Carol’s Lunch Box in Farmington serves up delicious hot dogs in a pint-sized locale – Hartford Courant


Carol Wilusz’s career has included a 27-year tenure at a five star restaurant, 33 years of hosting karaoke, and time spent teaching dance.

It was only natural that her next venture be in hot dogs.

“I’ve always had a passion for hot dogs,” says Wilusz. “Even though I worked in a five star restaurant, I still loved a good hot dog.”

That’s not to say she didn’t love her time at Apricots in Farmington. She worked downstairs in the pub area as a bartender and server. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with her community: the location, the owners, the staff, and most importantly, the customers.

She found her voice in a similar fashion.

“Thirty-three years ago, I happened to be at a karaoke bar in Farmington,” she says. “It was called Stonewall Restaurant, which is now Five Corners Bistro. The host was looking for someone to work with them and host karaoke. I hadn’t even heard of karaoke.”

Wilusz wasn’t one to shy away. She got up on stage and discovered she could sing. The rest was history.

“One thing led to another and the host at the time asked if I’d be interested in hosting with them,” says Wilusz. “I’m sure. I hosted every Friday and Saturday night, even while working at Apricots.”

You’ll find her singing showcased on her restaurant’s social media accounts, turning popular songs into hot-dog themed ditties. “I’ve always said hot dogs are fun. Doing the music videos are a hoot.”

Carol’s Lunch Box was built from the ground up, and the stylized restaurant showcases its wealth of charm.

“My boyfriend, Jeff, said ‘I know you would love to have a business. How about if I build you a dog house?’ I said ‘Oh my gosh, that would be great!’”

Farmington doesn’t allow food trucks or carts, a factor that limited Wilusz’s options. An opportunity to have her restaurant built from scratch at a location it could live on was too good to pass up. Work began almost immediately, and with it a whole lot of homework.

“I had a lot of time to research what product I wanted to sell,” says Wilusz. “I wanted to have a simple menu at first. I wanted just dogs. I landed on hot dogs, kielbasa, bratwurst, and hot sausage. I knew I was gonna be serving those four different dogs.”

She found local retailers to source her ingredients. She created recipes for different dogs, all of which come from New Britain’s own Martin Rosol’s Meats. She made her own salads, sides, and soups. By the time Carol’s Lunch Box opened its doors in May of 2017, Wilusz was ready to be the best hot dog hot spot around.

“My number one-selling hot dog is the Chili Cheese Dog, no question,” she says. “It’s got two different cheeses to choose from: a melted sharp American cheese and an extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese.”

You’ve got the Southern Dog: a traditional hot dog with barbecue pulled pork, homemade coleslaw and barbecue sauce drizzle. There’s the Reuben dog with cheddar, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing, and the Beanie Weenie with baked beans and fried onion crisps.

Wilusz encourages folks to customize how they see fit, too. Pick between a classic beef and pork hot dog, Nurnberg-style Bratwurst, smoked kielbasa, or hot sausage and top it with a litany of choices like chopped onion, Carol’s Own Hot Pepper Relish, melted cheese, and more.

“My two main specials are the Lunch Box Special 1 and 2,” says Wilusz. “They’re the most popular. You get two hot dogs, chips, and a drink.”

Carol’s also offers freshly made sides like potato salad, mac and cheese, and a cheese tortellini salad with pepperoni, red and green peppers, onions and Italian Romano dressing.

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It’s a fair bit of choice — intentionally chosen. . “I do wanna keep the menu, for the most part, pretty simple. It’s not a big building I’m in. I have to be careful.”

When you talk to Wilusz, it’s easy to see why, along with the great food, Carol’s Lunch Box has been a success.

“Working at Apricots for 27 years, as well as being a singer who’s hosted karaoke shows for over 30 years, I know a lot of people in the Farmington Valley,” she says. “A lot of my good friends and customers from Apricots and karaoke friends and followers of my show came when I opened. They still support me. Having that following before I opened really helped.”

Wilusz’s charm and personality shine through at the Lunch Box, whether it’s in her musical parody videos or taking orders and chatting with customers. She credits her town, where she’s been a member of the community for decades, for the wealth of support for her latest venture

You’ll likely see Wilusz behind the counter if you swing by for a hot dog or two. She’ll be the one greeting you with a smile.

“Let’s be frank,” as she puts it on her website, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but the hot dogs at my doghouse are Best In Show!”

Carol’s Lunch Box is located at 1365 Farmington Ave in Farmington.

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