This Bacon-Wrapped Elote Dog Is The LA Street Food Mashup You've Been Waiting For
Every day, Dirt Dog chef Val Duarte serves up steaming SoCal street food from a brick-and-mortar in University Park. The entire menu is inspired by L.A.'s diverse and food-rich communities, each with its own premium spin. Duarte said she draws inspiration for her dishes from her childhood, growing up in South L.A.
"I think a lot of it has to do with growing up in a Mexican culture," she said. "A lot of flavors I was able to combine were just from grandma's old recipe to mom's new tricks to my own little feel."
SoCal nostalgia appears to be a running theme at Dirt Dog. Classic '90s hip-hop bumps from the speakers. Board games are readily available. This shop reveres its roots and aims to treat diners to a just-like-home vibe, along with its hot dog concoctions.
Heading to the kitchen, Chef Val proceeds to wed two Mexican favorites to create the dish known as the Elote Dog. Starting with a bacon-wrapped dog, she adds esquite, cotija, chili powder and a slab of lime — all seated in a generously buttered lobster roll. To finish, she sprinkles on a generous helping of chopped cilantro and bacon bits. Everything here gets bacon bits.
Bacon-wrapped dogs have a beloved connection to L.A. nightlife. Take a few steps out of the bar or stroll down Sunset after a Dodger game and it'll hit you — the sweet smell of smoked pork sizzling on a sidewalk grill.
But the roots of this SoCal fusion run long and deep. Bacon-wrapped dogs are believed to have originated in Hermosillo, a city in the Mexican state of Sonora. Esquite takes its origins from the Nahuatl word "izquitl," which means "toasted corn." (Incidentally, esquite is different from elote. The Elote Dog is topped with esquite.)
The result of Chef Val's fancy griddle work is a succulent and savory dog that wastes no time reminding you where you are.
Dogs and elotes like these are often served by and in communities of color. So, have diners raised any objections over the idea of street food going corporate? Duarte says no.
"I feel like they definitely appreciate what we're trying to do for the community," she said. "[It's] similar to what you get on the street, but it's always gonna be different. That's one thing that we go off of... we always focus on being different."
Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here on KPCC's Take Two.
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