Updated, with a comment from Pee Wee's and the Tucson Weekly at the bottom...
I've been hearing good things about Pee Wee's Famous Hot Dogs and Hamburgers in Surf City, but had to roll my eyes when the Orange County Register announced this morning they were introducing "real Mexican hot dogs" to its menu. Not that pinche authenticity argument again! And if reporter Stefani Peterson wanted to play that game, she played it wrong. "Bolillo" is never capitalized, unless the word is at the beginning of a sentence, I've never heard of crema fresca referred to as a "Mexican creme fraiche" before (we Mexis are more than happy to call it our better version of sour cream, merci very mucho), and I literally laughed when Peterson excitedly exclaimed, " Are you thinking Tijuana hot dog cart, yet?"
No, Stefani. The epic hot dog you described in your post is actually, technically a Sonora dog, and the Sonora-style hot dog is actually, technically a Tucson phenomenon. Tijuana dogs traditionally are bacon-wrapped, smeared with mayo (not crema fresca), Valentina's hot sauce, mustard, onions, maybe tomatoes--and that's that. But, hey: it's easier to excite readers on a post about Mexican food by whispering "Tia-juana" instead of "Sonora," since the cachet for the latter cultural signifier ended about 80 years ago in Southern California.
But Peterson's post isn't what angered me the most. The picture she used to accompany her post piqued my interest--and not just my gut. Take a close look at Pee Wee's so-called Mexican hot dog at left from the snapshot of their website above. Notice the stream of mustard bisecting the dog, the tomatoes shoveled on top of the dog, the trickle of relish, the zig-zag of--HA!--Mexican creme fraiche (sorry, folks: HAHAHAHAHAHA!), the contours of its paper wrapping below, the indentations of the bread, the size and placement of everything in the picture. This is the shot that Pee Wee's uses to advertise itself as the "Home of the Mexican Hot Dog."
I knew I had seen that picture somewhere...
My own blog post on five "authentic" Mexican dishes that would make Rick Bayless scream! And that picture came from the website of Tucson's El Güero Canelo chain, where the art of the Sonora dog has reached beautiful heights highlighted even in the frou-frou food pages of the New York Times.
Pee Wee's rip-off is shameless. The only thing they did to make the picture theirs is Photoshop out the roasted pepper on the side (compare and contrast! compare and contrast!). How much effort would it have taken to merely take a picture of an item you're already claiming as innovative, an item you duped a poor Reg reporter into inaccurately reporting on? Do you really think online customers are that dumb? Actually, you do! Replace that photo ASAP, but such tactics have given me an ethical pepper belly for you guys that I don't think can ever be cured.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Oh, and Pee Wee's? $3.95 before tax for a Sonora dog is larceny--El Güero charges $2.71, a price that includes the tax. And a "true" Sonora dog doesn't use a bolillo as its bread. Bolillos are for tortas; hot dog buns are for hot dogs. Even in Mexico.
*UPDATE: A Herm, claiming to be the manager of Pee Wee's left a comment below. The key passage:
The picture is shameless and we apologize and are working to fix it. Pictures of the food have been the most challenging task so far for our young restaurant but definitely not trying to pull anything over. Just trying to get the word out and make it happen. BTW, I was a fan of yours. Also, IMO you should try it before you hate on it.
Apology accepted. Sorry you're no longer a fan--it happens. But don't lift photos of hot dogs that aren't yours. Meanwhile, the Tucson Weekly isn't happy but took a more prosaic approach to this story: "Tucson only has so many cultural items to hang our hat on, so we can be a little defensive when people mess with our hot dogs."