From new Third Street digs, Sumo Dog puts a delicious Asian twist on a street food classic

By Jessica Koslow

Sumo Dog 1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica  (310) 319-5380

These aren’t your grandma’s hot dogs

Everything tastes better when you add Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients. So, it was with open arms — and mouth — that I welcomed chef Jeffrey Lunak’s new spot, Sumo Dog, on its opening day at Third Street Promenade’s up-and-coming food hall The Gallery.

As I stepped up to order this past Saturday, Lunak was behind the grill, serving up artful combinations like The Romero (guacamole, pico de gallo, tempura crunchies, mayo, cilantro, wasabi seasoning) and the uniquely delicious Miso Katsu — a panko breaded dog of crunchy goodness, with miso dressing, mayo, scallions, tonkatsu sauce, wasabi furikake and coleslaw good enough to eat as its own side.

The Romero is all about the guacamole and its soft, sweet bun, which — Lunak whispered over the counter to me — is
by Martin’s Famous. Each mouthful is overflowing with chunky avocado.

When you order, you have a choice of hot dog: vegan, American Wagyu All Beef or pork sausage, and can also add a side of furikake spiced tater tots, sushi rice tots or make them “Sumo Style,” which means the tots come topped with a beef or tofu chili, pickled peppers, jalapeno, cheese, a spicy mayo teriyaki sauce, kizami nori and wasabi seasoning. Wasabi is everywhere, even in the ginger ale (though you can turn down the spicy factor on any of the dogs).

Everything about Sumo Dog seems playful, down to the mini sumo wrestler mascot, which makes the ever-playful Third Street Promenade a perfect home for Sumo Dog.

After a very successful pop-up at Coachella, Sumo Dog opened in Koreatown and has now relocated to Santa Monica. Lunak hopes to debut a street-level cart, too.

“Given my experience working with Asian ingredients, especially with a nod to Japanese ingredients, the hot dog is the perfect vessel,” Lunak writes to me in an email the day after I tasted his divine dogs, answering my question about why he picked hot dogs to focus on for his eatery.

He continues: “Unctuous, salty, hot in temperature, hand-held — these all make for an easy vessel to create great food.”

Lunak has appeared on “Iron Chef America” and “United Tastes of America” and has worked at high-profile restaurants in Philadelphia and Napa. The idea of grilling dogs may seem too basic for such a celebrated chef, but Lunak’s philosophy for cooking has always been to “keep it simple.”

Sumo Dog sits behind Sloan’s Ice Cream and, surrounded by a few empty spots, is waiting for its neighbors to open. But Lunak is happy to be at The Gallery, along with STRFSH by chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio and Dialogue by James Beard Award-winning chef Dave Beran. Lunak feels that the food hall is “becoming a remarkable dining destination in Los Angeles.”

Sumo Dog fits right in, offering creative takes on an American staple.

“I really just took from the classics — chili and cheese, bacon banh mi, kimchee,” says Lunak of choosing his menu. “The basis for all of the dogs is starting with something familiar and making sure to incorporate varying textures, umami, and layers of flavor that contain surprises.”

Sumo Dog has already caught the attention of Rolling Stone and Vogue, which declared its favorite to be the eatery’s namesake dog, which is topped with wasabi relish, pickled peppers and furikake (a Japanese seasoning).

Now it’s time for the crowds of people cruising down the Promenade each day to experience these delectable dogs.