Local food entrepreneur Jesse Konig is on a mission to rethink your favorite American classics – hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and more. Konig, co-founder of Swizzler, started his journey by elevating and reinventing the hot dog for the DC community alongside business partners Ben Johnson and Jack Zimmermann. Swizzler’s spiralized dogs use grass-fed beef, locally-sourced bread, and in-house toppings to create inventive flavor combinations that will change the way you think about hot dogs.
The trio made a splash in the market early on, traveling around town in their food truck spreading delicious food and the concept of “old dog, new tricks” all over the DMV. But their ‘old dog, new tricks’ philosophy doesn’t stop at dogs. Swizzler recently wrapped up a long term pop-up at a DC-based restaurant incubator, Prequel, to test out some new menu items–which is where we paid them a visit.
As upperclassmen of Wake Forest University, Jesse, Jack, and Ben noticed that there was a lack of dining services on campus that offered unique or sustainable options. With no formal background in the food industry, the three co-founders decided to spend their senior year of college creating a shared vision for Swizzler. Over that year they grew the concept to a campus staple and committed to continuing on after graduation with a food truck. Not only was it a low-risk way to start out but it also gave Swizzler the ability to move around to test different cities, areas, and age demographics.
Of all places, Jesse and the team decided that Washington, DC was the right spot to live and launch their business because of a strong support network of alumni, friends, and family in the region. Union Kitchen, Swizzler’s home-base, helped them connect with a network of experienced, successful business leaders and allowed them to grow their culinary and business chops.
Today, Swizzler has become a staple of the fast-casual movement in DC and a mainstay to DC worker and student’s dining experience. Swizzler has started to change the way people view and prepare dogs and they are starting to further this vision by taking other ‘classic foods’ and revamping them. For example, their infamous brussels sprouts, which are flash-fried and tossed in aged parmesan cheese and black pepper honey, just show a taste of their innovations.
After starting their business and food truck in DC, what has made Swizzler stay AND add a pop-up restaurant at Prequel DC?
Jesse cites DC’s booming food industry and the network of support they have received from the local food community. As a locally-minded brand, they are focused on serving the DC community to the best of their ability, using all of their opportunities in the city and growing their roots deeper before setting their sights beyond our nation’s capitol. Currently, the Swizzler team is working to grow their brand, establish themselves further, and grow the business in a way that keeps them enjoying the day-to-day. Konig says that “there is so much pressure to grow and scale but at the end of the day you’ve got to define success in your own terms”.
So what’s next for Swizzler?
Between a recent successful pop-up restaurant featuring a special lengthened menu, features at food conventions and events like The Emporiyum, and constantly experimenting with different foods and ingredients, Swizzler is still finding time for new ventures. In September of 2018 they will be opening at the highly-anticipated Ballston Common mall, where they will be a part of an open air food court celebrating local brands from DC. We can’t wait to see all of the things that Swizzler will achieve in the DC area.