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Popular hot dog truck takes spot in restaurant space

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By Sean Kennedy

 A popular hot dog vendor is an inside dog now. 

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In The Doghouse celebrated the grand opening of its restaurant at 617 E. Bridge St. Feb. 16. The hot dog restaurant, started by Brighton locals Kim and Mark Lucas, has operated as a food truck throughout Brighton and the greater Metro Denver area for the past two years. Per the Lucases, the restaurant move has been a long time in the works. 

 “A store has always been the goal,” Kim Lucas said, “We just wanted to start slow and build up a base of support and loyal fans.”

The name of the restaurant, Kim said, comes from her brother using the expression that he was “in the doghouse” one time. 

The Lucases are passionate about their signature product, Casper hot dogs, which they get shipped in from California. Casper hot dogs are footlong dogs made with no preservatives they say have their natural casing and are steamed, as opposed to being grilled or cooked in another manner. 

The Lucases’ passion for Casper dogs arose from their upbringing in the Bay area near San Francisco, where they frequented local hot dog chain Casper’s as they dated in high school. Even today, Kim says their family will often drive to Casper’s for a dog first thing after touching down in San Francisco to visit family. Kim said she hasn’t found a good hot dog in Colorado yet, despite trying “everything”. 

Despite sharing an early love of hot dogs, the couple wouldn’t pursue a restaurant, or even see much of each other, until several years later. Kim and Mark went their separate ways after high school, Kim to the Las Vegas area and Mark to Indiana. Kim worked as a funeral director for several years, while Mark worked as a project manager for Safeway, a role he continues to this day. They didn’t reconnect until 2014, having both coincidentally moved to Colorado, when a chance Facebook encounter led them to them rediscovering their love for each other – and for hot dogs. 

Now, the Lucases are hoping the move into a restaurant space is a precursor to expanding the popularity of the Casper dog.  

“We’ll probably expand bigger than (Casper’s has),” Kim said, “They don’t seem to want to take it outside the Bay area.” 

In addition to a selection of various regular, cheese and chili dogs (and desserts), the restaurant also features a secret menu, with items such as the Christmas Dog (half-and-half green and red chili) and the Jake Dog (a chili cheese dog topped with Fritos chips), named for one of Kim’s two sons. The couple, who both have children from previous marriages, have eight children between the two. 

“You can almost call us the Brady bunch,” Kim joked. 

The Lucases say the look of the restaurant was heavily inspired by the work of HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The restaurant’s interior features wooden tables and chairs, black-and-white pictures of old hot dog stands from the 30s and 40s, and “country chic” accessories. It’s a look some customers at the opening described as “homey”. The Lucases are hoping to make Brighton that – and more -  for years to come.