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Doggos Gus Brings A Taste Of Mexican Style Hot Dogs

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2019 4:00 pm

Growing up in Mexicali, Gustavo Tonella loved to eat hot dogs sold on street corner stands. “We’re known for amazing hot dogs,” he explained about his hometown. Those hot dogs are not the same dogs you ate as a kid at the ball park.

The hot dogs offered at Tonnella’s newly opened Doggos Gus, Mexican Gourmet Hot Dogs on Seacoast Drive, are not served with ketchup and mustard but can be bacon wrapped, topped with shrimp or even carnitas, pico de gallo and chipotle sauce. What Tonella has done to hot dogs is a concept not heard of very often on this side of the border.

The light bulb came on, as he says, about a hot dog business when he was a student on an exchange program to Guadalajara and saw how many of the American college kids liked the hot dogs in Mexico. While he was a student, he worked at a number of restaurants from Cheesecake Factory to Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and was both a cook and a server gaining experience in the business. After he finished his BA in communications from Cal State San Marcos, he started his hot dogs catering business called Doggos Gus.

About the Doggos Gus concept, he said, “San Diego has everything Mexican but we don’t have fun hot dogs. In Mexico we go all out [with hot dogs].”

His first Doggos Gus jobs were at farmer’s markets with his girlfriend, now his wife, and through word of mouth his business grew. One of his early employees is Daniel Ravelo, who is now his business partner.

Tonella had been in business for 10 years catering parties but only recently found out about a location to open in Imperial Beach from IB Street Tacos’ owner who had a storefront in that location. Tonella always wanted to open an eatery and the opportunity became available when IB Street Tacos moved inside Mike Hess Brewing across the street.

When Tonella opened his eatery he kept some of the popular burgers on the menu in case customers were not sure about ordering hot dogs. Open for just over a month, Tonella said that in spite the slow season he has done well and customers have responded positively to the hot dogs.

The hot dogs at Doggos Gus are served on soft bolillo rolls specially made for the eatery at a Mexican bakery in San Diego. Choices of bacon wrapped hot dogs include the Surf and Turf served with cheese, shrimp, bell peppers and chipotle cream and the popular Ayy Weyy, a hot dog stuffed with a chile verde, grilled onions, tomato and chipotle. Other choices are also the Carnitas and the Sonoran.

Tonella doesn’t have a favorite hot dog but has different ones all the time. “I have one everyday. Right now it’s the Baja,” he said about his favorite of the moment.

Although Tonella has created some of his own hot dogs like the Carnitas and the Surf and Turf some are traditional ones found in Mexico like the classic TJ Bacon Wrapped served with grilled onions, tomato, mayo, mustard and ketchup. The Baja Doggos has grilled onions, pico, chipotle and guacamole cream. There is also the plant based Veggie Dog on the menu.

Sides include Churros and Street Corn. Fries come in Classic, Doggos Fries and Garlic Cheese. Five burger choices are also available that range from Chipotle Bacon Burger to Veggie Burger and the Imperial Beach Classic served with cole slaw. What good is a burger without a shake? Try the Chocolate Oreo Vanilla shake. Or try something refreshing like the Cucumber Mint Lemonade.

Doggos Gus continues to cater events and Tonella said he has done weddings where his hot dogs are the late night snacks after a night of dinner and dancing. Other times he has catered weddings where there are various food stations and his is one of many. Other catering jobs have been for big companies like Qualcomm. Often at events people asked where they could get his hot dogs at a location but he didn’t have one until now.

“We’re very unique. Usually people [at parties] have tacos, pizza, but when they hire us we come and cook on the spot and the bacon starts smelling good and with the first bite they realize this is something special,” he said.

Although these days Tonella is busy with the business end of Doggos Gus, he will do anything necessary. “If my cook doesn’t show up, I cook, I get my hands dirty. Right now I’m scheduling, purchasing, doing inventory,” he said.

“Where can you get hot dogs in San Diego? Costco, 7Eleven, a ball game,” he said adding that with Doggos Gus, diners now have a gourmet hot dog location where they can have hot dogs with a twist. “It’s a destination,” he said of his eatery.

Doggos Gus, 805 Seacoast Drive. Hours: 11 a.m to 9 p.m. everyday. Log on

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