Top dog in Tucson

Deep in the hot Sonoran desert, the city of Hermosillo, nicknamed “The Sun City”, capital of the Mexican state of Sonora, is considered the legendary birthplace of the Sonoran-style Mexican hot dog.  Some trace the history of the hot dog back to Frankfurt, Germany, where pork sausages (frankfurters) were served in a bun.  Vienna, Austria, is the home of the wiener, a sausage made of a mixture of pork and beef.  Around 1870, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling pork sausages in rolls on Coney Island.  In 1900 Oscar Mayer and his brothers built a thriving sausage business in Chicago.

Sometime after WWII, the American hot dog made its way to Hermosillo, where it was wrapped in bacon, placed in a bolillo, and topped with Mexican and traditional American condiments.  See the informative and entertaining YouTube video, “Hot Dogs Hermosillo Sonora“.  The Sonoran-style hot dog, also known as the estilo Sonora or estilo Hermosillo hot dog, eventually traveled 217 miles north to “The Old Pueblo”, Tucson, Arizona.  Hear or read the NPR story, “The Sonoran Hotdog Crosses The Border“.  Some say the Sonoran hot dog is the quintessential food of Tucson, which possibly has over 250 hot dog stands.  In summer locals especially enjoy street food at night.

I got excited about this story while recently watching the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food program segment, “The Sonoran Dog in Tucson”, which follows Adam Richman on his culinary quest for the authentic taste of Tucson, while visiting El Güero Canelo, an authentic Mexican restaurant started by the Contreras family in 1993 and listed as one of the “Top 10 New Places for Hot Dogs” by Bon Appétit.  Some say that Philadelphia has its cheese steak, Chicago has its deep-dish pizza, and Tucson has the Sonoran hot dog.

Earlier this year the Travel Channel returned to Tucson to cover the epic Sonoran hot dog battle that has been raging on 12th Avenue on the south side since the 1990’s.  See the Food Wars video of Travel Channel’s visit to the contenders, El Güero Canelo and BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs.  Some people become quite passionate about the Sonoran hot dog.  This war sometimes pits siblings against siblings, which is covered here in the Circle of Food Blog.

Here in San Diego, the Sonoran Dog is sometimes called the Tijuana Dog or TJ style hot dog.  Since all of the ingredients for the Sonoran-style hot dog are readily available in San Diego, I thought it would be fun making my own, based, in part, on this recipe.  Fresh, whole-wheat bolillos and hot dogs were purchased at Pancho Villa Farmer’s Market.  I then prepared the toppings, including chopped onions, tomatoes, avocado and grated Cheddar cheese.


I mixed the mayonnaise with a small amount of lemon juice and hot sauce and placed it into a squeeze bottle.  I brought out the mustard and put Larry’s homemade sausa verde (tomatillo sauce) into a small bowl.  I wrapped the main ingredient, hot dogs, with bacon and carefully placed them in a frying pan…


and cooked them until the bacon was crispy (about 7 minutes).


We then spooned home-cooked Mayocoba/Canary Beans (Peruvian beans) and chopped avocado inside a pocket cut into the steamed or grilled bolillo.  The bacon-wrapped hot dog is inserted into the pocket and covered with our favorite toppings and hot sauce.


This top dog is truly a Sonoran fiesta in a bun!


  1. says

    I read this a week ago and have been fighting the urge to go to El Guero Canelo in Tucson to try one. I think I’m going to give up the fight this weekend … if so, I’ll report back.