The first rule of eating a Venezuelan hot dog?
Ask for a fork and you will be laughed at.
At least that’s how it goes down when ordering the popular snacks in Venezuela.
This helpful etiquette hint is offered to L.A. TACO by Gerardo Pacheco, owner of Dog-R L.A., a shiny steel trailer offering Los Angeles a taste of the South American nation’s popular street food sensation.
And a fork, too. If you need one to tackle his perros, loaded behemoths that make our bacon-wrapped dogs look naked by comparison, along with the edible flotsam they leave behind on your paper tray.
Pacheco, 29, is a mechanical engineer by trade who left his hometown, the city of Valencia, Venezuela, in 2015 amid worsening authoritarian crackdowns. After living and learning English in Florida and Oregon, he moved here with fiancée when she got a job in Los Angeles in 2020.
In 2021, he quit his job to pursue the dreams of reviving his food business, with the goal of introducing people in the U.S. to a Venezuelan recipe that goes beyond the arepas, empanadas, and churros people may already be familiar with.
“Everyone loves hot dogs in Venezuela,” he says. “Our is a street dog just like those, but with everything being just a little bit higher quality, the best Venezuelan hot dogs you can have.”
Gerardo, who grew up in a restaurant family, first got into the hot dog game back home, when he and his best friend created the hot dog concept known as 2 Sin Remordimiento (as in, you can eat two without regret). With his home country’s shattered economy, worsening hunger, and widespread joblessness, he was elated to start a business that provided work for people in his city, especially when they were able to open a second location.
“Venezuela is a little tough,” he explains. “People in my country don’t want money for free. They want money for working… we have eight employees and were happy that these were people who were now going to have salary just to buy food, which means a lot there.”
Now he’s offering his fellow Venezuelans a destination for familiar flavors, recreating the stands and carts he says are ubiquitous back home. While introducing the rest of us to the benefits of a proper Venezuelan hot dog.
The dogs are both a little intimidating and undeniably delicious; artful messes so shaggy under avalanches of shredded cheddar that you can hardly identify the pork, beef, and chicken sausages (he’s also working on a plant-based version) or their numerous layers of toppings underneath.
The “Classic Venezuelan” dog leads Pacheco’s four-item menu. The sausage is given a coat of hot corn, chopped onion and cabbage, shredded carrots, crispy potato sticks, and cilantro, and then spackled liberally with ketchup, mayo, mustard, garlic aioli, and cheese sauce, before the whole thing gets covered in cheddar cheese.
They’re a textural medley of creamy, crunchy, meaty, and tender, with all the merits of a solid hot dog, made extra. Other menu items are variations on this original, with the “Mush-Onion” adding a griddled amalgam of mozzarella, mushrooms, leeks, onion, and bell pepper, and the “Bacon.R” which adds strips of bacon to that aforementioned alloy before being placed atop the dog.
There are a few things that really distinguish the Venezuelan-ness of his cart, which Pacheco says hews closest to the hot dog styles of central Venezuela cities like Caracas and Valencia.
His bun, custom made by an Italian bakery, resembles a split loaf more than the crumbly, dry tan-and-white style we celebrate in the States. Pacheco crafted his own steamer on the cart, where the buns pick soak a little moisture, resulting in a spongy, soft, flavorful bun that still manages to wrangle the overload of ingredients and keep each bite intact, despite its supple texture, without cracking or crumbling.
But it’s the addition of hot corn that Gerardo says might be the most telltale sign you’re eating a Venezuelan dog.
“My country, which is maybe true of every tropical country, the people love corn,” he says. “And the cabbage, the carrots, onions, almost everything in street food in Venezuela has these kinds of things.”
Then there’s also the cans of Frescalito on offer. This beloved, red-toned refreshment of Venezuela tastes like cream soda with a tinge of vanilla and feels perfectly paired to the hot dogs, like a Mexican Coke does with a taco.
Two months in, Dog.R LA is already enjoying an early sign of success. The business was just picked up by Smorgasburg and will make its debut at the downtown food party this Sunday.
“Everything is going better and way faster than I expected,” he says of learning the news just this week. “I couldn’t believe it, to be honest. I was so, so, so happy.”
And of course, there’s been the highest form of praise in the positive feedback that comes from his own community in L.A.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘you’re moving me to my small town in Venezuela, eating a street dog at 2 AM after the party,” he says. “I’m very proud of that.”
“Last week a couple came,” he continues. “I couldn’t believe it, she said, ‘The best thing about these hot dogs is that they remind me of my favorite place in Valencia, 2 Sin Remordiento.’ Three people have told me that, not knowing I was the owner.”
Dog.RLA ~ Wed-Sat: 5:30 PM- 10:00 PM~10113 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034 and at Smorgasburg this Sunday
View Original Article