As the sun starts to set on this busy Mesa street corner, Angel Moreno sets up his hot dog stand like he does every night at this time.
It’s not long before the crowds line up — but not for your usual ballpark franks.
Moreno serves up Sonora-style hot dogs, reminiscent of the food cart delicacy of his native Mexico.
The wieners are nestled in Mexican sweet bread, loaded with bacon, sautéed onions and refried beans and topped off with mayonnaise, chili, ketchup, mustard and guacamole.
In this growing business that caters to Mesa Hispanics, Moreno has created his own slice of the American dream on the vacant lot at Broadway Road and Horne.
"I opened it three years ago, and it was slow for a while," says the 33-year-old immigrant who lives in Gilbert. "I might sell 10 hot dogs in one night. Now, people come from Chandler for my hot dogs."
He says some white people have recently begun to stop by, brave enough to try hot dogs with mayonnaise and frijoles, or beans. And they usually come back for more.
The unusual concoction is unique to the large state of Sonora, Mexico, which shares a border with Arizona.
And for the many immigrants who come from cities such as Hermosillo, Obregón and Nogales, the hot dog stands are a treat from home.
This weeknight is busy, with a steady stream of Spanish-speaking customers who settle at one of the folding tables for a quick bite and a Coca-Cola in a glass bottle.
The din of conversation is punctuated by Mexican music that blasts from passing cars. Other vendors, selling flavored ice and frozen fruit bars, push their carts through the parking lot.
When Moreno isn’t chatting up the regulars, he obsessively polishes the gleaming chrome surfaces of his mobile restaurant.
"I’ve been working all my life in Mexican food," he says.
The hot dogs are $2.50 each, and the imported soda, with its extra syrupy taste, is $2 a bottle.
Moreno says health officials don’t permit him to cook Sonora-style hot dogs in the traditional way, which is to wrap the frank in slices of bacon before cooking.
Instead, Moreno piles bacon pieces onto the hot dogs before serving them to achieve a similar flavor.
Just a few blocks away, Mayra Lopez hustles to serve the long line that is forming in front of her hot dog cart on the southeast corner of Main Street and Horne.
Her cart, named Hermosillo Hot Dogs for her Mexican hometown, is smaller and more modest. But the two large folding tables are full with customers socializing, and cars are lined up in the parking lot waiting for hot dogs to go.
She says the business has been booming since she moved from Phoenix to Mesa two years ago.
"It’s more tranquil here," Lopez says in Spanish. "It’s just better."
Moreno plans to open a real Mexican restaurant on the site — one he won’t have to pack up every night. He recently purchased the land and the abandoned transmission shop that sits on it.
"It’s really tough. I put every money I have into this. When I get $10, I put it towards this," he says, pointing to the boarded-up building. "And I have empty pockets again."