Yesterday was a good day.
We were out of town and by the time we got back to Phoenix it was getting late. We stopped at a hot dog stand that I had read great things about – and also happened to see on television.
Nogales Hot Dogs is a deceptively simple roadside stand. Every day in the same parking lot after sunset, the owners set up folding tables and chairs, cover them with a canopy and run all of the food appliances off of a generator. After midnight, they pack up and leave, only to return the next night and do it all over again. It’s always crowded and has become a popular spot for people to go for a cheap meal either before or after a night of heavy drinking. There is one and only one thing on the menu: the Sonoran dog.
The Sonoran dog was a byproduct of the standard American hot dog making its way into Sonora, Mexico. Not long after its introduction, the hot dog was altered to suit the region’s tastes and became a popular food sold by street vendors in Mexico. As Sonoran natives made their way back into the states, specifically Tucson, they brought the altered dog with them and the rest is history.
The Sonoran dog consists of a hot dog WRAPPED IN BACON, loaded onto a sweet bun and topped with beans, tomatoes, onions and mayonnaise. After you get your dog, you add from the toppings bar that included pickled jalapenos, canned mushrooms, guacamole, salsa verde, shredded cheddar and Cotija cheese. I think I added a little bit of everything.
I honestly don’t have the words. I think I sampled the food of the Gods that night. I ate two, but could have easily handled 3 or 4 more had I exercised less restraint. All of the flavors coming together had my mind reeling in ecstasy. Spicy, smokey, sharp, rich, fresh – I don’t know what to say. The salsa verde was spicy-hot and homemade. The bun reminded me of a Hawaiian sweet roll. The guacamole was more of an avocado puree. The mayonnaise was decidedly Miracle Whip. The Cotija was like the stinky “parmesan” that comes in the green canisters. The beans were akin to something found in a can of Van Camp’s. Despite humble ingredients, the end justified the means. A hotdog, something I thought I was completely familiar with, had been turned on its ear and transformed into something completely new… almost unearthly. New possibilities and additions immediately popped in my head.
I’m afraid that after I get back to the east coast, I will forever be chasing a ghost. I’m afraid I will be trying to recreate the heavenly dog in my own kitchen like a heroin addict trying to match the pleasure of that first high… and I’m afraid of the disappointment that will inevitably follow. Many people’s worlds are rocked the first time they try a new food. For some it’s foie gras, for others it might be truffles or caviar. For me it was the Sonoran dog.