A birria hot dog made at Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Nov. 30, 2021.

Leer en español

Benny Galaz is the son of a miner. He grew up in Nacozari de Garcia, Mexico, a small town whose wealth was extracted from the copper, silver and gold deposits in its narrow hills. His dad would spend weekdays under the earth. As a manager, he would emerge on Friday night just to be called back in to handle an emergency on Saturday morning. Benny, off from school, would be permitted to tag along, transported through a shaft into a pitch dark world operating in parallel to, and fueling, the city of his mother.

There came a day when his dad asked to take him out of school to come to the mine. The CEO of the mining company was flying in from Mexico City. The CEO was bringing his son with, so Benny’s dad would do the same.

Benny understood this was not a typical visit to the mine when they were waiting outside. The young secretaries who were typically confined to desks and only seen from the waist up were standing in a line. He saw their beautiful skirts for the first time. Everyone was waiting around a big green circle with a white H in the middle.

The secretaries had to hold their hair down as winds picked up in an unnaturally confined space, like a tornado made just for them. Benny didn’t know what was coming down from the sky, but his father would soon tell him it was a helicopter.

The big man in a suit exited from the helicopter doors and embraced everyone, including Benny’s father. He shook Benny’s hand, and told his dad he should be proud. The boss’ son stood at a distance, “like he was judging us for being from the countryside,” Benny said. “But his father, the more important man, treated everyone like a friend.”

“I knew from that day on that I wanted to have a helicopter,” he said.

Benjamin Galaz owns BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs and El Berraco.

Today, Benny is an important man. He wears crisp collared shirts that are patterned, appearing more casual than his ambition really makes him. When he was 21, he was selling a thousand Sonoran dogs a day out of a cart he named, in a pinch, with his and his wife’s initials. Decades later, he’s still expanding. As we spoke, he occasionally took a handkerchief out of his pocket to gently dab at the sweat on his brow throughout a conversation, recalling Marlon Brando.

Benny owns BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs. The restaurant has two locations, one on the south side, the other on First Avenue, with another on the way at Park Avenue and 19th Street. He also owns El Berraco, a submarine-themed seafood restaurant. “I wanted something people couldn’t imitate,” he said. “Seafood is harder to copy than a Sonoran dog.”

He is sensitive about this intellectual property because he staked his legacy to something that is replicable. “A Sonoran dog will always have the same ingredients. What makes it different is in the little details, the special methods each person brings. But principally it is something very simple and easy to recreate.”

He first learned about Sonoran dogs as a kid in Nacozari, Mexico. He remembers very distinctly the day that the Sonoran dog cart came to town.

He was still a schoolkid. He would leave Nacozari to go to high school in Tucson, where he was born. When he returned to Nacozari, he knew he wanted to make Sonoran dogs, too. When he put his cart into practice, though, he realized the town wasn’t big enough for two vendors, so he decided to take the concept back to Tucson.

“I thought, Sonoran dogs and carne asada, these are two things that were everywhere in my hometown and hard to find here at the time,” he said.

But when he got to Tucson, he was confronted with the strict bureaucracy of the city health department. “Luckily, the director at the time spoke Spanish. He talked me through the process on how to run my cart safely. ‘You have to keep the beans at the right temperature, the bacon at the right temperature, or people can get very sick,’ the inspector told me.”

“So I took the specs home and I used the side of a CD jewel case as a ruler to get the lines all straight,” he said. “I built out the cart with a water heater placed underneath the beans to keep them warm. The inspector was impressed, and Xeroxed my plans. Then, whenever anyone would come up to the inspector asking about how to get a hot dog cart certified, he would give them the document I made.” Benny told this story with some chagrin. He sees those specs as his own, and they are now freely and commonly plagiarized.

To make matters more sensitive, many of Benny’s former employees now run Sonoran hot dog joints of their own — a narrative that’s part Willy Wonka, part The Godfather.

“A man from my hometown came to Tucson to open a hot dog restaurant on South Fourth Ave.,” Benny said. “I found out and came in to congratulate him. When I dropped by, he was very pale, like someone who just got caught. He was scared because he was located so close to BK, so he didn’t want to tell me. But I was proud of him for opening his own business. I wanted to talk to him about his ambitions, his dreams.”

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs has a human-sized statue of a Sonoran dog at their entrance.

The language of dreams comes to Benny from motivational speakers like Tony Robbins. He has been attending leadership conferences for the past six years and incorporated their messages into every conversation we had. It is natural for him to feel like these methods work, because he is already the kind of person the people who go to motivational speakers aspire to be.

“I bought a helicopter a number of years ago,” he said. “I used it on my ranch down in Sonora. My friends and I would use it to hunt wild boars,” he said. “But we had too much fun,” he said with a mischievous smile. “So I sold it.”

In the not-yet-released documentary about BK that he commissioned, no helicopter is mentioned. Instead, the video imagines BK’s future at Park and 19th: fully automated ordering, with an account that will remember your preferences and make suggestions; software that films employee’s work for social media promotions and records each individual’s output in pounds of carne grilled like stats in a video game; drones that will deliver BK across town and eventually the country. It’s part of a campaign with the slogan #ThinkOutsideTheGrill.

