreciate a more slow paced community based lifestyle.
Howard / August 5, 2009 at 09:40 pm
The dogs are over prices, and there was nothing so special about it.
MMC / August 6, 2009 at 02:19 pm
We went to the famous Buddha Dog today for the first time to see what all the negativity was about. We loved it!! The service was wonderful, the food was great and the atmosphere was lovely. We will definitely be going back. For all those Negative Nellies commenting on the size of the dogs, that is the point of the place, to have a little taste of something different. If you want something vegetarian, there is a great grilled cheese option so nobody is left out!!
Drew / September 1, 2009 at 04:04 pm
I just went to Buddah Dog in Picton on the weekend and thought they were great. Friendly service, tasty dogs and an absolutely fantastic maple butter tart. If all you're looking to do is stuff your face, then Buddah isn't the place for you. However, all foodies will love this different concept for a hot dog.
alex / September 7, 2009 at 12:56 pm
to all of you who hated buddha dog, that's fine. but how about you remember that NOT EVERYONE has the same taste, and if you don't appreciate unique pairings and somewhat gourmet tastes, then go home, make your kraft dinner, smoother it in ketchup, and call it a day. maybe trim your moustache while you're at it.
MBK / October 29, 2009 at 04:55 pm
Carina's comment hits it. I moved to the city fairly recently...the simplest way I can put it is...

Get over yourself.
Missed / November 8, 2009 at 09:39 pm
The lay out of the place is amazing, the atmosphere is inviting, the staff are friendly, the sauces are great. Unfortunately the dogs have a weird consistency and the buns are a touch soggy. For a place with so many choices it is surprising that there is only one choice of dog and bun. The prices are fine when you consider the quality of the ingredients. Service could be faster.

Alotta people here seem to be pissed based on principle, which is stupid. Everyone calm down, we're talking hot dogs here. I think its a tat presumptuous to assume we could predict Buddha's reaction to an organic hot dog shop. And its great to support local places that in turn support local farming, but come on, you don't have to love every decision they make.

Hot dogs have no political affiliation except the ones we attach to them. Or maybe I'm wrong and the next round of Stephen Harper ads should include his favorite type of meat tube so that I can choose my government based on food preferences. Feel free to disagree.

And alex... mustaches are awesome.
tom / June 23, 2010 at 10:16 pm
Too bad these guys are bailing on their Toronto location, I guess now I'll be reverting to street meat. Hope these guys aren't going bust, why would they leave Roncy if they have such a following with kids young and old? I'll miss them, unless I drive to Picton!
Krupo / July 21, 2010 at 01:13 am
They've entered the deadpool with the Roncesvalles location, but I give respect to anyone who survived even half the fiasco known as the track reconstruction years of 2009-2010. Let's hope the work is completed before more places end up pulling stakes. They'll still have a Toronto presence at the Brick Works, and the Bay/Adelaide Thursday market they say - it'd be nice if they could somehow do the Sorauren Market too.

@tom - note that their other locations are still alive and well. Look up their website for details, I was just reading it.
Eadie / September 2, 2010 at 09:21 am
Many thanks to Buddha Dogs for supporting local agriculture. It's been extremely tough for farmers to compete against cheap imports and too many have exited the agriculture industry. We're really glad to see the "local" trend picking up. Long may it last.

Yes, the local farmers that Buddha Dogs supports really do exist. We're one of them - and we personally know several other farmers that supply Buddha Dogs. BD tested our Shepherd's Choice lamb at a recent Food Day festival and got rave reviews.

On the price issue - it's an interesting comment on our society that city people insist on "Fair Trade" coffee, but not a fair price for local farmers.
Evs / July 26, 2011 at 09:35 pm
After all the hype on some reviews and in their own write up on the Taste Trail magazine and much anticipation by us...what a disappointment this place was. To start, the first thing that turned me off was that it seemed muggy and smelled kind of funky inside...musty like. Bored looking staff seemed completely distracted and precoccupied with refilling sauce bottles and whatever else to even notice that we were standing at the counter waiting to order. We finally had to ask if they were taking orders and they seemed surprised and looked up from whatever they were doing. "oh, yay". Yay, exactly, to a bad start. One family waiting behind us has already left all frustrated and the staff didn't notice. The menu seemd confusing. What were all those wine names doing sprawled all over the chalkboard? Where the heck were the actual menu?. Oh..there they are...we finally find them. They are typed out on a piece of paper and taped to the counter. The kids are frustrated. I think they were expecting an exciting menu of different kinds of hotdogs. choice of a scrawny looking tiny "weiner" choices there. One size, one type. One choice of a bun. 3 choices of ketchup, several choices of "relishes" and several choices of cheese. Completely boring and not what we expected. As for drinks "all we have is water and apple juice" the girl says and "you can go next door if you want a drink." What? Then why did you have all those wine names and places scrawled so confusingly all over the chalkboard?? Ok, "how much is the water" I ask looking at the skinny little bottle. "2.50" she says. No thanks I say. And what about sides? A salad for $6.00 and a soup...can't remember how much. How boring. We get our scrawny little dogs and sit down at the table. 3 bites and we are done. "these are supposed to be the best hot dogs?" my kids ask sadly... they had been expecting more. Maybe that was our problem to begin with. The dogs were good, but not great. And the toppings were put on so sparsely that I had to left the weiner to tell which was each persons dog. I reluctantly get the kids a second dog because they are still hungry. Again I stand at the counter and wait. Three staff. Is there a bell or something I am supposed to hit I wonder? This is crazy. Again I ask one of the girls whose back is turned to me "can we place an order?" "Oh yay"...again. Man. I definetely won't be coming back here, or taking any of my out of town guests here. There are way better less touted places in town that offer much more value and creativity to their customers...and treat them like customers.
Maynard / December 11, 2011 at 06:26 pm
great blog
Thai Food Recipes / June 4, 2012 at 11:34 am
Hi there everyone, it's my first pay a visit at this website, and piece of writing is truly fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these articles.

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