Postcard from... Tucson


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The Independent Online

It’s mid-afternoon at El Guero Canelo, a restaurant south-west of downtown Tucson.

Families and food pilgrims sit at the tables, on benches painted in the colours of the Mexican flag. Parents cling to numbered tickets as they wait for their order to be called.

El Guero Canelo’s speciality is the Sonoran hot dog, named after the Mexican state south of Arizona where it is thought to have originated. A bacon-encased dog stuffed into a soft, slightly sweet split roll and loaded with extras far lighter than the greasy fried onions of its American cousin: freshly diced onion and tomato; a squeeze of mustard, mayo and salsa verde; a hint of hot chili pepper, and beans that might otherwise have graced  a burrito.

More than 100 Mexican hot dog vendors – or “hotdogueros” – work the streets of Tucson.

Born in Sonora in 1961, El Guero Canelo’s owner, Daniel Contreras, moved north and started his first hot dog stand here in 1993. Today he owns three restaurants, a meat market and a bakery south of the border, to make sure the rolls are made right.

The history of the Sonoran hot dog is hazy, but it was likely appropriated from the US and improved upon in Mexico. In Arizona, it is far more popular than the ketchup-and-mustard version – and rightly so.