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Tucson's Best Hot Dogs

By November 4, 2009

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I've just finished five days of food research in the Tucson, Arizona area, which is just now heading into its high season. There's a lot there for culinary travelers to tackle, from upscale restaurants who make sophisticated use of local produce, to spa cuisine, to Native American traditional recipes, and of course, Mexican specialties.

Much more about all that to come, but in the meantime, I want to talk about the hot dogs.

Photo of Sonoran Hot dog

The Sonoran Hot Dog

Hot dogs seem to be the Tuscon fast food choice for lunch or a late night bite, but these are no plain, unadorned dogs. A couple of months ago, Tucson's Sonoran hot dog gained national attention when John T. Edge wrote about them for the New York Times. I couldn't wait to try them.

The Sonoran hot dog is a hot dog wrapped in bacon, and served topped with beans and taco fixings on a soft and fluffy bun. As I've mentioned before, Sonoran hot dogs are an example of a dish that makes use of traditions on both sides of the border -- hot dogs being a quintessential US food, tacos obviously hailing from south of border, and bacon-wrapping -- well, that's just brilliant. (Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are popular nighttime street food in Mexico, in my visit to Mexico City's club district of Zona Rosa a few weeks ago, the air was fragrant with the smell of grilling hot dogs and bacon.)

photo of Pat's Chili Dog

Pat's Chili Dog

When you get to Tucson, a great place to try a Sonoran hot dog is El Guero Canelo, which will run you $2.29. It will be tempting to just head straight to a table to dig in, but the condiment bar will be a big part of your meal -- you can essential top your dog with an entire salad, but I suggest adding grilled scallions and onions to yours. Oh also, your hot dogs will be served with a roasted chile pepper, which you can nibble on in between bites of your hot dog, or pour the chile juice directly on the hot dog for added heat.

Sonoran hot dogs would be my total addiction if I lived in Tucson, but another old dog favorite in town is Pat's Drive-In, 1202 W Niagara St, where you can get an excellent chili dog. You can choose the heat factor in your chili, go for the hot for an extra kick.


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Photo: Alison Stein Wellner


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