By Anita Mabante Leach
It’s the last of summer (we hear you sighing, “Thank God!”) and soon we’ll be back to cooking full-on meals for our families. No more Tuesday tacos from the takeout down the street, drive-through windows for pizzas, or Sunday night nachos for dinner.
But we’ll miss wienies the most, for this was the summer in which we discovered the MEXICAN HOT DOG.
We first read about this estilo Sonora-style dog in a Tucson tabloid, whose food staff often shares our zest for small places to chow down. (You can’t get much smaller than a hot dog cart discreetly parked between businesses after sundown, accessorized with a portable table and chairs.)
Anyway, we’re here to urge you to try a Mexican hot dog, even if you prefer to try making one at home. These types of dogs do need to be thoroughly cooked, not just spun on a heated roller, as we’ll explain later.
The origins for the style may actually lie in American restaurant kitchens, where food workers often put their own spin on things. Chief among the condiments is a piece of bacon wrapped around a dog that has small slits to hold the end of the rasher as it is grilled. Everything tastes better with bacon fat, ¿que no? For your safety, the pig slice must be crisply, completely cooked as the dog plumps, making the wiener a perfect platform for more stuff to slather on top.
Some cart owners offer these dogs deep fried, to make certain the bacon is crisp. We prefer precooked, crumbled bacon, which is how our neighborhood vendor, Mr. Triny, offers it.
In our research — all conducted furtively, at night — this style of dog also takes a south-of-the-border turn at its toppings. Some cooks will smear crema (a Mexican-style crème fraiche) or mayonnaise (none of that low-fat stuff) on a fresh bakery-style bun. From there, the wiener is cradled in the bread, splashed with ketchup and/or spicy mustard, then topped with diced tomatoes, chopped onions (with the latter sometimes grilled or fried), jalapeño slices, diced pineapple and mild panela cheese crumbles. Other topping variations include cooked, crumbled chorizo, guacamole, slivers of carrots in escabeche (hot pickled vinegar), avocado-tomatillo salsa, and yep, American-style pickle relish.
We’ve tried locating this snappy dog at Don Guido’s, 111 E. Dunlap, in Sunnyslope; The Great Dane, (“I’m sorry,” the lady answering the phone said. “I don’t have avocados — I’m sorry to disappoint you!”), 6219 N. 7th St. in Phoenix; and at Dave’s Dog House, 130 E. University in Tempe (their best toppings guess included diced tomatoes, jalapeño slices and sour cream; but it’s not on their menu).
These are all great places to consume hot dogs, but not one of them could produce the exotic strata of a Mexican hot dog.
That leaves you with two choices: prowling Valley streets and parks in search of a Mexican hot dog cart (we suggest starting after sundown), in hopes said cart owner can show proof of a food vendor’s license; or to make your own version at home, where you can pig out on layer upon layer of slathered bread, bacon-wrapped juicy meat and crisp, spicy/sweet toppings. It is, in our eyes, the pinnacle of eating meat in a casing, crowned with a combo of toppings that makes no mistake where its culinary loyalties lie. We hope you are lucky in your search — it’s a fine way to say farewell to summer.