Taquerias and James Beard winners put their spin on a Mexican favorite

by Gloria Knott

There’s no doubt that you’ve eaten a couple hot dogs in your lifetime. But have you had a Sonoran hot dog? It’s a Tucson must-have.

The popular Sonoran hot dog originated in Hermosillo, Mexico. It’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon and typically smothered in pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, salsa, mustard and mayonnaise, though other mixins including guacamole, cheese, and chorizo are often available. A Sonoran hot dog is truly a flavor overload – in the best way possible.

Sonoran hot dogs are common throughout Tucson. You can find a fancier version at Chef Janos Wilder’s restaurant, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. Saguaro Corners serves up mini Sonoran hot dogs, too. Sonora’s Famous Hot Dogs & Grill is another fun spot. Its menu features crazy creations, such as the pizza dog and Hawaiian dog. One hot dog is topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Many taquerias serve Sonoran hot dogs, including Aqui Con El Nene, BK Tacos, and the award-winning El Guero Canelo. If you haven’t heard, the Sonoran hot dogs at El Guero Canelo recently won a prestigious James Beard award.

While all the above restaurants and taquerias are worthy choices for Sonoran hot dogs, there are many hot dog carts parked on Tucson corners that simply don’t receive enough recognition.

It’s certainly not rare to drive through Tucson and see hot dog carts parked in vacant dirt lots. Even better, most Sonoran hot dogs don’t cost more than $3 – just remember to bring cash.

One spot to visit is El Manantial Tacos Y Hot Dogs, which parks its cart on the corner of 36th Street and Park Avenue.

El Manantial serves tacos, carne asada, burros, quesadillas and tortas daily. They serve hot dogs every day except Monday.

“We own the corner on 36th and Park,” says Alex Gonzalez, son of owner Jaime Delapaz. “That’s been our spot pretty much since we started 15 years ago.

“I could tell you a thousand reasons why our hot dogs are good. We really try to make sure that the flavor is spread out through the whole hot dog, so you don’t bite it and only get beans or only get onions. Our attention to detail sets us apart.”

For another option, try El Perro Loco Hot Dogs, which has three locations in Tucson at 36th Street and Country Club Road, Ajo Way west of Interstate 19, and Valencia Road and Cardinal Avenue.

“Every hot dog is made to order according to every client,” says Blanca Durand, who owns El Perro Loco Hot Dogs with her husband David. “As soon as you get there, we cook it. We don’t have anything waiting there and everything is made fresh.”

The Durands have been in the business for almost 17 years, so they know what they’re doing. Other than Sonoran hot dogs, they serve “Quesadogos,” which is everything you can find in a Sonoran hot dog shoved into a quesadilla. They also serve “Tostidogos,” which is a mixture of Sonoran hot dog ingredients sprinkled into a bag of Tostitos chips.

Durand also says that they created the Chipilon hot dog, which includes a toasted hot dog bun smothered in cheese. They also have a garlic version.

La Carreta del Rorro is another popular cart. Ramon Bringas started it four years ago, and it sits at Irvington Road and 15th Avenue.

“I’ve been cooking for 15 years,” Bringas says. “I got tired working for somebody else, but I love cooking. I just decided to open a hot dog stand. And I’m from Hermosillo, where the Sonoran hot dogs come from.”

Among their specialties, La Carreta del Rorro serves the “Chilerorro,” which is a bacon-wrapped hot dog with cheese and roasted green chiles. Bringas also serves bacon-wrapped turkey dogs with ham and cheese stuffed into the bun.

Other than hot dogs, the cart serves quesadillas, burritos and the “Tori-rorro,” which is a cheese-stuffed yellow pepper wrapped in bacon. They also serve their own version of the “Quesadogo,” which they call the “Quesirorro” and includes beans, ham, bacon, mushrooms and salsa.

But these three businesses are only a sliver of the many hot dog carts throughout Tucson.

(Photos by Gloria Knott)