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Doggos Gus: Imperial Beach’s bacon brat

Sunset comes for a hot dog stand

Danny (background) gets his carne asada dog and fries.
Danny (background) gets his carne asada dog and fries.

“So long, Huey.” It’s a biker muttering this. He ain’t old enough to have picked up that Vietnam moniker for the sun, but he says it anyway.

Place

Doggos Gus

805 Seacoast Drive, San Diego

Because yes, that last moment’s coming. People have turned quiet. They stare west, at the ocean horizon, where the luminous lozenge melts like ice cream left out of the fridge.

“Perfect,” I say. And it is. Evening’s warm enough, cool enough, golden enough, with kids tearing around the sculptures of dolphins, as well as around The Surfer, the statue that defines this waterfront. His silhouette rules an edge of the continent, right here beside Ye Olde Plank pub.

Wicked, beautiful, and they say it’s healthy! Who are we to argue?

With the sunset behind me, I’m looking down Seacoast to just after the Sea180, the one really classy hotel down here. I want to find this eatery that’s living on borrowed time. Actually, three of ‘em are set to be demolished in a couple of months, including a pizza place and this favorite hot dog joint. They’ve been told they must haul it all down to make way for boxy offices. Way to go, IB. Money ain’t just talking here, it’s howling. The rest of us, we’re just wailing. The loss of the hot dog joint is what gets to me. Authentic TJ, not like slick franchises that move with the fashion. (Proof? Look at how TJ-style hot dogs are so the rage.) IB’s slo-ow rise to beach community status is really taking hold, partly because of the phenom.

Of course for me, it’s hunger that’s catching up. So I follow this dude to the small entrance of the place where he has parked his bike — a mega-cool dove-gray Harley-Davidson Road King with reach-for-the-sky handlebars and a great throat. He carries on to a pop-up bar counter that’s been trundled along the street and parked outside this place called “Doggos Gus.”

“Gus?” I ask Sebastien, the kid behind the mobile counter.

Perfect combo - cheesy shrimp, bacon, sausage. Chorizo’s worth try, too.

“Not me. The guy who owns it.”

“Doggos?”

“We’re from TJ, and that’s what we call hot dogs on the street,” he says. “Doggos.”

Huh. All the times I’ve been to Tijuana, I’ve never heard that. But no time to argue, because it’s chow time. First, before any hot dogs, we join the line of people ordering Micheladas. It’s the cool thing to have, specially at the end of the day. Here’s the truth: I have never had a Michelada. Not even sure what the danged thing is, except for Clamato and beer. We’re talking maybe eight bucks, and for that you get a drink that’s so traditionally Mexican, you feel more Mexican just drinking it. That’s what my neighbor Kevin always says, anyway.

“Know why this is so great?” Sebastien asks. “You can walk it down the street. If it was a bottle of beer you were carrying, the cops’d be right onto you.” He passes the rosey, dried pepper-topped plastic cup. “But the secret’s in our other ingredients,” he says. “Lots of spices. Maybe soy sauce, definitely Maggi sauce. That black gloop is what gives it its flavor. What kind of beer do you want with yours?” He has a bunch of Mexican beers that I don’t know lined up on the counter, things like “Intense” IPA, “Estrella” from Jalisco, and “Xteca,” “La chela mas chula,” (“The most beautiful beer”), made right here in San Diego County. I go for that, mainly because of the cool can.

Now Sebastien is adding soy sauce, jalapeños, and specially, that oil-black Maggi sauce. “Gunk lots of that bad boy in,” says the guy behind me. Lots of pourings and stirrings later, we start sinking our Micheladas. Mmm. Salty, spicy, hot and cold at the same time, not particularly alcoholic, but feels like it is. Just wish I had wheels like Danny’s. Danny says his 2007 Harley’s worth about $20K. Then he gets talking with his friends and I get talking food with Sebastien. Mmm. Burgers and bacon-wrapped Doggos, $7, $8.

Sebastien, Micheladero!

Burger-flavor-wise, you range from the “simple,” to the chipotle jalapeño, to the bacon burger. Prices are around $8-$9, kind of medium for these inflationary times. Actually, other guys behind us are saying one of the best deals is the humble Doggo fries. Bacon dog slices, grilled onions, pico, chipotle, with guac crema. Danny’s having the carne asada doggo, about the most expensive at $10. I guess it’s those good cuts of Angus Beef. Me, I gotta try one, partly just to use this new word (for me), “Doggos.” The most delish thing about mine is the melted, slightly burned cheese on top.

Huey’s long gone, but we talk about the green flashes we should be seeing now that the sun has well and truly sunk. Then we talk about the one sad thing: these li’l old buildings are coming down, along with all the cheap pizzas and sandwiches, and hey, the Doggos that helped the Micheladas create a perfect sunset tonight.

This is what I like above all: just our little scene, sitting on the narrow balcony, sucking, chewing, talking about Huey as he withdraws his services. Hoping, like the Aztecs did, that he’ll come back tomorrow. They say it takes the sun’s beams eight minutes to reach us here on earth from the moment they leap off that raging solar surface. It’s an awesome thought we’re all feeling. Even though we’re total strangers. But maybe that’s not the sun. Maybe that’s just IB.

  • The Place: Doggos Gus, 805 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, 11.30am-8pm, Sunday-Thursday, 619-349-3121
  • Prices: American Doggo, bacon wrapped Beef slider, $5; burgers and bacon-wrapped Doggos, average $7, $8; carne asada doggo, $10
  • Buses: 933, 934
  • Nearest bus stops: Seacoast and Palm
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Danny (background) gets his carne asada dog and fries.
Danny (background) gets his carne asada dog and fries.

