A new sound has joined the din of bar music and speeding cars during late nights on West University Avenue.
From 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Amany Youssef calls out to passers-by from her Gator Dawgs hot dog stand.
“You look like you could use a hot dog,” she calls out. “Come get some hot dogs.”
Youssef, 20, opened her stand Thursday beside the Dunkin’ Donuts, located at 1738 W. University Ave., and decorated it with orange and blue balloons, white string lights and a menu on a sandwich board.
The stand sells 10 types of hot dogs: one plain, one build-your-own and eight speciality “dawgs,” from a teriyaki flavor to one topped with marinara sauce and pepperoni. Prices range from $2.75 to $5.50. The hot dogs can be topped off with more than 30 condiment options, Youssef said.
“I actually had a guy come in who wanted Yum Yum Sauce, ranch, mac and cheese, bacon and pineapples on top of his hot dog,” she said.
Youssef, a UF biology junior, said she’s always wanted to start her own business. Although she’s a pre-med student, she thinks doctors typically lack business skills and wants to stand out on her medical school applications, she said.
“I can be like every other (one of the) 55,000 kids at UF and do research in a lab that means absolutely nothing and just label poop all day in the microbio lab … or I can start my own business,” she said.
Her boyfriend, 21-year-old Deni Pajkanovic, mans the grill while Youssef handles customers. Youssef’s friend, Kiki Gonzalez, an 18-year-old animal sciences freshman, helps serve the dogs.
Pajkanovic and Gonzalez will be helping out in the future, but Youssef intends on hiring employees within the next week or so, she said. Otherwise, Youssef runs Gator Dawgs entirely on her own.
It took Youssef six months to save the $7,000 to $10,000 she needed to start her business, she said.
She said she was inspired by her father, who moved her family from Lebanon to the U.S. in 2000 with barely anything and now owns an appliance and furniture store in Jacksonville.
“I honestly just feel amazing that I actually own something,” she said. “My father actually came to America with $500 in his pocket.”
Before opening the stand, Youssef walked through Marston Science Library and asked students if they would eat macaroni and cheese on a hot dog.
“What do you want when you’re drunk?” she said. “You want carbs, and you want more carbs.”
On Thursday night, Hamish Pierpont, an 18-year-old UF materials science and engineering freshman, ordered a “Mac Daddy” with bacon.
“It’s a pretty quality dog if I do say so myself,” he said. “I might just get another one.”
Pierpont heard about the stand from meeting Youssef on Turlington Plaza.
“She shouted ‘free drugs’ at (me and a friend),” he said. “And then she said, ‘Now that I have your attention, I have free candy over here.’”
At about 12:45 a.m. Friday, the stand sold its 80th and final hot dog of the night. Youssef said she hopes her stand, which is steps away from Italian Gator Pizza by the Slice, will become a Midtown institution.
“I want it to be just like Pizza by the Slice,” she said. “I want it to become the foundation where my kids can come.”