TUCSON, Ariz. — A Tucson restaurant has notched another award for its bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dog, but locals may disagree about its dominance.
The article clocks the famous Sonoran hot dog joint at No. 7 on a list that includes other big names like Jimmy’s Red Hots in Chicago and Crif Dogs in New York, which the article states is “frankly the best.”
The short blurb on El Güero starts out with a dubious claim: “Walk into any restaurant in Arizona serving hot dogs and they will have a Sonoran-style hot dog on the menu,” and then goes on to say El Güero’s is the best.
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Landing the James Beard Award in the America’s Classics category for timeless restaurants was a special moment for the southside Tucson taqueria – and for Arizonans and lovers of casual Sonoran food, which often goes unnoticed by major award organizations.
In fact, Güero’s patriarch, Daniel Contreras, said when he received the award he hadn’t heard of James Beard until the organization called him that morning.
El Güero likely got this most recent recognition because listicles are often produced from simple internet searches rather than the author actually tasting the foods they’re writing about.
Also, judges and national food writers vote for and write about the places they’ve been to. El Güero has a very Google-able 30-year history, plus a former location in Phoenix. Tucson is a little less accessible than Arizona’s capital and tends to be underrepresented in national media.
Ask a local about Sonoran dogs
For those who live in the Grand Canyon State, a national list of Sonoran food will always fall short of a local one. And down in Tucson, the dogs in question are basically birthright.
Originally from the Sonora, Mexico, capital of Hermosillo, a Sonoran dog is a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with beans, mustard, mayo, onions, green salsa and tomatoes. El Güero is but one vendor in a spicy sea of excellent Sonoran hot dogs. Most Tucsonans would agree there are better options in town.
Equally popular in Tucson, but not known on the national scale, is Güero’s longtime competitor BK Carne Asada. It set up across the street from El Güero in 1994 and went on to best its rival in the Travel Channel show “Food Wars” in 2010. Even The Washington Post singled out BK and El Güero in a recent story on Tucson tourist attractions.
But the rivaling dogs are practically indistinguishable from each other. Both have an approachable, fluffy bun and similar ratios of mustard, mayo, green salsa and beans atop a medium-sized, bacon-wrapped wiener. They are good. Great even. But still not the best.
By the way if you haven’t had a Sonoran hot dog, and you aren’t going to be near Tucson anytime soon, you might find them in Los Angeles. Or you can order a kit from El Güero Canelo through Goldbelly mail order service. (Cost: $75 for a kit to make six hot dogs.)
The best Sonoran dog in Tucson
Compared to other Sonoran hot dogs, those found at the Ruiz Hot Dogs cart, which won a citywide Sonoran hot dog contest in 2010 – the author was among the judges – is on another level.
Located on the northwest corner of South Sixth Avenue and 22nd Street, Ruiz Hot Dogs may have the same ingredients as competitors, but their Sonoran hot dogs are just more flavorful and work together a bit better than other dogos around town.
Plus, their hot dog, the chipilon, is toasted bun-and-all on the grill before it’s served, adding crispness and an intensifiedsquish of all the savory, spicy pork fillings. After having tasted most, if not all of the Sonoran dogs in Tucson, they’re the ones recommended for locals and visitors.
The Roadfood website agrees, describing the Sonoran dog as “magnificent, a beautiful cornucopia of bacon-wrapped dog and all the trimmings* stuffed into a creamy-soft bolillo bun that has been toasted to crisp-edged luxury.”
Contributing: Mike Snider, USA TODAY