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Restaurants & Bars 9

Karen’s Hot Dogs (Al Estilo Mexicano), Santa Rosa

Melanie Wong | Jul 15, 200206:00 AM

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Saturday evening I headed to Santa Rosa’s taco truck row on Sebastopol Rd. for a quick snack. I spotted a new sandwich sign “Hot Dogs Estilo Mexicano” on the sidewalk. The motto in Spanish said in effect, “so delicious you can’t eat just one”. Curiosity about what a Mexican-style hot dog could be made me flip a quick u-turn to check it out.

This is a standard hot dog rolling cart set-up and fully licensed. A canopy overhead and a folding table with napkins and condiments are the only amenities. The hot dogs are offered in four versions: Regular @ $2.00, Con queso (with cheese) @ $2.50, Con tocino (with bacon) @ $2.50, and Karen’s special @ $3.00. Soft drinks and elote loco are also sold.

I went for the “works” ordering the Karen’s special. On a standard hot dog bun, a bacon-wrapped grilled hot dog was garnished with sweet soft sauteed strips of onion and green and red bell pepper, slices of pickled jalapeño chilis, chopped ripe tomatoes and mayonnaise, plus catsup and mustard if you wish, and two thick pieces of adobera cheese balance on top. Served in a cardboard boat, which helped to catch the overflow, this still required some skill to eat standing on the street! Very tasty indeed, although I did have just one.

As I walked back to my car, the owner approached me to ask for feedback. This is a new venture, just seven days old, and a new concept for the area. When I said this was my first Mexican style hot dog, he explained that every small village in Mexico has a “hot doggero”. He apologized saying that I didn’t quite get the true impression because he noticed that his employee had put the mayonnaise on top of the dog, whereas the best taste is when the mayo is directly on the bun. I commented that the onions and peppers tasted sweet and freshly cooked, the summer-time tomatoes were wonderfully ripe and juicy, the dog was good quality, and I loved the smoky bacon that was crisp all-round. He said that they use fresh, top quality ingredients and that the hot dogs are all beef. I also mentioned that the bun was disappointing, that while I understood he may be trying to keep the cost down, it was stale and too dry. He said that the cart has a bun steamer and they’re still figuring out the timing to warm the buns properly. I asked about the cheese because it had a less salty and milder taste and was not as rubbery. He beamed at this telling me that he uses a “cream” type of adobera cheese for the best taste and was pleased that I could distinguish the difference.

While I did not try it, I asked him for a description of elote loco ($1.50). This is a cup of fresh corn kernels cut off the cob, served hot and topped with a squirt of mayo and grated cheese. A special blend of chili powder can be sprinkled on top by the customer.

The name of the business is Karen’s Hot Dogs, after his daughter. However, the hand-written “elote” sign covers up the “Karen” on the sidewalk sign board. The cart itself says “Estilo Mexicano”.

Karen’s Hot Dogs [Sonoma County]
Sebastopol and McCann
Tire shop parking lot, across the street from Quik Stop
Santa Rosa
Mon-Sat, 6pm to midnight
Sun, 11am to midnight


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