John Stiuso knows his hot dogs.
The New Jersey native used to work in New York before moving to the Iona area, so he's had a lifetime of experience in two of the hot dog capitals in the U.S.
He's yet to find a hot dog in Lee County that compares to his homeland, but he continues his search any time he sees a dog joint- so when he saw that the Beach Stand on San Carlos Boulevard had its "now open" sign up last week, he had to stop in.
The stand has some frank favorites, including the Chicago dog, which is a hot dog on a sesame seed bun with tomato, green relish, a dill pickle spear, onions, mustard, pepper and celery salt.
"It's a staple food in New York," Stiuso said. "Hot dogs are on every corner."
To a frank connoisseur, what makes a hot dog a good one? First, Stiuso prefers an all-beef dog, like Nathan's, which is what the Beach Stand serves.
"It's partly the bread, the snap in the dog, and not overly seasoned," he said. "Some people serve with too much roll, not enough dog. It's important to get that balance."
When he took a bite of his chili dog from Beach Stand he gave the cafe's owner Shannon Williams the nod of approval.
"Everyone's chili is different," he said. "But this one's good, not too sweet, not too hot."
The Beach Stand opened Wednesday, Sept. 28. Co-owners Williams and his wife Donna spent weeks remodeling the interior and painting the exterior of the walk-up and drive-through joint.
"It's a labor of love," he said.
The couple are also both from hot dog meccas; Donna is a New York native and Shannon is from North Carolina - which is among the top states for hot dog consumption. When the Williams moved to Fort Myers four years ago, they said they couldn't find a good hot dog anywhere.
Williams said he once went to a hot dog joint and ordered a chili dog, but there was so much chili it made the meal very messy.
"I ate it with a fork and a knife," he said. "That's not the way it's supposed to be."
The couple decided that they would open their own spot, somewhere close to the beach. After searching a few months for a good location, they happened upon the empty building located in the corner of the Indian Creek Plaza on San Carlos Boulevard, next to Dollar General and the U.S. Post Office.
Williams helped develop the menu, with his motto being "hot dogs you've never hear of."
Besides the traditional chili, Chicago and New Yorker dogs, customers can get unique gourmet combinations too, such as the Mexican mole dog, a hot dog topped with tomatoes, avocados, cheese and mole sauce, or the bird dog, a North Carolina special with chicken strips on a bun with bacon, cheese and honey mustard.
All hot dogs are Nathan's Famous brand. Williams marinates them in beer, garlic and beef broth for added flavor.
But the stand's all-angus beef burgers, which Shannon patties himself, are unusual, too - the sweet and salty burger is a beef patty on a bun with peanut butter, jelly and bacon (try it); the Tex Mex a hefty order of a burger topped with a fried egg, bacon, and guacamole.
The stand serves ice cream, milk shakes and sundaes for dessert made with Hersey's ice cream. Beginning in November, the couple will also make a home-cooked dinner of the day, such as meatballs, or chicken parmesan.
"We love to cook, and we love to eat," Williams said.
The stand's hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. They will deliver within three miles, and seating is out-doors only. The menu's price point ranges from $2.90 to $7.90.