Lake Norman & Mooresville

Chef opens hot dog stand near downtown

For former executive chef Paul Murray, it's a long way from the white linen tablecloths and the tinkling of silver on china to the side of the road in Mooresville.

A disabling broken neck injury in 2003 ended the job he loved. He has spent the past eight years at home slowly recovering from the spinal fracture.

The 44-year-old Murray and wife, Jennifer, packed up their four kids and moved from Long Island, N.Y., to Mooresville in the fall of 2008. They live on Regency Lake cove off Brawley School Road.

Murray, an avid New York Mets fan, finally had enough of sitting on the sofa watching baseball on ESPN and started looking for a way out of the house when his brother-in-law, James, found just the ticket: A small hot dog stand on wheels that Murray now tows behind his van.

Murray calls his new enterprise "Lucky Dog." It has been up and running for about a month. It is currently parked on North Broad Street at Dyson Square, just north of downtown Mooresville.

Murray chose the name Lucky Dog for the NASCAR rule imposed after the caution flag is waved.

The first driver a lap down has the chance to drive around the field and get back on the lead lap in a race.

Murray's hot dog stand is another chance to get back into "the race" and make a few bucks doing something he loves: cooking for his customers.

"I get to see and meet new people," said Murray.

Murray picked the all-beef Sabrett brand for its distinctive flavor and sharp "snap" on the first bite.

Bob Jones and his friend Johnny Wilhelm drive down from Statesville every Thursday for a special lunch treat.

Jones is hooked., and glad to find a New York style hot dog stand much closer to home.

"I used to drive a tractor trailer up yonder in New York all the time. I got to eating them. They had stands like this on every corner. They're the best hot dogs in the world," said Jones.

Mooresville letter carrier Eric Granros stops in for lunch. He's a Lucky Dog regular.

Also originally from Long Island, Granros and Murray talk about "back home" and baseball.

Murray's dogs are even good enough to stop a train. Engineers park their locomotives on the tracks across the street and dash to the Lucky Dog stand to grab some dogs and run. Not to worry, they only stop when they aren't connected to boxcars.

Lucky Dogs are $2 each; $3 with roasted peppers and onions. You can also get other fixings including, raw onions, chili, sauerkraut, ketchup and mustard. Sodas are $1.

Murray would love to get back into the restaurant business but his neck and back couldn't stand the strain.

"I can't stand or sit for too long," he said. "I don't think I could handle it."

Murray's second choice would require a hectic travel schedule. He has also set up and opened restaurants for large national chains including Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café.

However, Murray's real love will always be standing next to a stove. The last stop in his career was in Louisiana were he dazzled food critics with his Cajun Creolé.

Murray figures the odds of landing one of those jobs is long, so he will play the cards he has been dealt.

If he could scrape enough cash together, he'd like to get some sort of vehicle with four walls that he could stand in. Then, he could have a generator, refrigeration and a grill.

While Murray may have big dreams, he is also a pragmatic man. It all boils down to this "I'm just trying to make a buck."