and nothing has changed. This place is still a dive!
What do you get when you take a small cinder block building, attach two food carts, and then attach a ram-shackle-looking dining area with folding walls and plastic sheeting for windows? What you get is the most famous purveyor of the mighty Sonoran hot dog—El Guero Canelo. And the world—or at least the Travel Channel—will beat a path to your door and feature you on Man v Food and Food Feuds. And even the possibility of an impending dust storm couldn’t keep us from making this our first Tucson, AZ, stop.
“Perhaps it’s only appropriate that El Guero Canelo, a claimant to being the original purveyor of the Sonoran hot dog in Tucson, champions authenticity and tradition…El Guero Canelo, which translates to ‘the cinnamon blonde’ is the nickname of its founder and owner Daniel Contreras. The Contreras family has about a century and a quarter’s worth of cumulative restaurant experience, starting their Tucson operation in a humble 6X8 taco stand…
“Hungry customers queue up in one of two lines to place their orders, a vast proportion of which are for Sonoran hot dogs. Order numbers are called out both in English and Spanish. You probably have time to visit the condiment bar for sliced cucumbers, radishes, pico de gallo, grilled onions and more before your order is ready. Dally too long at the condiment bar and you’re likely to hear a rather animated reminder that customers need to pay attention to the numbers on their order stubs” (Gil's Thrilling [And Filling] Blog).
We fell in love with El Guero Canelo during our month-long visit to Tucson almost two years ago, although I will admit to some trepidation when first viewing the exterior and needing some encouragement from Chuck to venture in.
AC on urbanspoon.com reinforces my sentiments: “You can believe what you've seen on Man vs. Food and Food Wars! This place is the real deal…Cool place. If you are not a local, don't be freaked out by the looks of the place outside. Be adventurous. . order your food . . join the locals and get ready to eat good.”
As you might expect, the menu is simplicity itself—quesadillas, burros, carmelos (these look a lot like a quesadilla to me), tacos, tortas (Mexican sand-wiches), and the Sonoran hot dog. I do remember having a taco on our first visit two years ago but have stayed with the hot dog ever since.
Our order for a Sonoran each placed, we headed to a table with a basket of tortilla chips (commercial) in hand. I made my way to the condiment bar and returned with a sample of each of their salsas/ sauces. Clockwise from the upper right quadrant: there was a delicious pico de gallo which Chuck loved (even though it was loaded with cilantro), a fire-roasted tomatillo and jalapeno salsa, a creamy avocado-based sauce, and a smoky chipotle salsa. Finally, our number was read, and Chuck made his way to retrieve our lunch.
Can I say it any better than Gil Garduno? No. “There’s a reason El Guero Canelo serves more than 10,000 Sonoran hot dogs a week. These hot dogs are mouth-watering–a thin dog gift-wrapped in bacon and nestled in a pillowy soft, slightly sweet bun where it shares room with pinto beans, grilled onions, chopped tomatoes, mayo and mustard then topped with a hint of jalapeño sauce. The buns are imported from a bakery in Mexico which prepares them to the exacting specifications of the Contreras family. You’ll be besotted at first bite–to the tune of at least two hot dogs per visit” (Gil's Thrilling [And Filling] Blog).
Can anything be better than a pork product wrapped in a pork product? The answer is no—unless it is a double. We snarfed down our first dogs so fast that we needed another. This time to savor. And Chuck went for the big guy--the Sammy--two bacon wrapped dogs in one bun with all the accoutrements (on the right in the photo). It would be a repeat on the single for me.
So how good are the Sonoran dogs at El Guero Canelo. Let me quote Jeff at urbanspoon.com: “Let's look at this logically. If you're someone reading Urbanspoon then you like food. If you're also in Tucson then you're near El Guero Canelo. If both of those things are true and yet you have NOT had a Sonoran Hot Dog yet then you are doing something wrong! I don't even need to write more of a review than that. Nothing else matters. Just GO and get a Sonoran Hot Dog! They are easily the best food in Tucson.”
Well, maybe not the best food in Tucson but this is certainly a 5.0 Addie hot dog stand.