Thursday, March 01, 2018

El Guero Canelo - Tucson, AZ

I was going to say that I finally ate at the one and only El Guero Canelo--the Tucson institution that recently won a James Beard Award for its Sonoran hot dog--but I realized that statement would've been inaccurate. There used to be only one, but there are now actually four.

I went to two of the locations. The first visit was the original store, which, if you go at night, is in a sketchy-looking part of town with barely anything open or many streetlights around it.

To me, it made El Guero Canelo look like a beacon in the dark. But when I went in, I wasn't prepared for what I saw. It's inside a structure that looked like it had been put together with spare parts from other structures, and not on purpose.

There was a walk-up window where the kitchen is. Connected to this, through another set of doors was a dining room that I hesitate to call a dining room. What it was is basically an indoor space where people can sit down and eat--nothing more. It was all concrete floors and furnished with a series of tables and benches that were bolted to the ground. Think of the food court area at Costco and dial it down a few notches.

There was, however, a salsa bar in the middle, stocked with more kinds of salsas than I knew what do with.

And then there were the hot dogs, which cost $2 more than Costco but worth at least $5. They are the pride of a town already brimming with a lot of food pride.

A skinless wiener is wrapped in bacon, then cooked till crisp. It's then inserted into a top-split bolillo roll and covered in pinto beans, grilled onions, diced raw onions, a zigzag of mayo and mustard.

When you break it down, it's just a bacon-wrapped hot dog like the kind you get outside Dodger Stadium on the way to your car; but in my opinion, what makes them so wonderful is the steamed roll, which has a sweetness and moistness akin to the bread that surrounds char siu bao.

Also, there's the side item that comes with every order. Instead of a pickle, they give you a roasted guero pepper, which is sweet, slightly hot, and adds more to the experience than you would ever thought possible.

It should be noted that this kind of hot dog is a relatively recent invention--a complete bastardization of American and Mexican flavors--originating in the late 1980s in Hermosillo, Mexico. But no one would argue that it puts to shame all Taco Bell Frankenmeals to date.

El Guero Canelo
5201 S 12th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85706
(520) 295-9005

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