Richard Blais Talks New Hot Dog Restaurant

Richard Blais made a name for himself as a chef at popular high-end restaurants in Atlanta. Then, he became a celebrity as a contestant on the fourth season of Bravo TV's "Top Chef."

Since then, he has gone from fine dining to casual, opening Flip Burger Boutique, which has two restaurants in Atlanta and one in Birmingham, Ala.

About two months ago, he took a road less traveled than the "better burger" path when he opened HD1 — which he calls an "haute doggery" — in Atlanta, run by executive chef Jared Lee Pyles.

Nation's Restaurant News recently spoke with Blais about HD1.

How does HD1 compare with Flip Burger?

I didn't want HD1 to be a Flip Burger Boutique but with hot dogs, so it has more of an adult aesthetic, with dark wood and matte finishes. The menu's emphasis is on just good eating — sitting down, going at it, eating at communal tables.

How does selling hot dogs compare with selling hamburgers?

There's opportunity to make more profit off of hot dogs, just because of what goes into them. On the other hand, there's not as much price flexibility. We've found that, even at $4, people are like, "Wow, that's an expensive hot dog." People understand better burgers because they've even seen them in fine-dining restaurants, but most people's understanding of the hot dog is from the supermarket or the backyard barbecue.

They don't really understand what hot dogs are. We use words like "emulsified forcemeat" [to describe them], which is disgusting.

What are the most popular hot dogs at HD1?

The product mix is pretty even. The Eastbound & Down with Carolina pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cole slaw does well, and I think it embodies the spirit of the restaurant: We're serious about the food, but not serious about ourselves.

The classic is popular too. As creative as we want to get, people are going to gravitate to what they know.

Hot dogs are salty and fatty, so we also have alternative veggie dogs and salads.

We also make a poutine with pork belly, waffle fries and gravy, and a confit chicken wing of the day. Right now it's adobo with cilantro and pickled onions.

How's business?

We're busy from 3 to 5 p.m., late night and super-early dinner, so we have more volume during non-traditional [meal] hours and less during traditional hours.

— Bret Thorn,

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