“So long, Huey.” It’s a biker muttering this. He ain’t old enough to have picked up that Vietnam moniker for the sun, but he says it anyway.

Place

Doggos Gus

805 Seacoast Drive, San Diego

Because yes, that last moment’s coming. People have turned quiet. They stare west, at the ocean horizon, where the luminous lozenge melts like ice cream left out of the fridge.

“Perfect,” I say. And it is. Evening’s warm enough, cool enough, golden enough, with kids tearing around the sculptures of dolphins, as well as around The Surfer, the statue that defines this waterfront. His silhouette rules an edge of the continent, right here beside Ye Olde Plank pub.

Wicked, beautiful, and they say it’s healthy! Who are we to argue?

With the sunset behind me, I’m looking down Seacoast to just after the Sea180, the one really classy hotel down here. I want to find this eatery that’s living on borrowed time. Actually, three of ‘em are set to be demolished in a couple of months, including a pizza place and this favorite hot dog joint. They’ve been told they must haul it all down to make way for boxy offices. Way to go, IB. Money ain’t just talking here, it’s howling. The rest of us, we’re just wailing. The loss of the hot dog joint is what gets to me. Authentic TJ, not like slick franchises that move with the fashion. (Proof? Look at how TJ-style hot dogs are so the rage.) IB’s slo-ow rise to beach community status is really taking hold, partly because of the phenom.

Of course for me, it’s hunger that’s catching up. So I follow this dude to the small entrance of the place where he has parked his bike — a mega-cool dove-gray Harley-Davidson Road King with reach-for-the-sky handlebars and a great throat. He carries on to a pop-up bar counter that’s been trundled along the street and parked outside this place called “Doggos Gus.”

“Gus?” I ask Sebastien, the kid behind the mobile counter.

Perfect combo - cheesy shrimp, bacon, sausage. Chorizo’s worth try, too.

“Not me. The guy who owns it.”

“Doggos?”

“We’re from TJ, and that’s what we call hot dogs on the street,” he says. “Doggos.”

Huh. All the times I’ve been to Tijuana, I’ve never heard that. But no time to argue, because it’s chow time. First, before any hot dogs, we join the line of people ordering Micheladas. It’s the cool thing to have, specially at the end of the day. Here’s the truth: I have never had a Michelada. Not even sure what the danged thing is, except for Clamato and beer. We’re talking maybe eight bucks, and for that you get a drink that’s so traditionally Mexican, you feel more Mexican just drinking it. That’s what my neighbor Kevin always says, anyway.

“Know why this is so great?” Sebastien asks. “You can walk it down the street. If it was a bottle of beer you were carrying, the cops’d be right onto you.” He passes the rosey, dried pepper-topped plastic cup. “But the secret’s in our other ingredients,” he says. “Lots of spices. Maybe soy sauce, definitely Maggi sauce. That black gloop is what gives it its flavor. What kind of beer do you want with yours?” He has a bunch of Mexican beers that I don’t know lined up on the counter, things like “Intense” IPA, “Estrella” from Jalisco, and “Xteca,” “La chela mas chula,” (“The most beautiful beer”), made right here in San Diego County. I go for that, mainly because of the cool can.

Now Sebastien is adding soy sauce, jalapeños, and specially, that oil-black Maggi sauce. “Gunk lots of that bad boy in,” says the guy behind me. Lots of pourings and stirrings later, we start sinking our Micheladas. Mmm. Salty, spicy, hot and cold at the same time, not particularly alcoholic, but feels like it is. Just wish I had wheels like Danny’s. Danny says his 2007 Harley’s worth about $20K. Then he gets talking with his friends and I get talking food with Sebastien. Mmm. Burgers and bacon-wrapped Doggos, $7, $8.

Sebastien, Micheladero!

Burger-flavor-wise, you range from the “simple,” to the chipotle jalapeño, to the bacon burger. Prices are around $8-$9, kind of medium for these inflationary times. Actually, other guys behind us are saying one of the best deals is the humble Doggo fries. Bacon dog slices, grilled onions, pico, chipotle, with guac crema. Danny’s having the carne asada doggo, about the most expensive at $10. I guess it’s those good cuts of Angus Beef. Me, I gotta try one, partly just to use this new word (for me), “Doggos.” The most delish thing about mine is the melted, slightly burned cheese on top.

Huey’s long gone, but we talk about the green flashes we should be seeing now that the sun has well and truly sunk. Then we talk about the one sad thing: these li’l old buildings are coming down, along with all the cheap pizzas and sandwiches, and hey, the Doggos that helped the Micheladas create a perfect sunset tonight.

This is what I like above all: just our little scene, sitting on the narrow balcony, sucking, chewing, talking about Huey as he withdraws his services. Hoping, like the Aztecs did, that he’ll come back tomorrow. They say it takes the sun’s beams eight minutes to reach us here on earth from the moment they leap off that raging solar surface. It’s an awesome thought we’re all feeling. Even though we’re total strangers. But maybe that’s not the sun. Maybe that’s just IB.

  • The Place: Doggos Gus, 805 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, 11.30am-8pm, Sunday-Thursday, 619-349-3121
  • Prices: American Doggo, bacon wrapped Beef slider, $5; burgers and bacon-wrapped Doggos, average $7, $8; carne asada doggo, $10
  • Buses: 933, 934
  • Nearest bus stops: Seacoast and Palm
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