Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson: a must-eat

One of the things we love about traveling is sampling regional foods. While some foods that were originally associated with their place of origin such as the Philly Cheese Steak or Buffalo Chicken Wings are ubiquitous, some foods are still only available at the source. We were told by locals that we had to try Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson so we did.

Discovering Sonoran hot dogs

The no-frills enterance at El Guero Canelo Tucson AZ photo Billie Frank

The no frills entrance at El Guero Canelo, photo Billie Frank

We would have missed this regional special if it weren’t for Tucson resident and fellow travel blogger Vera Marie Badertscher. When asked for assistance with dining, she said we had to try Sonoran Hotdogs while we were there. She even contacted a food writer friend and asked the best places to go for this popular local treat. The recommendations: BK Tacos and El Guero Canelo. After checking out both their websites we opted for El Guero. Something about their less slick site appealed to me. We went to the original location on 12th Avenue, locally dubbed “Eat Street.” We picked well according to one of our favorite New Mexico food bloggers, Albuquerque’s Gil Guarduno of Gil’s Thrilling and (And Filling) Blog.

El Guero Canelo

Diners ordering Donotan hot dogs at the window at El Guero Canelo Tucson AZ photo/Gil Guarduno

Diners ordering at the window at El Guero Canelo photo/Gil Guarduno

El Guero Canelo (“the blond guy”), one of many places to get a Sonoran hot dog in Tucson opened in 1993 by Daniel and Blanca Contreras claims to have introduced the Sonoran hot dog to Tucson. Whether they did or not, they sure got it right.

Walking into the barn of a dining room, an enclosed patio with rows of picnic-style tables and a buffet station, we knew it was a great choice. The place was packed with locals savoring the delicious dogs.

To order you go to one of two windows in a separate enclosed area that was probably once outside. The colorful menu is posted above the windows. We didn’t spend much time reading it as we were here on a mission. They also offer “Burros” (their name for burritos), tacos and quesadillas available in either beef or chicken.

The Dog

The loaded Sonoran hot dog at El Guero Canelo Tucson AZ photo/Steve Collins

The loaded Sonoran hot dog at El Guero Canelo photo/Steve Collins

We were shocked at the amount of things you can load onto your bacon-wrapped dog. Choices are: pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, grilled and raw onions, scallions, jalapeño salsa and mustard, all topped by an artistic squiggle of mayonnaise. All this is piled onto a sturdy steamed, slightly sweet bun; the plate is garnished with a pale green chile. All this costs a mere $2.78. Note that if you pay with a credit card, you must show ID and the cardholder must be present at the window. You get a number, find a table and settle in to wait.

In case there wasn’t enough on that hot dog

The huge dining patio and condiment barat at El Guero Canelo Tucson AZ photo Gil Guarduno

The huge dining patio with condiment barat at El Guero Canelo photo/Gil Guarduno

On the way to the tables we passed a stainless buffet cart loaded with fixins including a very picante pico de gallo, guacamole, grated American cheese, green and red salsas, radishes, cucumbers, pickled onions, A small steam table with two compartments, a short distance away, holds grilled whole scallions and small red and green chiles, also cooked.

When or number was called we picked up our Sonoran hot dogs and stopped at the fixins station to load the already full dogs a bit more. Steve added cheese, pico de gallo, scallions and the salsa verde. I added the pickled onions and the salsa verde which has a great tang to it. I tried the pico de gallo which was a bit hot for me. I also grabbed one of the grilled scallions at the hot station.

All set we bite into these dogs and are hooked. We finish our hotdogs and decide to split one as we’re both still a bit hungry. Steve probably could have easily eaten two; it would have been overkill for me. My suggestion: if it’s really busy, go for two so you don’t have a long wait when you decide you have to have another one of these delicious treats. If we lived in Tucson, we’d be regulars here.

If you find yourself in Tucson, put the Sonoran hot dog on your list of things to eat. And you won’t go wrong at El Guero Canelo. In our quest to find the best, next time we’re in Tucson we’ll give BK Tacos’ version a try. But we know we found a winner our first time out.

Have you had Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson or anywhere else?

Author’s note: A special thanks to Gil Garduno of Gil’s Thrilling and (And Filling) Blog for use of his photos. This isn’t the first time he’s come to our rescue.




10 Responses to “Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson: a must-eat”

  1. Gil Garduno
    November 9, 2019 at 2:25 pm #

    Hi Billie

    Very nice article! I hope someday El Guero Canelo expands to New Mexico. It’s the very best purveyor of Sonoran Hot Dogs in the universe.

    BTW, there are a number of restaurants and food trucks in Albuquerque serving Sonoran Hot Dogs. None are nearly as good as El Guero Canelo.

    Gil Garduno recently posted..Friends Of Gil (FOG) Dinner: A Great Time Had by AllMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      November 9, 2019 at 3:13 pm #

      Thanks Gil! And thanks for the photos!! Are any of the ABQ trucks decent? We so loved El Guero- don’t want to try something that doesn’t come close to measuring up,

      • Gil Garduno
        December 3, 2019 at 10:00 am #

        Hi Billie-
        In response to your question about Albuquerque food trucks serving Sonoran Hot Doge, my brother has managed to track down a couple of food trucks which he contends proffer good Sonoran Hot Dogs, but they never seem to be parked at the locations where he tells me they should be. There are a couple of brick-and-mortar restaurants who do a good job with Sonoran Hot Dogs: Sharky’s Fish & Shrimp ( in Albuquerque and Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World ( They’re not nearly as good as El Guero, but perhaps nothing is.

        Gil Garduno recently posted..Loyola’s Family Restaurant – Albuquerque, New MexicoMy Profile

        • Billie Frank
          December 5, 2019 at 9:00 am #

          Thanks, Gil. Will let you know what we think of we got to one of them.

  2. James C. Tyler
    November 12, 2019 at 1:59 am #

    Sonoran hot dogs are delicious I have tasted in my own town

  3. Julios Smith
    November 12, 2019 at 5:38 am #

    Hot dogs are delicious, shall try some Sonoran hot dogs next.
    Julios Smith recently posted..Health Beat: Vet Tech Treats Residents and Visitors at Coral WorldMy Profile

    November 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm #

    Yo Billie and Steve! While I appreciate your lusting after The Sonoran Dog…LOL, I hope Y’all have sampled the Foot Long (NM Red) Chile Cheese Dog con onions that has lasted from the mid ’50s on Route 66 in ABQ given I didn’t find a review on your site. In contrast to a Sonoran Dog, this simpler creation, allows one to more readily enjoy, IMHO, the full flavor of the focal ingredient, The Hot Dog!
    Muy Sabrosa!
    - BTW, as an added bonus if you are into Br Ba: !

    • Billie Frank
      December 20, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

      We haven’t yet. We’ll have to try one.

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