The Guilty Pleasure: Sonoran Hot Dogs Where to Get Them: Several places around town, mostly food carts and trucks in predominantly Hispanic parts of town. Price: Varies, but they're usually around $3 What it Really Costs: Did you bring one of those Tide pens? These suckers are messy!
It's been said that some of the best eating you can do when you travel is street food. In my limited globetrotting experience, I've found this to be true. Dining in swanky establishments has its place, but there's nothing like rubbing elbows with locals over a dirt-cheap plate of true local fare.
While this town's primary street food is the ubiquitous taco truck, my heart belongs to the Sonoran hot dog. You've probably consumed quite a few; goodness knows I have. While it's a product of areas right around the U.S.-Mexico border, the Sonoran hot dog's habitat has stretched far enough north to include us lucky folks in the metro Phoenix area.
Somewhere along my quest for new and exciting eats, the humble Sonoran dog fell by the wayside. Recently, I got to show off our local tube steak variant to a friend who wasn't familiar with them. In so doing, I got to remember why I adored them in the first place.
My usual haunt for these treats is Nogales Hot Dogs. I've seen a few identical setups around town, but the one on 20th Street and Indian School gets my favor for its convenience to my CenPho life. By day, the space is the parking lot for a comic book shop. After the store closes, the hot dog guys arrive with their ultra-portable operation to set up shop. Tables and chairs are of the plastic folding variety. Ambiance is limited to a small TV tuned to telenovelas or Spanish-language late news, and the din of traffic passing on Indian School.
The Sonoran hot dog is definitely a product of its surroundings. In place of the traditional split hot dog bun, there's a pillowy bolillo roll, all the better to hold the toppings. And, oh, those toppings! Many consider a dragged-through-the-garden Chicago dog to be the pinnacle of messy street eats. A fully loaded Sonoran dog makes a Chicago dog look like an exercise in polite restraint.
The way to go is to order your dog con todo, with everything. The folks who run the stand do some of the work for you, topping your hot dog with sautéed onion, diced tomato, beans, and mayonnaise. Yes, mayo on a hot dog. It works. Trust me.
From there, the choices are yours. A nearby topping bar has on it two kinds of cheese (shredded yellow and crumbly white cotija), thin guacamole, salsa verde, sliced mushrooms, and pickled jalapeños. Go ahead, load it up. The bun can take it. When you think the hot dog is full to bursting, there's still more topping choices. Awaiting at the tables are mustard, ketchup (for heathens out there who believe that ketchup belongs on a hot dog for some horrible reason), and several varieties of hot sauce. You can guess which of these I leave off.
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Under the weight of all of those toppings, you would think the frankfurter itself could be almost forgotten. Such is not the case. You see, the dogs get wrapped in bacon before they're cooked. This gives the whole shebang a lightly smoky note that ties together the whole package.
I feel like the combination of mayo, mustard, salsa, and everything else shouldn't work. But somehow, it all comes together, showcasing a quintessential American food through a distinctly south-of-the-border lens. The blend of flavors is kaleidoscopic. And I'm hard pressed to name a better bang for the buck in this town.
I'll bet it's been a while since you've had one. Get out there soon, maybe after an evening's entertainment. Maybe I'll rub elbows with you.