“How you feel about crispy dogs?” asked a friend from San Antonio. We were discussing regional variations of hot dogs, with my favorite being the bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dogs I enjoy at the Fiesta market by my mom’s house in Houston. His, however, was the aforementioned crispy dog, which is a cheese-stuffed hot dog wrapped in a corn tortilla and then fried.
“That sounds like a flauta,” I said. He agreed it was similar, but it also reminded him of a Tex-Mex corny dog. But no matter how you define it, what’s not to love about melted cheese, juicy sausage and a crunchy fried tortilla? Yep, ever since our conversation, I’ve had a serious craving for a crispy dog.
Though here’s the thing—if you want to order a crispy dog at a restaurant in Texas, you should go to San Antonio, as they seldom appear on menus anywhere else. While its origins are a bit murky, the beloved west side restaurant Malt House says it started selling them in 1949 and believes they were the first, though they soon became popular at other places around town such as MK Davis and Ray’s.
For more history, I called the Malt House and spoke to the manager, Ivan Gonzalez. He graciously shared with me several stories about the restaurant, which his father took over in 1990 when the founding owner Herb McEwen died. His belief was that McEwen started selling the crispy dog to appeal to his customers who wanted both American food and Mexican food, making this truly a Tex-Mex dish.
Fortunately, they aren’t just limited to restaurants, as my San Antonio friends tell me that they grew up also eating them at home. They’d come home from school and their mom would fry up a few as an afternoon snack. Crispy dogs also make for fine game-watching grub, and if you pair them with some onion rings or beans they can even become a meal.
Crispy dogs are often served with the usual hot dog condiments such as yellow mustard and ketchup. Salsa, queso, chili and guacamole make for fine condiments, too. Lately, however, my favorite dipping sauce has been a mustard and mayonnaise concoction that’s livened up with diced jalapeños, crumbled bacon and a bit of cilantro, made as an homage to those bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dogs topped with mayonnaise, mustard and jalapeños.
But no matter how you serve them, if you love hot dogs and you love flautas, you’ll definitely love the crispy dog. It baffles me that they aren’t more popular, as they’re a wonderful addition to the vast array of regional hot dog variations. Though perhaps this is what makes crispy dogs so beloved to my San Antonio friends, as it’s a unique taste of their beautiful Texas home.
1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 slices cooked bacon, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
8 corn tortillas
8 hot dogs
4 ounces of cheddar cheese, cut into 16 sticks
Oil for frying
Salsa for serving
To make the bacon-jalapeño dipping sauce, mix together the mustard, mayonnaise, bacon, jalapeño, garlic and cilantro. Add salt to taste and refrigerate while making the crispy dogs.
To heat up the tortillas, wrap them in foil and place in an oven set at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can wrap the tortillas in a paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds.)
While the tortillas are heating, take each hot dog and make an incision down the center, lengthwise, making sure to not cut it all the way through. Stuff each split hot dog with 2 slices of the cheese.
When the tortillas are soft, place a cheese-stuffed hot dog in the center of the tortilla, roll to wrap and secure with toothpicks. In a heavy skillet, heat up 1 inch of oil to 350 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels. With a spatula, slide the tortilla-wrapped hot dogs into the oil and fry for about 30 seconds on each side or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from the oil and drain on the paper-towel-lined plate.
Serve warm with bacon-jalapeño dipping sauce and salsa.