Let’s be frank about Capital Dog


By Abby Chatfield

Sun contributor

The village of Lake Leelanau soon welcomes Capital Dog, a new casual eatery. Brainchild of locals Kevin and Sue Burns, it opens to the community on May 1, offering indoor and outdoor seating on a quiet backyard patio, in addition to carry out and dock delivery service at The Narrows.

The menu highlights hot dogs, offering five choices of Coney-style dogs as well as vegan and gluten-free options. Other menu items include a roast Italian pork sandwich, pork sliders, hard and soft-serve ice cream, shakes, malts, blizzards, bagged ice, and a long list of beverages. Beer and hard seltzers are also available for take-out only. “We are the whole party mix,” manager Marcus Matthews said.

While there are a few other food establishments in Leelanau County with a good hot dog on the menu, it’s not uncommon to hear locals complain with exasperation that there is nowhere to find a quick, decent hot dog. Capital Dog’s mission is to fill that void by delivering an affordable yet quality hot dog to customers within a quick and convenient timeframe. Kevin shared his sentiment, “Why not just eat and enjoy the county?”

But don’t mistake quick and economical for fast and cheap. The goal is affordable, family friendly comfort food to count on. Little touches, like how the pickles are cut, elevate the overall presentation of the fare, while quality ingredients and master preparation raises the bar for quick, casual eating. They try to use as many Michigan-based companies as possible such as Kent Meat Co., MOO-ville Creamery, Great Lakes Potato Chips, Vernors, and more.

Capital Dog is partially inspired by Grand Rapids’ Yesterdog, like how they cut pickles for the Coney dogs. Yesterdog is an institution the Burns and countless others have enjoyed for years, some for a lifetime. The Burns are former residents of Grand Rapids and consider it a model for consistently delicious and simple food.

As Sue described it, Capital Dog is “basic fare elevated by the experience of our interior.” Its charm is the mixed result of its past life as a fire station and location across the street from Boathouse Vineyards, topped off with a comfortable yet stylish interior. It is less than 100 yards from The Narrows, providing opportunity for dock delivery service. The Burns purchased it and began renovations just before Covid started. It wasn’t until spending time there that they realized what a gem the location is. It offers easy access for boaters, families and kids after sports games, government center lunch breaks, weekly dinner dates and evening supply runs.

Although Capital Dog will remain open seven days a week through October, seasonality will ultimately depend on staffing. This is a hurdle for many local businesses, but the Burns are no strangers to the challenges of operating a business in Leelanau County. They owned and operated Leland’s Riverside Inn together from 1987–1992. Their other business venture, Baabaazuzu, an upcycled garment line known as the original maker of sweater mittens, began in 1993 and continues to thrive today.

Sue said Capital Dog “is an opportunity, and we aren’t slowing down because of time.”

You can find Capital Dog at 106 St. Mary’s Street in Lake Leelanau.