Craving something spicy Sunday evening, I went searching in the Fruitvale for Mexican Hot Dogs aka bacon wrapped hot dogs.
For the uninitiated, it's a slice of bacon wrapped around a jumbo hot dog served from a food cart. Standard prep is with grilled onions (grilled in a mix of bacon grease and cooking oil) with sliced pickled jalapenos or grilled serrano chile on the side. Be warned: "everything" means ketchup, mayo, and mustard. I'm not a fan of 'everything' and think it's best with mustard, or sometimes mustard and mayo.
It's all quite normal all over Mexico, with stands popping up on busy corners everywhere from Baja to the Yucatan. Around here, it's mostly illegal carts on the weekend in the Mission...
Two areas stops I know of in Fruitvale...
-In front of El Ranchito Market at 1536 23rd Ave in Oakland, just a couple blocks off International. You'd never find this unless you were looking for it. There is a parking lot which makes it convenient. It's a big setup and generally always there until maybe 7pm? No hot dogs were ready, so I had a fresh Churro instead. It's a bit like a carnival/fair setup, and she squeezes out the batter into hot oil and makes the batches small and fresh. Nice and crisp with a light dusting of cinnamon+sugar. It's 8 for $5 or a dollar each. Good texture, but perhaps slightly softer in the inside than I expected. A good snack. (also an option for a 'filled' churro)
-Walking back to my truck, I opted for an Al Pastor taco from La Esmeraldo. (side note: They did have a special for a half chicken with fries that seemed like a good deal, but I still needed to get hot dogs. Someone should try it out and report back...) They stay out until around 9pm. Taco had a good amount of meat but seemed oddly saucy to me, kinda like pulled pork bbq. It was a bit sweet too. Not my favorite Al Pastor in the area...
-St. Elizabeth Church, 1500 34th Ave. A bunch of interesting carts pop up Saturday afternoons maybe 11am-2pm, and Sunday ~3-6;30pm. If the gringos setup carts like this in front of church, I might have wanted to go more when I was a kid.
Bought one hot dog from a cart, South side of street (church side) and just west of the church steps. Bun was nicely warmed, and it was good but the hot dog seemed a bit off to me. Finished it off and walked across the street to the vendor who sets up on the left side of the parking lot entrance. Same $3 setup, but it was much better. Caramelized onions fried in bacon grease, and the serrano chile was cooked through with just the right amount stiffness left. If you go right when church is getting out, lots of parking available on the street. Maybe 5:45pm?
-Saw some more fresh churros being fried, and decided to try those too. It was cold and windy out tonight, and the cook was re-warming some churros by throwing them back in the oil! They had only been out a few minutes. It got busy and they didn't even let them drain 30 seconds before rolling them in the sugar. Lots of sugar, and lots of oil everywhere. I got a lot of churro for my $1.00. It was super crisp but I was left wishing it could have drained a minute before bagging. My paper bag may have dripped oil. Still tasty though, and the cook was off making more fresh churros for new customers. Considered buying a fresh (single-fry) churro for comparison, but by this time I was stuffed.
Notes: Hot dogs are $3, churros-to-dollar ratio gets better if you buy $5 worth. I still don't know of a consistent late night east bay bacon wrapped hot dog. There is a cart in the Uptown neighborhood, but it's not *wrapped* in bacon, and moves around a bit. I've found that the Mexican hot dog carts are not as consistent in quality as the taco truck. There's some super secret technique to cooking bacon on a hot dog. When I tried it at home, it doesn't seem to stay wrapped...I did eat this all by myself...
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