Think of it as the Frankenstein of food.
The Sonoran hot dog, beloved by thousands in the Southwest, combines a multitude of interesting ingredients to get your mouth watering.
"Whatever you want on the hot dog, you can get it," explained Alejandro Gomes, the primary hot dog maker at Micky's Hot Dogs in downtown Mesa, a restaurant that greets customers with a smiling hot dog on its red exterior.
Gomes begins by grabbing a bolillo, a sweeter alternative to a traditional hot dog bun, and slathering it with mayonnaise. After that, he reaches into the container holding the hot dogs that have already been wrapped in bacon and cooked, and carefully places it inside the bolillo. The additional ingredients are entirely up to the customer: Pinto beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, cheese, guacamole, grilled onions, green peppers and mustard are only some of the potential ingredients on the Sonoran hot dog.
Ian MacMillan, a sophomore at the University of Arizona, became a fan of the Sonoran hot dog after trying it for the first time.
"I loved it; it was the best hot dog I ever ate," MacMillan said. "My extra toppings were jalapeños and extra pinto beans."
The unusual Southwest delicacy had its beginnings in Sonora, Mexico, around 40 years ago. The history of Sonoran hot dogs is as mysterious as the ingredients that combine to make them: Mythic stories are told of how the food migrated north, but no one seems to know for sure how the hot dog made its way into Arizona.
Transplanting itself first into southern Arizona, Phoenix is a relatively new convert to the food compared with veterans like Tucson. The hot dogs had their humble beginnings as foods served from vendors manning carts outside. Modern restaurants that showcase Sonoran hot dogs do not necessarily adhere to their simple roots.
Moreno's Mexican Grill in downtown Mesa, a free-standing restaurant, highlights Sonoran dogs as a key part of its menu.
"We had our beginnings as a hot dog stand serving Sonoran dogs," general manager Selene Moreno said. "They were and still are one of our most popular items: The more people try them, the more they like them."
Though the appearance of the dogs is daunting at first, the flavors ultimately change cynics to converts. Moreno explained that the combination of ingredients is the most appealing part of the Sonoran entrée.
Restaurants that have concrete addresses are able to serve the hot dog, but most of the individuals who buy the Sonoran delicacy do so from carts, which have variable locations and unpredictable hours. Mutterings of carts on University Drive and Main Street or ones outside of Lowe's home improvement stores occasionally leave connoisseurs disappointed, as many vendors that serve Sonoran hot dogs only open at night. Truly dedicated fans of the food may have to drive around to seek out a Sonoran hot dog cart.
The reason for the mystery enshrouding the locations and hours of these hot dog carts stem from governmental regulation. The Environmental Health Division (EHD) of the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department greatly restricts the cooking of Sonoran hot dogs in carts. Because the hot dogs are wrapped in bacon, the law requires food cart vendors to cook them in a commissary and not on a cart without a real kitchen. The EHD deems that type of food preparation unsafe, since bacon needs to be completely cooked prior to consumption. Sonoran hot dog carts, then, emerge after the sun goes down in an effort to continue the authenticity of the cooking method and evade pesky fines.
MacMillan had his first experience at a hot dog stand, not a restaurant, near the University of Arizona. He has not had a Sonoran hot dog in Phoenix yet, but the Sonoran delicacy is more prevalent in Tucson now, though the popularity is spreading to its northern neighbor.
Despite the relatively slow growth of Sonoran hot dogs in Phoenix, Valley restaurant owners are confident about the future of the delicacy.
"Like potato chips, you can't have just one Sonoran dog," Moreno said.
Micky's Hot Dogs, 108 W. Broadway Road in Mesa, sells the hot dogs for $2.75. To contact the restaurant, call (480) 668-7777. Moreno's Mexican Grill, 760 E. Broadway Road in Mesa, sells the delicacy for $2.75. Contact them at (480) 844-0030.
Anna Gunderson is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a freshman at Arizona State University.