Pablo Perez makes the kind of hot dogs people dream about. For the last seven years, he's been introducing Phoenicians to the magic of the Sonoran Style Hot Dog, served out of a cheerful hot dog stand called Nogales Hot Dog #2.
You'll find Perez and his assistant seven nights a week from 6 PM to midnight, in the parking lot of Guitar and Keyboard City near 20th Street and Indian School in Central Phoenix. His south of the border spin on a hot dog wraps the meat in bacon, adds a generous dollop of beans and smothers it in mayonnaise and chopped tomatoes. The toppings bar includes guacamole, grated cotija cheese, cheddar cheese, fresh salsa verde, mushrooms and pickled jalapenos.
Act like a regular and ask for freshly grilled onions and peppers on the side, sip a Mexican Coke (made with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup), then sit back and relax at one of the sparkling clean tables, catch a tela novella on the little TV, and marvel at the fruits of Pablo's labor.
Chow Bella: How did the whole Nogales hot dog thing start? When did the bacon happen? Pablo Perez: In Nogales, Mexico, my uncle started selling them with bacon. He's been doing that for 20 years. Nine years ago my brother-in-law started and then seven years ago I started right here.
CB: Your van says that you are 'Nogales Hot Dogs #2'. Why are you #2? PP: My brother in law runs #1, he's on 35th Avenue and McDowell
CB: The bread is delicious - it's not your normal hotdog bun. PP: Those are made for us by a Mexican Bakery on 35th Ave and McDowell. We get them fresh every single day. Every night we put in the order for the next day so we never have any left over. It's always fresh every time.
CB: Where to do get the guac and salsa verde? PP: My wife and I make them every day. Some people say they are addicted to the salsa.
CB: Do people do crazy things for these hotdogs? PP: (laughter) Yes. Last Friday, there was a police officer here who had given up meat during the week for Lent. He was here at 10 minutes to 12:00, almost midnight. He kept saying, 'When can I eat it, when is it midnight?' He sat there staring at his hotdog so I set the alarm on my cell phone and set it on the table. I told him, 'As soon as the alarm goes off it's time to eat.'
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CB: Do you think you'll ever want to have a restaurant? PP: Yes, but that is a lot of work. We have kids and my wife and I think it would be tough.
CB: Your kids must love that you have a hotdog cart. PP: Yes, they do. My son says 'You know everyone on the world.' I can't go anywhere without seeing someone who comes for our hotdogs. It's nice! But it makes my son think I know everyone. Everywhere we go someone always says 'You make the hot dogs with bacon!' I have many friends from my hot dogs.
CB: Why this corner in front of Guitar City? PP: I had to find a place. The city wouldn't let me sell a lot of places, so I had to keep looking. I found the space here, I asked them, and they said 'Okay' and we've been here ever since. I'm very worried though, because the building is for sale. When somebody buys the building, maybe they won't want us to be here anymore. We don't know where we would go.
CB: No way! Just make them one of these hot dogs. Who can resist bacon on a hotdog? PP: (Laugther) That's our plan, anyway. We hope it works.