If the quest to bring a healthy option to the Barrio has left you with a bad taste in your mouth, maybe an attempt to bring healthy hot dogs to Logan Avenue can help. Barrio Dog serves gourmet hot dogs off a custom street cart, built with part of a red '64 Impala so the front of the cart resembles the rear end of a low rider.
2113 Logan Ave. San Diego, CA, Barrio Logan
The flashy grill isn't strictly about marketing wieners; it's more a case of art for art's sake. Barrio Dogg resides within the storefront of the also new Cruizin Lowrider Galeria, self-described as "an art gallery dedicated to sharing the history and culture of Lowriders in Southern California." A look around the gallery reveals photos of, and artwork inspired by, tricked-out rides. The hot dog cart was conceived as a way to pay rent on the gallery, and keep it open every day.
Loosely based on the locally famous, bacon-wrapped Tijuana street dog, the hot dogs served here have been elevated right along with Logan Avenue's buzzy profile. With dogs priced between five and eight bucks apiece, Barrio Dogg pledges "high quality ingredients," beginning with organic beef franks.
It's an extra buck to wrap any of the dogs with bacon, which might be the way to go on the basic La Virgen, served bare on a steamed bun save for mayo, mustard, and/or ketchup for $5. The real fun starts when you consider the toppings available. A Chicago style dog, El Capone, gets relish, sports peppers, red onion, celery salt and poppy seeds. The Asian influenced El Samurai is topped with pickled jicama, cucumber, and carrot, along with sriracha, jalapeño, wasabi sesame seeds, and hoisin-based BBQ sauce.
Which isn't to say the menu entirely breaks from its Baja inspiration. I went for a bacon wrapped El Xolito, which is loaded with toppings ranging from cilantro, jalapeño and salsa verde to tomato, grilled onions, cheddar, and "crunchy garlic."
With toppings piled on, you might call these well dressed dogs, though I suspect they'd be satisfying either way. While the trimmings add texture, sauciness, and character, the subtler flavors did get lost to the boldness of that substantial beef frank, especially with the bacon added.
I didn't opt to bacon wrap El Pueblito, topped by grilled onion, roasted poblano, cotija and machego cheeses, smoked paprika sesame seeds, and pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate acidity playing off the meaty dog was worth the experience, though if I had any criticism, it would be not enough paprika sesame seeds — the idea of them intrigues me, and I wanted more of both flavors.
The idea of gourmet street dogs also intrigues me, and I enjoyed them more for knowing they're supporting a cultural venue, especially in a neighborhood where galleries are increasingly at risk as developers move in. Almost makes you wonder what a gourmet fruteria might accomplish.