South County eatery wins national recognition

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

Scott Curtis and Lisa Csiki, owners of The Dog House and More in Ruskin,  at their outdoor restaurant on Shell Point Road. Mitch Traphagen photo

Scott Curtis and Lisa Csiki, owners of The Dog House and More in Ruskin, at their outdoor restaurant on Shell Point Road. Mitch Traphagen photo

For most small businesses, a line of customers at the counter is an excellent metric for success — and such a line often exists at The Dog House and More, on Shell Point Road in Ruskin. But along with that, it doesn’t hurt to get a little love and attention from one of the world’s largest Web travel sites. Recently, TripAdvisor.com awarded The Dog House and More its 2014 Certificate of Excellence, based on the many outstanding customer reviews received by the locally owned, outdoor eatery.  The Dog House and More holds the number one ranking of 49 restaurants listed by the website in the Ruskin area, with 97 percent of reviewers recommending it.

“They were very welcoming. Great service and delicious food! Don’t think twice. Just go try this place! I can’t wait to go back. There’s a reason ALL of their reviews are good,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer with the username Joshdemobile of Tampa.

The reviews run the gamut from locals, near locals and tourists. Most rave about the excellent food, friendly owners and the extensive menu, often with surprise that a place named “The Dog House and More” really does mean more than excellent hot dogs. Much more.

Co-owner Lisa Csiki ran a similar restaurant in Connecticut before moving to Ruskin a little more than three years ago. With her experience in the Northeast, the seafood offerings on the menu are a particular hit not only with local residents but also with tourists from that area. With Floridian co-owner Scott Curtis, the restaurant manages a perfect balance in catering to both local and visitor tastes, particularly with the addition of a barbecue smoker. And speaking of fresh, there are no heat lamps in the kitchen. Everything is fresh and made to order, and most everything, down to some of the condiments, is homemade.

In addition to hot dogs garnished in any conceivable fashion, there are hamburgers, sandwiches, ice cream and fresh seafood.

Now, having celebrated their three-year anniversary serving the area, they have gained a loyal following as well as admirers from afar. With their quality offerings and outstanding customer service, area resorts have also provided recommendations to their guests to visit the establishment.

“We appreciate all of our customers,” Scott Curtis said. “We definitely want to continue to better ourselves and keep that recognition with our regular customers and all customers.”

On a recent hot July afternoon, people lined up for everything from hot dogs to seafood. During a break between orders, Curtis stepped outside the trailer that serves as the kitchen and order desk, “How is everything?” he asked with all sincerity. He really wanted to know.

“It’s wonderful!” was the reply from a mother, with her children nodding in agreement. “It’s all wonderful!”

The owners, Lisa and Scott, live in Ruskin and have invested in the community not only through their business and food but also by participating in charitable events. They are promoters not just of their business but also of the community itself. In Ruskin, in South Hillsborough, they have found a home. Before long, Scott and his customers were chatting like old friends.

“It’s all about customer service,” he said.

That, and great food, of course. I recommend the lobster rolls.

 

Mitch Traphagen photo

Mitch Traphagen photo

The Dog House and More is located at 204 West Shell Point Road in Ruskin. For more information, visit their Facebook page at tinyurl.com/observer-doghouse.

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