How to Build a Sonoran Hot Dog from the Bread Up

BY: Aimee Algas Alker |Jul 14, 2015
How to Build a Sonoran Hot Dog from the Bread Up

Many people know you don’t put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago, or that in NYC, they prefer sauerkraut and spicy mustard atop their wieners. But though it’s little known outside their own city, Tucson restaurants specialize in their own kind of hot dog: the Sonoran. 

Legend has it that the dog actually originated in nearby town Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora, which explains its Mexican-style toppings. Crafting a Sonoran hot dog is a demanding art—if one thing goes awry, it might literally all fall apart. 

So read on for a description of a Sonoran hot dog, layer by layer, from the bottom up, which is the best way to put them together. Also remember that each hot dog must not be premade, but assembled to order, lest the balance of hot and cold ingredients gets thrown off and the whole thing devolves into a soggy mess.

1. The bread

A regular hot-dog bun would crumble under the weight of toppings a true Sonoran requires, so most chefs use a bolillo—a sort of Mexican baguette, but shorter and softer. (You’ve most likely seen them used to make a torta.) Some recipes suggest substitutes in case you can’t find a bolillo, such as a lobster or torpedo roll, but of course, the bolillo’s best.

2. The beans

Atop the bolillo gets layered a ladleful of Mexican-style pinto beans. The beans’ positioning is crucial as their secondary purpose is to keep both dog and bun warm.

3. The meat

Bacon makes everything better, and this dog is no exception. Strips of bacon wrap tightly around the hot dog so no pink shows through. The dogs are then grilled until the bacon just turns brown and sticks to the hot dog, imparting it with smoky flavor.

4. The veggies

Crisp fresh onions and sweet grilled onions, chopped tomatoes, and often chunks of avocado pile atop the dog.

5. The sauces

Mexican crema (a thinner version of sour cream), mustard, and jalapeno sauce are drizzled on top of the whole dog, bun included, usually in an artful, Jackson Pollock–esque manner.

6. The side

Perhaps the only regional dog with a specific side, the Sonoran is not complete without a fiery roasted guero chili laid atop or alongside it. 

As you’ve probably guessed, some of the most-loved, best restaurants in Tucson serve this classic. Here are a few to check out:

  • El Güero Canelo: Specializing in Mexican cuisine, this eatery serves the paragon of Sonoran hot dogs—named the best by Tucson Weekly, among others.
  • BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs: Mesquite firewood adds extra smoky flavor to the Sonoran dog that the Travel Channel named the best in the country.
  • Taqueria Aqui Con El Nene: Sit at one of the picnic tables this popular food truck provides and pair your dog with toasted tacos and papanchas.

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