‘How big is your sausage?’

Ronnie Cline

PHOTO BY anne stokes

Find out more about State Bear Sausages and Dogs at www.facebook.com/statebear.

Does Ronnie Cline live the life or what? At age 32, he quit his corporate day job and started his own business—making hot dogs and sausages. Going on five months, you can find him grinning behind the polished chrome cart of State Bear Sausages and Dogs on the corner of Eighth and O streets downtown. Recently, Cline sat down with SN&R to discuss neglected condiments, the perfect dog (in theory) and bad sausage jokes.

Tell me the craziest thing that’s happened to you while selling sausages.

A couple women came up, and they were, you know, making sausage jokes. “How big is your sausage?” One thing led to another, and then they ended up asking me to strip for a tip. They didn’t buy anything, but I ended up unbuttoning the top few buttons of my shirt, and they left me a $10 tip.

What is the most underappreciated condiment and why?

Onions. Because whenever anybody asks me, “What should I put on it?” I’m kind of a purist. And I cut my onions fresh every morning. To put onions on something makes the flavor so much better. You get texture, you get flavor, and it’s kind of underappreciated because everyone puts it on, but they don’t realize what it does for you.

Describe the perfect sausage.

I attempted, earlier on in my sausage-making days, a macaroni-and-cheese sausage. I made the macaroni and cheese, and I [packed it] into a sausage casing, and it, well, it was an utter failure. It stuffed fine and it looked good, and I was pretty excited for what happened—until I bit into it. It’s pasta, so it was starch all the way through and no protein. You’re eating paste at that point.

Do you recall your first time eating a hot dog?

It would probably be my first [Oakland Athletics] game. That kind of thing, your first hot dog at a baseball game, it’s very memorable.

How do you feel about vegetarians and vegans?

I actually wish I could carry a vegetarian and vegan option. It’s kind of hard for hot-dog carts. I know a lot of them do carry a vegetarian and vegan option. I’ve tried them, but I’ve found that I haven’t been satisfied with them, so my theory is that if you’re going to carry something like that, you’ve got to carry the best, something that I would eat.

If sausages could speak, what do you think they would say?

The only thing I can think of is, “Eat me.” When I look at a sausage, I think it would say, “I’m delicious. You would be wrong not to eat me.”

Of all things, how did you end up opening a sausage cart on a downtown street corner?

I’ve always wanted to make sausage for a living and run a hot-dog and sausage cart. It probably started when I first went to Rosamunde [Sausage Grill] in San Francisco. … The first one I ever tried [making] was the bacon-bourbon sausage. I started making them for my friends and getting lots of feedback. … Then, I just got addicted to it.

If good cheese comes from happy cows, do good sausages come from happy pigs?

Well, I use a local butcher in Sacramento, Reeds Gourmet Meat Co. They are a small, family-owned company in East Sac right now, and that’s where I get my pork from. … They do an awesome job, they have everything [made] to order, and they don’t have anything prepackaged or premade.

Do you have regulars?

I do. It’s kind of like a bar, like Cheers.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In these past three-and-a-half months, I’ve seen so many avenues that I could take. One of them could be to own multiple hot-dog carts. One of them could be moving into a brick-and-mortar downtown or in Midtown. One of them could be making sausage for other restaurants in Sacramento. … I know that five years from now, I’ll be doing something more than just owning one hot-dog cart on the corner.