“When I started, if you were brown, or Mexican, you couldn’t buy property north of 22nd Street,” he said. That isn't the case anymore, and Benny is proof of that. He has two restaurants above the line and is working on a third outpost. He imagines his influence extending nationwide, if he finds the right partners for franchising.

“A few years ago I was at a leadership conference in Orlando, and afterward I decided to go to Disney World. I had never been,” he said. “When I was at Epcot, this international theme park, I found a stand that sold the hot dogs of the world.

“I ordered a Chicago dog and asked the attendant which hot dog was their favorite. He said, ‘Actually, it’s the Sonoran dog, from Tucson.’ And I told him, ‘That’s me.’”

Below are 26 spots on Tucson’s south side and in South Tucson to get a Sonoran hot dog. Sometimes hours can vary between social media pages and Google listings, so check ahead of time. If we’re missing your favorite spot, let us know: elueders@tucson.com.

Check out the first part of this series, a list of midtown Sonoran hot dog spots, here.

Aqui Con El Nene

Location: 65 W. Valencia Road

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, closed Sunday

For more information, check out their website.

Editor’s note: Their midtown Tucson location is in our first Sonoran dog roundup.

Aqui Con El Pariente

Location: 1060 E. Irvington Road

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 6-11 p.m. | 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday | 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday | Closed Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page or call 520-273-2423.

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs

Location: 5118 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

For more information, check out their website. Their central Tucson location is in our first Sonoran dog roundup.

Delicias Mexican Grill

Location: 4581 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. | 7-2 a.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Dylan’s hotdogs & quesadilla

Location: 4129 E. 29th St.

For more information, check out their website or call 520-448-8145.

El Chencho Hotdogs

Location: 3207 E. Ajo Way

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Pro tip: Ask and they might write your name on your hot dog with mayo.

El Guero Canelo's parking lot has a mural depicting their origin story around its perimeter.

El Güero Canelo

Locations: 5802 E. 22nd St. | 5201 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. | Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, check out their website.

El Kora Hotdogs

Locations: Lot on the southwest corner of Irvington Road and Park Avenue | S. Swan Road #3 | 6028 S. Sixth Ave.

Hours: Irvington and Park, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily | Swan, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 3-10 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday | Sixth, 1-11 p.m. daily

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

El Movimento Hotdogs

Location: 772 W. Irvington Road

Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. daily

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

El Pacotote

Location: 1055 E. Irvington Road

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. | 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

El Perro Loco Hot Dogs

Locations: 3051 E. 36th St. and 3800-3818 S. Valley Road

Hours:

  • Valley Road: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. | 2-11 p.m. Sunday
  • 36th Street: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. | 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

El Teo Hotdogs

Location: 3095 E. Irvington Road

Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. | 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday | 1-9 p.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Hot Dogs Mercado

Location: 3924 S. Sixth Ave.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 7:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page or Instagram.

Hermanos Hotdogs, Tacos

Location: 7889 E. 22nd St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily | Closed Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Hot Dogs Los Chipilones

Location: 4775 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

JV Querobabi Hotdogs

Location: 5713 S. Country Club Road

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. | 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday | Closed on Sunday and first Monday of each month

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Pro tip: Their tree-shaded courtyard eating area is worth the haul to Drexel and Country Club. 50 cents off dogos on Friday.

La Carreta Rosa

Location: 3085 E. Valencia Road

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Los Hacen Dogos

Location: 6718 S. Nogales Hwy.

Hours: 5-11 p.m. daily | Closed Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs

Location: 1439 S. Fourth Ave.

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, check out their website.

Oop’s Hot Dogs

Location: 502 W. Ajo Way

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10-12 a.m. | Friday-Saturday, 10-1 a.m. | Closed Sunday

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Romero’s Sonoran Hot Dogs

Location: 5333 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Ricositos Chile Dogos

Location: Southeast corner of Ajo Way and Randolph Avenue

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. | 9-12 a.m. Saturday | Closed Sunday

For more information, call 520-603-5393.

Sammy El Sinaloense Sonoran Hotdogs

Location: 4733 S. Campbell Ave.

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3:30-10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday 3:30-11 p.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page or Google Maps site.

Editor’s note: There is a discrepancy between the Google Maps address and what’s on their Facebook page. For the right directions, go to the linked 4733 S. Campbell Ave.

Super Hotdogs Obregon

Location: 4902 S. 12th Ave.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. | Friday-Saturday, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Tacos y Hot Dogs El Manantial

Location: 953 E. 36th Street

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. | Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Taqueria La Esquina

Location: 4876 S. Sixth Ave.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday, 11-1 a.m.

For more information, check out their website.

La Estrella reporter Claudia Bungard contributed to this story.


#ThisIsTucson has a membership program! Your contribution helps our team bring you stories that keep you connected to the community. Become a member today.