When I spotted the tamale cart of Julio Valdez on the corner of Ivy and E. Market in Salinas, I knew there was a good reason I'd forgotten to eat lunch on Thursday. Sr. Valdez was just getting set up a little before 4pm. That's as good a time as any to enjoy one of his Mexican-style hot dogs.
Wrapped with a strip of bacon and grilled, the beef franks are kept hot in a warmer. When I nodded "yes" when asked if I wanted everything, Sr. Valdez squirted the soft steamy bun with mayonnaise and yellow mustard, then nestled the hot dog into place. I kept saying "sí" as he marched down the condiment line-up: pickle relish, chopped tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, and black peppery onions braised in butter and mustard. I passed on the chopped pickled jalapeños and the raw onion. Then a squirt of crema and a bit more mustard on top. I asked for grated cotija, and he offered me the option of orange-colored cheezwhiz as well. He charged me $2.60 for this pile of food and cautioned, "watch out for drips", eyeing my black sweater.
This time I'd asked for my dog packed "to go". The styro carton provides the support and catch basin for all the toppings, making this overflowing dog much easier to eat. It was utterly delicious. And, I managed to plop but one splash of crema on my clothes.
Image of hot dog to go -
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