Entering Pauly’s Famous Franks N Fries at its Curtner Avenue location, which opened late last year, gave me the feeling that I was looking at a blueprint for a new hot dog fast-food chain. I was right; a chain is what owner Paul Orozco has in mind. Orozco, who is known for starting Iguanas Taqueria in 1994, has already opened a second location (two doors away from Iguanas) and has plans to open more outlets in the next 18 months.

The downtown location on South Third Street is a bit of an anomaly; it’s a small, cute space and, like Iguana’s, is inside an old Victorian home. The Curtner Pauly’s, in the Plant shopping center, is spacious, comfortable and would fit cohesively next to a Jamba Juice and a Subway.  Even though the toppings on the hot dogs were piled high, the result wasn’t mindless junk food. Orozco spent years researching hot dogs in different parts of the world. There is the Chicago dog, for instance, and the Mexico City dog, which comes wrapped in bacon. There are 68 different dogs in total at Pauly’s. The meat has a smoky flavor. Orozco worked with a sausage-maker specifically to get this flavor. The dogs are made of 100 percent whole-cut Angus beef and are smoked. The buns are all handcrafted and made daily by a local baker.

The smoky-flavored meat seemed to work best when combined with complex flavors. The Pauly ($3.79), for instance, comes with only ketchup and mustard and was my least favorite. However, the Tripod ($5.39), is topped with bacon, green onions, blue cheese and a fried egg. I would never have imagined letting blue cheese and a fried egg cohabit, but the marriage worked surprisingly well, particularly with the strong taste of the hot dog. The Chicago ($4.99) assembles hot, sweet and tangy flavors with dill pickle chips, tomatoes, sport peppers, sweet relish, chopped onions, mustard and celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

Pauly’s offers fries, which can be ordered plain or smothered with various toppings like cheese, jalape–os, buffalo wing sauce or chili. They also serve a 2-foot-long dog made in any style for $18.99-$25.99 called the Joey Chestnut. The name is appropriate, not just because of local Chestnut’s fame in competitive hot-dog eating, but also because he got his start years ago at Iguanas, where he won a competition eating a Burritozilla.

Pauly’s Famous Franks N Fries
81 Curtner Ave., Ste 20, San Jose; 408.638.7901
312 S. Third St., San Jose; 408.638.7903