This Dog Won't Bite

It was one of those beautiful Arizona nights. The sunset was doing its magical and colorful dance upon the Phoenix skyline, and the weather was perfectly inviting. Being indoors was unappealing to me.

Like a comic-book hero, I hurriedly changed, leaving a trail of chef clothes on the floor for my dogs to attack in a licking frenzy.

Minutes later, I found myself being pulled along the streets by two very jovial dogs. Midtown Phoenix is alive at sunset. Dodging traffic, Roxy, Julio and I found ourselves window-shopping at Bellas Artes de Mexico on Indian School. Then we headed east and came upon a little urban jewel.

Nogales Hot Dog No. 2, a typical hot dog cart with not-so-typical hot dogs, can be found at 20th Street and Indian School, in the parking lot of Guitar & Keyboard City, from 7 p.m to midnight on weeknights and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Run by a very pregnant attendant named Monica, her husband, Pablo, and 7-year-old son, Adrian, this little stand provides an authentic "hot dog Mexicano."

Mexicans have a wonderful way of taking culinary treats from other countries and making them very "Mexicano." The hot dog Mexicano has been part of Mexican street folklore for many years. You usually find a much skinnier rendition of the plump puppy than you find in the states; it is uniquely Mexican.

A hot dog wrapped in bacon is placed on a bun and topped with mayonnaise, cilantro, onion and pinto beans. The condiment tray provides a further selection of Cheddar, Parmesan, pickled jalapeños, mustard, ketchup, diced tomatoes, guacamole, green tomatillo salsa, habanero salsa and canned sliced mushrooms.

As in Mexico, you purchase your hot dog Mexican-style — which means standing around or sitting at the only table (with four chairs) provided at the stand. But you can watch the tiny color TV showing the latest Mexican novela, or soap opera. And, of course, you can wash down your $2 hot dog with a $1 Mexican soda.

In Mexico, it's customary to cook the hot dogs on a griddle so that the bacon is nice and crispy. Unfortunately, Nogales Hot Dog No. 2 has no griddle. Yet the hot dogs are good enough for Julio, Roxy and me.

If you've never tried a Mexican hot dog, I recommend that you put your fears aside and take the plunge at Nogales Hot Dog No. 2. I wonder where No. 1 is located?

Silvana Salcido Esparza is a local chef and restaurant owner.

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