We saw Tijuana dogs – aka TJ dogs – all over San Diego last month, from the Marriott’s Tequila Grille to Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce to the food vendors on the walkway next to the otherwise staid USS Midway Museum.
Tijuana dogs are the ultimate street food – basically a bacon-wrapped hot dog with toppings. I’d never heard of them before, and from I could taste was definitely missing out. . . they are much better than you’d think, a perfect bite of salty, savory, tangy, and hot. For all you uninitiated, here’s a great Tijuana Dog graphic from food writer and cartoonist Hawk Krall that explains all the delicious possibilities:
One of the best things about traveling is finding, then trying to copy at home, those wonderful new tastes you discover along the way. TJ dogs were no exception, although I assumed they’d be hard to recreate, and wasn’t fully inspired to try it out until I discovered el Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, where chorizo bacon and handmade perro calientes spoke to me:
We can become the Tijuana dogs of your dreams; our spicy salty goodness bringing back plumeria-scented memories of bike riding on Coronado Island, of gazing in wonder at enormous golden zodiac heads, of strolling through the Gaslight District and Little Italy in the twilight with your family . . .
I think that’s what they said, anyway. They were convincing, nevertheless. And it turns out Tijuana dogs are a super-simple thing to make at home. Just start by wrapping a slice of bacon, spiral-style, around a hot dog.
Now put your raw bacon-wrapped dog on a flat iron over medium heat and start cooking. Carefully roll around every 5 minutes or so, and soon that bacon will become a nice crispy bacon hot dog wrap.
It took about 20 minutes to cook perfectly. I was surprised the bacon stayed wrapped and there was much less bacon grease expected. Not too bad, really.
Now just quickly blot the grease on a paper towel and popped them into homemade hot dog buns. Yes, homemade hot dog buns. It was less work than it sounds. . . I just thought that awesome el Salchichero meat deserved some awesome bread, too.
And behold, the lowly hot dog goes gourmet-ish with creamy avocado, tart pickled veggies, spicy mustard and meat, and soft, chewy bun. This is destined to be my new go-to summer holiday party dinner.
And you know, those hot dogs didn’t lie . . . huddled around fire pots under the foggy Seacliff evening sky, munching on Tijuana dogs, I did feel the warmth of our San Diego trip, of flying kites on the grass as fingers of fog rolled into the San Diego Harbor, of watching a great blue heron dive for dinner over the Silver Strand, of laughing with Kid Two over something silly . . . all the warmth of memories with my family.