You can carb load and get your meat on at this downtown Phoenix hot dog staple.EXPAND
You can carb load and get your meat on at this downtown Phoenix hot dog staple.
Jackie Mercandetti

The Food Truck That Brought Crazy Hot Dogs and Doughnuts to Downtown Phoenix

Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.

49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts

Have you tried "The Bear" at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts? It's arguably the craziest hot dog on a menu chock-full of crazy hot dogs.

The Bear boasts a not-so-secret ingredient: Cracker Jacks. The old-school caramel corn is stippled over the hot dog, which features sweet barbecue sauce, smoked gouda, bacon, and your choice of frank (the spicy beer hot dog is a solid pick). The hot dog is lightly slicked with some peanut butter, too.

The Bear is certainly not the most photogenic hot dog in town, and its eccentricities place it closer to "cult favorite" than "best-seller." In its own way, though, The Bear is oddly compelling, even delicious. The first bite inevitably scrambles your taste receptors. Is it salty, savory, sweet, or nutty? Is it chewy, creamy, or crunchy? Does the Earth still revolve around the sun? Your palate will be humbled.

Eventually, the flavors congeal into something meaningful, and The Bear takes on the appeal of something like peanut brittle. It's both dessert and dinner, cradled inside the powdery folds of its warm naan "bun."

The Bear is perhaps Short Leash's craziest hot dog.
The Bear is perhaps Short Leash's craziest hot dog.
Patricia Escarcega

Short Leash owners Brad and Kat Moore created The Bear a few years ago as part of an Arizona Diamondbacks hot dog challenge. Its flavors were inspired by the seventh-inning stretch and the verse in “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” about buying "some peanuts and Cracker Jack.”

The Bear was an instant hit, and the Moores put the savory-sweet dog on the restaurant’s permanent menu. Since then, it's caught the attention of hot dog aficionados from across the country, who stop in to scratch The Bear off their hot dog-eating bucket lists.

Of course, there's more to Short Leash than The Bear. It's also home to one-of-a-kind creations like the Igby, a hot dog smothered in barbecue sauce, blue cheese, and coleslaw. There's the Polka Dot Casserole, topped with mac and cheese and hot dog slices. For traditionalists, Short Leash offers a very good bratwurst-stuffed pretzel, which is elegantly dampened with sauerkraut and Bavarian mustard seeds.

Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts' Roosevelt Row location is casual and cheery — and there's a doughnut counter.
Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts' Roosevelt Row location is casual and cheery — and there's a doughnut counter.
Patricia Escarcega

It's easy to forget how novel these hot dogs were when the Moores first started selling them out of the original Short Leash truck back in 2010. Over the years, Short Leash has built a small empire out of its offbeat hot dogs, making the transition from farmers markets to its very own brick-and-mortar location on Roosevelt Row in 2013. It's a cheery, casual, counter-service restaurant that wears its dog-loving heart on its sleeve — everything from the menu to the interior design pays homage to lovable canines of every stripe. 

Eventually, Short Leash opened a second location at Biltmore Fashion Park. In 2014, the Moores introduced an adjacent concept: Rollover Doughnuts, a purveyor of creative homemade brioche doughnuts. The doughnuts feature gourmet toppings like orange icing and chopped pistachios. At one time, there was even a doughnut version of The Bear, although it's since faded from the menu.

Short Leash, arguably the godfather of the downtown Phoenix food truck community, has turned creative, naan-wrapped hot dogs into a downtown Phoenix food staple. And it gave us The Bear, a hot dog whose extravagant union of sweet and salty makes it impossible to forget.

Short Leash Hotdogs + Rollover Doughnuts. 110 East Roosevelt Street; 602-795-2193.
Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2502 East Camelback Road; 602-954-4712.
Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

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