This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Bacon brother. Photo by Tenaya Hills

The finest summer cooks you'll meet this season set up shop every Wednesday afternoon at the Santa Ana Farmers' Market. Say hola to a gruff Mexican man with a walrus mustache and his shy, skinny son. They prop up a tent, spear whole chickens on a spit, and spread an assortment of sausages on a massive flat-iron grill. Barbecue time.

The father twirls the spit until his arms become a blur. The muchacho glumly flips the sizzling sausages so they char but don't burn. The chicken is juicy and golden, accompanied by pinto beans and macaroni salad, while each gargantuan sausage (insert perverted joke here) is delish—slightly bitter bratwurst, spicy Louisiana pork links and a peppery Italian beef sausage. Also available: made-that-day aguas frescas—tart lemonade, sweeter strawberry lemonade, so-so horchata and a pulpy watermelon drink that will revitalize your day.

But the father-and-son team's crowning achievement is the bacon-wrapped hot dog, the stuff of after-concert Los Angeles curbside vendor legend, heretofore unavailable in Orange County eating establishments. Preparation is simple: Father grabs an all-beef hot dog and wraps it with strips of pale bacon as if it were gauze on an injured thigh. Son slaps the coiled wiener on the grill, where the bacon begins to fry. Sizzle. The fat of the bacon seeps into the hot dog, which plumps quickly, while the bacon burns until it's black and crispy.

Contrary to popular opinion, which places the bacon-wrapped hot dog in the same single-note category of pastrami burritos and fried Snickers, the Santa Ana Farmer's Market bacon-wrapped hot dog is a snack with as many notes as a five-star meal. Sweetness emerges from the grilled onions and the miscegenated glop of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and relish smeared inside the bun. Spice arrives via a grilled jalapeño snuggling next to the wiener. The bacon's fat lends tasteful grease; a toasted sesame seed bun adds earthiness. O, brilliant, fatty wonder!

The only mistake the Paramount-based father-and-son team commits is choosing the Santa Ana Farmer's Market as its only Orange County location. Don't get me wrong: this small farmer's market is charming, but open just once a week. Why limit the county to just one bacon-wrapped hot dog per week? Spread its gospel to other farmer's markets, to street corners—anywhere and everywhere possible to enjoy the best summer treat since picnicking at Irvine Meadows.


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