Four friends who share a love of food, community and good beer have opened Fresno’s newest eatery: Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew.
The restaurant at 88 E. Shaw Ave., just east of Blackstone in the former Port of Subs sandwich shop, is all about sausages, from bacon-wrapped hot links to traditional juicy bratwurst.
Sarah Lisitsin, an owner and menu creator, said her goal is to give her customers a creative combination of mouth-watering flavors and textures. One of her sandwiches has a spicy Asian influence while another shares a California cuisine flair. There’s also a traditional bratwurst on a pretzel roll and a not-so-traditional brat piled high with creamy macaroni and cheese.
Non-sausage eaters have sandwiches, salads and sides to choose from, including sweet potato fries drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.
One of Lisitsin’s favorite creations is the Gangnam, a sandwich built with a nod to the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. The Gangnam starts with a sweet chicken sausage cradled in a grilled baguette and covered with crunchy pickled vegetables, fresh jalapeño, cilantro and Sriracha mayonnaise.
Another sandwich is constructed around an Italian sausage with marinara sauce, grilled peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese. The Napa Dog is a sweet chicken sausage on a grilled baguette, dressed up with homemade fig-onion jam, crumbled goat cheese and balsamic reduction, topped with fresh basil.
The food culture here in Fresno has been growing and developing. And we want to further that.
Bethany Hsia, an owner of Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew
Although Rocket Dog has only been open a few days, customers are already liking a spicy concoction called the Danger Dog. The dog is a bacon-wrapped hot link that is deep-fried, served on a plain bun with tangy barbecue sauce, Sriracha chili, melted cheddar cheese, and topped with cilantro and red onion.
The restaurant also makes a traditional bratwurst on a grilled pretzel roll with brown mustard, crunchy sauerkraut and red onion.
The concept for Rocket Dog grew out of a casual conversation between the four friends: Lisitsin, her husband, Kevin, and Bethany Hsia and her husband, Gary. The Hsias are veterinarians who moved from San Jose to Fresno for work. They met the Lisitins through the Well Community Church.
“I think I remember Sarah saying something like ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to open a restaurant?’ ” Bethany Hsia says with a laugh.
That was a year and a half ago. Lisitsin says the partners realized the field of restaurants selling tacos, barbecue and burgers was saturated, but the market for gourmet sausage sandwiches had room for growth.
Once they decided on a concept, they searched for as many local ingredient providers as they could find. They settled on the Meat Market in Clovis for their sausage, Max’s bakery for buns and Silva Sausage in Gilroy for hot links.
“We are trying to create an authentic eating experience using great local ingredients,” Lisitsin says.
Rocket Dog serves Fresno State ice cream and wine along with beer from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing and root beer from Full Circle Brewing Co. They have eight beers on tap, including Red Trolley ale from Karl Strauss, Oktoberfest from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and oatmeal stout from Barrel House Brewing Co.
Lisitsin and Hsia handle most day-to-day operations. Eventually, Lisitsin says, she would like to make as many of her ingredients as possible, including sausage, pickled sauerkraut and ketchup. But first, she needs to make sure the restaurant is running smoothly.
“It’s one step at a time,” she says.
Rocket Dog’s grand opening is scheduled for Thursday. So far, Hsia says the response from customers has been positive.
“The food culture here in Fresno has been growing and developing,” Hsia says. “And we want to further that.”
Rocket Dog is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.