John Crosses America for a Dog
Nine hours of traveling and all I wanted was a hot dog.
Wait, that’s not accurate.
Nine hours of traveling and all I wanted was a legendary Sonoran hot dog. I had just flown into Tucson for an ambient music concert and had already made my lunch plans. Although there’s an endless supply of Sonoran-style dogs to be had in the area, parceled out in everything from full-blown restaurants to iffy trucks and carts parked in scary abandoned lots, two stands are typically held as the Tucsonian gold standard: BK Carne and El Guero Canelo. My original plan was to hit both in order to compare and contrast (as, I believe, the TV show Food Wars already did). In the long run, though, time and a lunch companion who doesn’t like “so much stuff” on his dog held me to just the first one we found, which was El Guero.
Yes, the Sonoran hot dog has “so much stuff”–and then some. As you can see by the sign, it starts with a bacon-wrapped hot dog. (And hold that thought for a moment, okay?) To this you add sausage, red/pinto beans, grilled onion, fresh onions (because one type of onion is never enough-a sentiment with which I am totally on board), tomatoes, mayo, mustard and jalapeno sauce.
Seriously, it’s like a full-on Beethoven symphony of hot doggery, and sloppy as all hell to eat.
But let’s talk bacon for a moment. Two photos for you to ponder. First is the area where they make the dogs. You order at the window shown above, but that’s not the kitchen. In fact, there’s a pair of kitchens. One, to the left of the order window, is where they make anything other than hot dogs. It looks for all the world like somebody parked their trailer badly next to the restaurant and just left it there. Given that, the hot dog station looks like somebody pulled away without their hot dog cart and, luckily for the rest of us, never came back for it. So this is the dog area. The dogs start out in the bin to this guy’s right.
And there you go. These dogs start out in what’s essentially a hot-dog-sized kiddie pool of bubbling bacon grease, just getting tastier by the moment. When the guy starts your order, he plops the dogs into the bin at right, which I have to assume has paper towels or some form of grease-devouring microbes, and lets them drain a little. And then he gets down to the business of putting together your little bit of hot dog heaven.
I could eat these buns all day. Big and steamed to a perfect softness. Almost like a potato roll. The flavor of the dogs themselves actually gets lost amidst all the stuff, but I have to say it lacked any kind of snap and was, in fact, a little bland. But then there’s all the other add-ons to enjoy. I have to say I’m not crazy about the cold beans in my dog, but I do think I came away more inclined to shoot a bit of mayo onto a dog now and then–but probably only in the company of mustard. It’s a nice combo that you don’t see up my way much. The jalapeno sauce lent just the softest kiss of heat, in tandem with the mustard.
I’m glad I got a chance to try the renowned Sonoran dog. While I can’t say it lived up to the legend and hype, and although I do wish I’d stuck to the original plan of getting a pair at both this joint and BK Carne to compare, I walked out a happy and quite well-fed tourist, my arteries just a touch more clogged than when I walked in.