Some call them "danger dogs." Others refer to them as "street dogs." No matter the official title, what began as Tijuana street food quickly has spread north.
Now these dangerously addictive, bacon-wrapped hot dogs are the darlings of the late-night crowd, especially among concertgoers who scoop them up from street vendors outside the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., and the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif., long after the last encore. Danger dogs are even popping up on some local cafe menus. One national fast-food chain -- Wienerschnitzel, of course -- has gotten in on the action, too.
Tom Amberger, vice president of marketing for the chain, calls the flavor combination irresistible.
"Everybody loves bacon," he says. "It just seems to make everything better."
They're a potent draw at CJ's All American Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., as well.
"They love them," says owner Drew Albert. "Most people that have tried them definitely come back and get another."
The bacon-wrapped hot dog is self-explanatory. A piece of bacon is wrapped, corkscrew style, around a hot dog. Then the whole thing is grilled or cooked in a frying pan.
But there's no consensus on how best to top it. Some like it naked -- the best way to taste the flavor of the meat -- while others dress it up "street"-style with mayonnaise, grilled onions, ketchup and mustard. Other fans have their own variations.
"We have people who have done it with jalapeno and cheese," Albert says. "We have had people do it with mustard and sauerkraut. You can dress it up however you'd like."
Most trace the danger dog's origins back to Tijuana, Mexico, where it is considered street food. Then vendors began selling the item on street corners in Los Angeles, and late at night in San Francisco's Mission District.
When danger dog street carts began popping up outside concert halls in San Jose and Oakland, danger dogs ascended to Bay Area cult food status. There were nights when you could find them, and other nights when finding a good bacon-wrapped hot dog was an adventure unto itself -- and thus part of its allure.
Soon people in New York, Chicago and other cities were singing the gospel of the danger dog. The natural next step, Albert says, was to take the danger dog off the street and put it on a real menu.
"My wife had the idea," Albert says. "She knew about them from living in New York. And we heard they were pretty popular in San Francisco. Then one night we were watching -- 'Man v. Food,' I think -- and there they were."
Now, Albert is spreading the word.
"It's not something that people know about," he says. "It's different -- and good."
Cook your own danger dog
1. Wrap bacon around a hot dog, corkscrew-style. Secure the bacon to the hot dog using (nonplastic) toothpicks.
2. Grill the hot dog, as you would normally. It's done when the bacon gets crispy. (If you don't want the bacon too crispy, you can partially cook the hot dogs before putting on the bacon, then place on the grill.) Remove the toothpicks and place the hot dog in a bun.
3. Top it with your favorite condiments or go "street"-style and add mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and grilled onions.