HOLLYWOOD, CA – My bunker. Sorry folks, dropped the ball this morning under an avalanche of work, a hand mauled breaking up a dog fight yesterday (it was both dramatic and traumatic… draumatic), and fascination with this Dorner manhunt going on out here (have you guys heard about this back there?). The guy wrote a crazy manifesto, so crazy because it was kinda mundane… which made me want to write my own crazy manifesto on here, call it a Mattifesto…but I’ve got no time at the moment. I’ll leave it to you good folks to work out the highlights of such a memo in the comments. In the meantime, I dug out this old chestnut to keep the lights on around here:
In this space I’ve mentioned Angelino eats like fish tacos and the Home of the French Dip. I’ve been to a few great old school delis here, with corned beef that melts in your mouth and cream soda from a tap to wash it down, but most of you have much more of these at your disposal than I. I love Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles and would like to call it distinctly L.A., but I’ve heard that that combination is a Harlem creation. One thing I’m pretty sure is distinctly L.A. is something I’ve heard referred to as the Downtown LA Dog, the B-Wrapped Dog, a BWHD, or a Heart Attack Dog…a brilliant concoction that takes two questionable meats and puts them together: the Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog. You can’t find them on many menus. They’re not in the freezer section of your Trader Joe’s (yet). They’re only available out on the street outside clubs, concerts, the fashion district, and sporting events. The Mexican carts come out, adorned with a griddle heated by a propane tank, covered with onions and peppers and hot dogs wrapped in bacon sizzling away. The bacon never quite gets what you would call crisp, but it’s cooked right on the dog, usually pressed up against a jalapeno or two to give it extra heat. Stacked on a bun with the fried onions and peppers, the jalapeno, mustard, ketchup and, key, mayo, it’s a greasy, messy, artery clogging delight. They’re so good you think to yourself that they have to be illegal.
And they are. The L.A. Department of Health thinks they’re a menace and started cracking down over the last year. The people who own legitimate, licensed carts were ordered not to wrap their hot dogs in bacon any more, with $1000 fines and even jail time being doled out to make examples. They have to sell regular (you know, “healthy”) hot dogs now sans bacon, and watch as their sales are completely siphoned off by the illegal carts that spring up like cockroaches as soon as it gets dark. Even from these filthy strollers of death, the bacon wrapped hot dog is a treat. And because they’re illegal these days, obtaining this rare delicacy takes on an extra sense of fortune and accomplishment. There’s no missing them, as soon as you step outside of Staples or the Home Depot Center, if the carts are around you’ll smell them…you’ll lift off the ground like Bugs Bunny ensnared in an olfactory tractor beam. A crowd will already be around it, urging the dude (or lady) working the grill to hurry up, while others keep an eye out for any cops. It doesn’t matter if you’ve stuffed yourself with nachos and sandwiches and even hot dogs inside, one whiff of the bacon wrapped hot dog cart and you are helplessly entranced…the aroma goes right to the part of the brain that says “all primal and instinctual urges have been reduced to getting and biting into one of these things.” You’d push over your own wife to get one, as she would to you. And both of you will take that bite and your eyes will roll back into your head as your mouth purrs in amazed delight.
I went to a Laker game last week, and they have this promotion that if the Lakers win and hold the opponent (in this case, the tragic Clippers) to under a hundred, Jack in the Box will give all fans in attendance free tacos. They were giving out shirts that night with the giant words “We Want Tacos!” on the back. The Clippers obliged by forgetting how to shoot in the fourth quarter, and there was much rejoicing. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a Jack in the Box taco, but they’re pretty nasty…it’s a taco shell and some meat-bean mash inside, deep fried. Unless you’ve been drinking all night and absolutely need something fried and crunchy to stave off the bed spins, the Jack in the Box taco should not be an option…and yet winning one of these things, which only cost a buck or so, seems to make a difference to the Laker fans who’ve paid $75, $100, or more on their ticket. I didn’t cash mine in, I rushed out through the front doors and took a deep whiff…and didn’t smell anything. The carts weren’t there, the crackdown continues, and you can’ t help but feel that when something as inspired and good as bacon wrapped hot dogs from an unlicensed street vender in a home made cart can’t be allowed to nourish the souls of Angelinos, our priorities surely are amiss.