Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Hot Dog Hustle

As you probably already know, if you know us or have been reading this blog for a while, we tend to hang out at our neighborhood bar, Danny's Baboquivari, on most given evenings. It is our transition from work mode to house mode and we are friends with most of the staff there. If you are lucky, you should have a Danny's in your life as well. It's just our place you know.

You know.

Anyway, to make things even more cool about Danny's is that co-owner Erik "Chili" Hulten has purchased an old food cart, fixed it up real awesome and serves up some of the best hot dogs and brats in town. Now that the cool evening weather is here, you need to get to Danny's, order up a real honest drink and dig into Chili's amazing food.

How this guy does it - runs a business, raises a family, goes on food adventures with us AND now operates a hot dog cart - we just don't know.

But we are glad he does.

Chili in full servin' it up action

There are hot dog carts all over Tucson, and we like a decent amount of them, but something about Chili's dogs that we are kind of obsessed over. Sure he's a good friend and, yeah, maybe we're giving him some preferential praise, but, c'mon, the man is a beardy wizard when it comes to creating delicious condiments and combinations.

But we think it's his pickles.

Oh man. Chili's pickles are some of the best we have ever had the pleasure to suck down on a warm summer night or brisk autumn afternoon. Not quite dill, not exactly bread and butter, sorta fridge style but...not really. They are crisp, tangy and best of all sometimes really spicy. If you get a particular chip that is nestled next to a jalapeno....hoo doggies! That's some heat for yo face and butt. But we love it and he always serves them on the side of his delectable creations.

But not just dogs, oh no. The man grills up some serious bratwursts as well. Man style. This is manly food for manly people who want manly meat logs in buns. Chili doesn't fool around. No sir. You see, he's manly. His height, girth and beard should prove that.

When you've got dogs that are slathered in peanut butter and finished with thick cut bacon, there is literally no going back. Why would you want to?

Here's the thing: Chili and his stand, the Sausage Fest, do not do Sonoran hot dogs. That was one decision he made early on seeing as you can get those here in Tucson from almost any cart on any corner.

On a "chili" night, you need these

"I just didn't want to do Sonoran style dogs," Chili says handing off a brat to a customer about to brave the crowds at the Winterhaven festival of lights across the street. "I just can't compete with the amount of those stands here in Tucson. So I just mix it up with different styles and toppings.

"At first the menu included various sausage options, like real exotic stuff such as rabbit sausage. I got a little ambitious. Turns out people just want really good quality hot dogs and bratwursts which I am totally fine with and I think provide.

(Ed.note : He does)

"This is a great creative outlet for me and it's really fun to feed people. I try to be at Danny's every Wednesday and would love to expand to events, festivals and parties, which I have occasionally but even more so. It's hard work but I love it."

Oh....I see what you did there. Funny. That's funny...

Danny's usually has a food truck parked in their lot but when a vacancy opens up Chili and Sausage Fest take over when they can. Lucky of us because the man comes up with delicious arrangements of toppings to go over his already tasty dogs.

"One of my more popular brats is called the East Coast. I make a roasted garlic cream cheese then top it with some caramelized onions. It's simple but really tasty. I've got a Reuben brat that has a home made sauerkraut that I infuse with an IPA beer and then finish with a tart 1000 dressing. So good.

"A favorite of mine is the Arizona BBQ dog where I include a bunch of bacon, thick bar-be-que sauce and two different styles of onions. That'll warm you up on a cold night after some cold beers. But one of my more ambitious brats is called the Cali. The thing is topped with arugula, more bacon, avocado and my own pesto mayo. It's interesting because there is a lot going on with that thing."

Yes we have tried them all and, yes, "interesting" is the key word here. And if by interesting you mean "Aww hellz yeah!"....then yes.

Super good food made by a super good guy.

A manly guy.

All aboard the tube meat train

The secret to Chili's brat and hot dog success just doesn't come in the form of sausages or fun and inventive toppings. For Chili, it's all about the buns.

"They have to be soft, they have to be big and, most importantly, they have to grill up perfect," he says as he applies his signature chili (hence the nickname) onto a brat that is steaming in the early winter evening. "Alejandro's on South 12th Avenue makes the best. Hands down. Now you know."

Now that you know where he gets his amazing buns (umm...that sounded weird) from, and that Sausage Fest is your next go to cart for a tasty brat or hot dog, we just wanted to know how it all came about in the first place.

"This cart was just sitting around, unused, so I bought it earlier this year. It used to be called Uncle Tom's Hot Dogs and, yeah, I wasn't going to use that. So the first order was to change the name. Short of buying a restaurant or a food truck, the cart allows me to financially try the food business. It's tough but it's also something one person can manage. So far so good. I'm having a blast."

Good, because we are having a blast eating your sausage and buns!

Wait. That sounded weird again...

Los pickles es muy caliente

To see where Chili and Sausage Fest are setting up next you can follow them HERE.

Most likely they will be in front of his other business, the one where you will most likely find us inside. And when Chili is grillin' up some of his super awesome treats, you will most likely find us with mustard and bacon bits on our faces.

It's what the man would want.

And we wouldn't have it any other way.


The man, the myth, the mustard

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Middle of December, 2016

Metal Influence:

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