When I first went off to college up North, I remembered explaining to my friends who’d never been to Baja just how good hot dogs in Tijuana were. They looked at me with a crazy stare of bewilderment, flippantly dismissed me, and then went on about Chicago dogs, NY and New Jersey hot dogs, and every other regional U.S. hot dog known to man.
Thankfully, things have changed drastically over the years. With the passage of time, and the ascension of Baja cuisine in mainstream American television, the TJ style hot dog is well known across all of North America these days.
The Tijuana Style Hot Dog Always Tastes Better in Tijuana
The classic TJ style hot dog is a thing of beauty: a Rosarito brand hot dog (locally produced in Tijuana) wrapped in varying quantities of bacon, placed in a wheat bun, then topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayo, with the option of chopped tomato, chopped raw onion, grilled onions, salsa picante, chopped up chilies (usually serrano or jalapeño), and other toppings. It sounds simple, but they do in fact have a unique taste that cannot be replicated outside of Mexico.
In spite of this, many other cities have tried to either take credit for TJ style hot dogs, or try to put out a version that’s identical in name only. In 2010, Los Angeles went so far as to name the bacon wrapped hot dog its official hot dog. This is in spite of the fact that the bacon wrapped hot dogs hawked in LA are cheap, overpriced imitations (with some clandestine Hollywood street carts selling them for an inexplicable 4 bucks a pop) of a true TJ style hot dog. They have inferior dogs, buns, and toppings. Much like with carne asada, the LA version is mostly overpriced, cheap filler, aimed at the ignorant masses.
Even here in San Diego, TJ style hot dogs cannot compare to their counterparts across the border. In Tijuana, there’s no shortage of excellent hot dog stands. I have a list of a few favorites, and at or near the top of that list is a corner hot dog spot called Hot Perritos, specializing in Sonoran style hot dogs. If you recall from my post on Sonora Mía (arguably the best steakhouse in TJ), I first tried Sonoran food about 14 years ago on a trip down to Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora (located East of Baja California and South of Arizona). What I didn’t tell you is that unfortunately, I never got the opportunity during my short stay to try the famous Sonoran hot dog.
How Sonoran Style Hot Dogs Differ
Sonoran hot dogs are somewhat similar to Tijuana style hot dogs in that they are made with locally made, all beef hot dogs, wrapped in varying quantities of bacon, then topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. That’s about where it ends, as the following items are added standard instead of optional: lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped raw onion and/or grilled onions, and most importantly, beans.
On the side are a bevy of ingredients to add to your already piled high “dogo” (as they call them in Sonora): salsa picante, salsa negra (if you’ve had Sonoran or Sinaloan mariscos you’ll be familiar with this: soy sauce, lime juice, chiltepines, serranos, and a few other things, depending on who makes it), chopped up chilies (serranos and/or jalapeños), pickled jalapeños, mushrooms, relish, salsa de chipotle (two versions: regular and con crema), salsa de jalapeño (Again two versions: regular and con crema), and even a salsa de queso. On the side are always complimentary roasted chiles güeros and serranos.
The Sonoran Hot Dog Bun: A True Work of Culinary Genius
You might be thinking to yourself, “how in the hell is all this stuff going to hold up on this hot dog?” or “how do you prevent the bun from falling apart like a soggy mess?” Here’s the other key that sets Sonoran hot dogs apart from TJ/Baja hot dogs: the use of a specially sized bolillo roll that fits a hot dog inside of it exactly to specifications. There’s no room for wiggle, let alone the chance for your hot dog to fall out.
The wider bolillo is firmer on the outside, so it can hold up to the volume and weight of all those toppings better than a standard hot dog bun. Lastly, the bread just tastes so fresh. It’s a huge improvement over a standard hot dog bun in my opinion. Having these specially made Sonoran hot dog buns is in fact so essential to the finished product that Hot Perritos uses only fresh bread shipped from Hermosillo.
Carne Asada on Your Hot Dog? ¡Sí, Se Puede!
In addition to the classic Sonoran hot dog, Hot Perritos makes a few other varieties. There’s the Steak Dog, which is the classic Sonoran hot dog, with a heaping of freshly prepared Sonoran style carne asada (de arrachera) on top of it. El Campesino is a classic dog with rajas (jalapeño slices) and queso on top of it. The Egg Dog carries ham and egg on it. They even have Sonoran style versions of a chili dog and a pizza dog. My personal favorites are the Steak Dog and El Clásico, the classic Sonoran hot dog.
If you love TJ style hot dogs, you’ll also love Sonoran style hot dogs. I highly recommend Hot Perritos, as it is a must for any fan of hot dogs. It’s conveniently located on the corner of the same block containing Plaza Fiesta and Plaza Zapato, across Guadalupe Victoria Street from the Glamour Autolavado car wash and across Erasmo Castellanos Street from the Banamex and Santander banks. Hot Perritos Sonora is open from 8 AM to 10 PM Monday through Thursday, 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM Fridays and Saturdays, and closed Sundays.