Rene's Puppies offers down-home food from big rig

Markham preparing food.JPG
1 of 3

Rene Markham prepares food for a customer at Rene's Puppies Specialty Hot Dogs and More, Wednesday.

Markham with food.JPG
Rene's Puppies.JPG

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Rene Markham has had a lot of jobs during her working life: ballroom dance instructor, Belk saleswoman, loan officer, real estate agent and teacher.

But her dream since earning a degree in restaurant and hotel management from Stradford University was to own her own restaurant.

And now she does. Kind of.

She and her business partner, Randy Green, operate Rene’s Puppies Specialty Hot Dogs and More. Their eatery is like a food truck, only bigger. Much bigger.

Rene’s Puppies, set up four days a week in a parking lot just off West Ehringhaus Street, operates from a giant enclosed trailer attached to a big rig. Orders are prepared in a large kitchen inside the trailer and sold to walk-up customers from a side window.

Rene’s Puppies’ menu features sweet potato biscuits and includes barbecue burritos, barbecue sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, hamburgers made from scratch, hand-cut french fries, hot dogs and fried pickles. There’s also a breakfast menu featuring traditional breakfast foods, including a “Truckers’ Breakfast” with three eggs, while breakfast burritos are served throughout the day.

“We make everything homemade, except for the buns and the hot dogs,” Markham said.

Markham said she and Green had a clear purpose for operating their eatery in a large mobile trailer.

“We wanted something different in the area, something that everybody could enjoy that was real homemade cooking — large portions for good prices,” she said.

Although Rene’s Puppies is a new business, plans for its opening had been in the works for a while.

“We started putting it together at the beginning of the year. We actually rolled it on Black Friday for the first day,” Markham said.

Even though it’s mobile, Rene’s Puppies operates just like any food establishment serving the public, meaning it’s subject to routine health inspections. It’s also recognized by city officials as an operating business in Elizabeth City.

For now, Rene’s Puppies operates across from Elizabeth City Pawn and Guns. However, the eatery is also strategically located close to Southgate Mall and Gateway Cinema.

Markham and Green in fact seek business from the nearby theater, offering discounts to customers who present their movie receipts. They also offer discounts to commercial truck drivers, first responders, law enforcement officers and homeland security and military personnel.

“We’ve had people at the Coast Guard base ask if we could move out closer there for breakfast,” Markham said. “So, we may be moving out that way for breakfast early on in the mornings.”

Markham, 54, said another reason for starting Rene’s Puppies is her passion for cooking. The Elizabeth City native said cooking has long been a big deal in her family, particularly on her father’s side.

Her partner Green, 59, of Weeksville, was a crane operator in the construction industry in the Hampton Roads area. He now owns a trucking company, but like Markham has also had a love for cooking. Green and Markham have part-time help in Denise Weatherly, 46, also of Weeksville. Weatherly said she enjoys working for Green and Markham. She also enjoys Rene’s Puppies’ concept.

“It’s something good for the community to get more people out,” Weatherly said.

Rene’s Puppies is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Markham said business hours may be adjusted at the start of next year. To reach Rene’s Puppies, contact 312-3289. The business also has a page on Facebook.