The newly renovated Souldog is more “soul” than “dog” these days. Since coming under new ownership this past January, the restaurant has a new look, a new menu, and a mission to be a fun, family-friendly hangout that can provide good food to everyone. The restaurant is still gluten free, but it’s no longer all about the hot dog. Now—besides several hotdog options—you’ll find soups and chili, chicken and fish dishes, sandwiches, and a curated selection of gluten free beer and wine.
To make sure no one is left out, Souldog aims to satisfy customers with restrictive dietary needs. New owner Susan Wysocki who also runs the local Babycakes Cafe, has created a menu that provides quick, affordable options for gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets as well as dishes that are safe for other, more specific restrictions. Wysocki calls the restaurant a “gluten-free oasis.” Manager Janet Morris knows from experience how hard it can be to find a restaurant when struggling with dietary restrictions. Her sensitivity to certain proteins has made eating out difficult, but she points out several of her favorite, safe Souldog dishes (she particularly loves the barbecue chicken).
So that customers always know what they’re eating, the restaurant posts the ingredients to every dish in the laminated cards hanging on the wall. Morris is in charge of maintaining the ever-evolving ingredient cards. “It’s a work in progress because I keep doing them, and I finally laminated it and then she changed the chili recipe,” she says with a laugh, “We constantly add things, and it just makes me dizzy.”
Souldog employee Gwen Garner admits that she is new to the idea of gluten-free food. “It’s great to see people come in and realize that they are actually able to eat here. That’s the best part,” said Garner. The restaurant is even willing to share the ingredients to its signature “soul sauce.” Morris said, “One of the biggest questions we get is what’s in ‘soul sauce,’ and it’s mostly hot sauce but there is brown sugar in it, and diabetics would need to know that.”
When it comes to decoration, Souldog decided to let its customers take control. On every table are several square, white placemats and a cup of crayons where customers are encouraged to draw a Souldog-themed poster that might be blown up and used as art inside the restaurant. Morris quickly runs to grab a stack of placemats from the kitchen to show us. There must be over fifty so far, but she has several favorites. “This entire wall, on both sides, is going to be placemats,” said Morris gesturing.
Souldog employee Oli Cullen, a student at SUNY New Paltz, has just started working at Souldog and is already impressed by the attention to customer satisfaction. “We’re always willing to do something new here,” said Cullen, “it’s always changing, and never boring.”
“The bottom line,” says Morris in agreement, “is fun. We want this to be a place where everyone–tourists, locals, families, students–can come and enjoy themselves and eat good food.”