One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to try local specialties. Sometimes these are special cafés that serve up unique dishes like the fluffy pancakes in Tokyo or they could be things like local regional delicacies. So when I recently ventured into Tucson Arizona, it was necessary for me to try the Sonoran hot dog.
In this article, I will talk about what the Sonoran hot dog is and where you can find them in Tucson. (Full disclosure: so far, I have only tried one Sonoran hot dog but I will update this article as I try out more locations.)
What is a Sonoran hot dog?
A Sonoran hot dog is a special hot dog popular in southern Arizona that comes grilled, wrapped in bacon, and served on a bolillo bun (a variation of the baguette).
But the fun doesn’t stop there, these bad boys are also topped with pinto beans, fresh onions, chopped tomatoes and sometimes additional condiments like guacamole, shredded cheddar, mayonnaise, mustard, and jalapeño salsa. A roasted chile güero (a pale pepper) may be served on the side.
Unlike a Chicago dog which is pretty standard in make-up, the ingredients can vary depending on where you go and many places will put their own twist on the Sonoran dog.
Where did the Sonoran hot dog come from?
If you are like me, you might be curious about the history of the delicacies that you are trying out when you travel.
According to Tucson.com, a traveling circus may have first brought hot dogs to Sonora, Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century and eventually these dogs evolved into the modern day Sonoran hot dog in the city of Hermosillo — the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora.
There’s debate about the evolution of the hot dog (like who first wrapped the dog in bacon) but by the 80s, the dog had exploded in popularity and you could find them all over Universidad de Sonora. And then shortly after, Sonoran hot dog carts started showing up in Mexican neighborhoods in Tucson. The rest is history.
Is the Sonoran hot dog good?
Taste is a pretty subjective experience so it is impossible for me to tell you whether or not you will like the Sonoran hot dog.
However, I was a little bit underwhelmed with my first Sonoran hot dog experience (I hate to admit).
It wasn’t horrible but given all of the toppings on it and the bacon, I thought that it would be bursting with flavor but I found the hot dog to be a bit bland. So when I try my next Sonoran hot dog, I will be sure to load it up with other flavorful condiments like jalapeño salsa.
One thing I will say is that these dogs get messy real quick. So be prepared to contain overflowing condiments — either with a napkin or your mouth.
Where to get a Sonoran hot dog
It is estimated that you can find a Sonoran hot dog at over 200 places (hot dogueros) in Tucson. That’s right, you could choose from around 200 places to get a Sonoran hot dog and that is only in the Tucson area. Remember, you can also find these in other cities like Phoenix.
With that said, there are some places that are more popular and I will list some of those restaurants below.
In addition to the restaurants below, remember that food trucks and food carts can be popular places to get the Sonoran hot dogs so don’t feel like you have to step foot inside of a restaurant to enjoy this local delicacy.
If you drive around the city of Tucson and keep your eyes out you will surely find a couple of these carts located on street corners or in parking lots.
List of places to get Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson
So here is a list of locations to check out:
- Address: 4415 N Flowing Wells Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705
Aqui Con El Nene is known for Being one of them most authentic places to get a Sonoran hotdog and it stands out with its chipilón with melted cheese into the bun. Another recommended dish is the Taco Yaqui (two tortillas filled with a roasted green chile and stuffed with carne asada, mushrooms, and cheese.
- Address: 533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705
Boca Tacos y Tequila is located close to the university of Arizona and takes a taco centered approach on the Sonoran dog with the “Taco Dog.”
- Address #1: 2680 N. 1st Ave. Tucson, AZ 85719
- Address #2: 5118 S. 12 Ave. Tucson, AZ 85706
If you do any research on the Sonoran dog you will undoubtedly see that BK tacos is one of the front runners when it comes to the best Sonoran dog in Tucson. The location on 12th Ave. is close to El Guero Canelo, another front runner for best Sonoran dog so you can often stop by both to see which one is most deserving of the crown.
- Address #1: 5201 S. 12th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85706
- Address #2: 2480 N. Oracle Rd. Tucson, AZ 85705
- Address #3: 5802 E. 22nd St. Tucson, AZ 85711
As stated, this is often considered the top spot to get a Sonoran dog. This is actually the place that I tried my Sonoran dog at. They have a total of four locations so you can find them all over the city.
El Perro Loco
- Address #1: S. Country Club Rd. & E. 36th St.
- Address #2: W. Valencia Rd. & S. Cardinal Ave.
- Address #3: 1285 W. Ajo Way
El Perro Loco is known for its toasted buns loaded with garlic powder which many rave about. The extra crunch from the toasted bun makes a big difference and that is how I am going to try my next Sonoran dog.
- Address: 1526 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712
Another location that will toast your Sonoran dog bun is El Sinaloense. Grilled onions and sour cream make the list of condiments that others have raved about and reviews and I will definitely be giving this place a try in the future. Just be prepared, this place is located in the middle of a vacant lot (which probably either excites you were turns you off).
Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones
- Address: 1140 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701
Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones is another cart location that has great reviews and is yet another spot where it’s all about the toasted bun but they offer a buttery spin on their buns.
Other places to look into include:
- Karamelo King
- La Carreta Del Rorro
- Saguaro Corners
- Taqueria Jason
- Mr. Antojo
If you have a favorite spot for Sonoran hot dogs you can list it in the comments below and I will add it to the list.
Overall, I was not overly impressed with the Sonoran hot dog on my first attempt. I’m not a huge fan of pinto beans so that could be a major factor but I also think that I just need to try the Sonoran dogs at a few more locations before I come to my final verdict. Regardless of my experience, I think that you owe it to yourself to at least try out the hot dog on your first visit to the area since it is a unique dish.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.