No one has been able to provide conclusive proof of where the Sonoran hot dog first took shape — northern Mexico or southern Arizona — but there is little doubt that the continent’s most baroque wiener, which began appearing at Tucson street carts in the late 1960s, found its chief proponent in 1993 when the Contreras family opened El Guero Canelo. Differences among the city’s many “hot dogs estilo Sonora” are subtle, but no one could dispute that the one served by this happy restaurant is a benchmark.
As made at the cart to the side of the al fresco dining area, each bacon-wrapped beef dog is nestled deep within a big, supple Mexican bun as yeasty as a dinner roll, cut to form a pocket with closed ends that shore in the massive onslaught of condiments. The hot dog is accoutered with chopped tomatoes and onions, a few pinto beans, hot jalapeno sauce, yellow mustard and mayonnaise: a beautifully-balanced package. For those who crave maximum meat, El Guero Canelo’s menu also lists a Sammy Dog: two in one bun, equally well-dressed.
An entire kitchen, apart from the hot dog cart, offers a wide choice of Mexican dishes, from huevos rancheros and breakfast burros to weekend menudo — the posole and tripe hangover remedy that is available with or without ox foot. Dress-your-own tacos are wonderful when filled with juicy, brightly-spiced carne asada.
El Guero Canelo is extremely casual but in no way sloppy. We felt as well-tended by the staff as in a linen-table dining room, but eating here is so much more fun. Mexican party music plays on the loud speaker, regularly interrupted by a scratchy electric voice calling out numbers to let people know their food is ready to be picked up.