Mar 28, 2024 - Food and Drink

Barrio Dogg celebrates Chicano culture and comfort food

A hot dog, topped with mayo and cilantro and other fixings, with corn in a cup on the side.

El Xolito hot dog with corn in a cup. Photo: Madalyn Mendoza/Axios

At Barrio Dogg in Southtown, hot dogs are the vehicle for "Chicano comfort food," and lowrider culture is in the driver's seat.

Why it matters: The new restaurant aims to be a hub for the lowrider community, which is embedded in generations of Latinos throughout the country. The custom cars are an expression of craftsmanship, tradition and community.

Catch up quick: Co-owners Ernesto Gastelum and Pablo Rios opened Barrio Dogg in San Diego's Barrio Logan in 2017.

  • Barrio Dogg is also a vendor for the San Diego Padres, which is the MLB affiliate of the San Antonio Missions.

What they did: Rios says San Antonio was a natural fit in the expansion plan. He moved here two years ago to bring the plan to fruition.

  • "It was always a spot where you felt like home. I didn't feel far away. It was my people, it was the scene, it was the cultura," he says, reflecting on visiting the city during traveling car shows in the 1990s.

Dig in: El Xolito is the cornerstone of the business. It's inspired by the street hot dogs of Tijuana, with a long list of toppings including jalapeño, sour cream, salsa verde, Sriracha aioli, crunchy garlic and cilantro.

  • The buns for all of the hot dogs are made in-house.
  • Flavored micheladas and sides ranging from calabacitas to fideo, which Rios says are inspired by his grandmother's cooking, are on the menu.
  • He calls it "Chicano comfort food."

Yes, but: It's not just about food. The interiors of each restaurant are a reflection of lowrider culture.

  • In San Diego, it's Barrio Logan but the new space at 620 S. Presa Street is a canvas for local artists.

Flashback: Before selling hot dogs, Rios opened Cruising Lowrider Galleria with a mission to amplify Chicano art in a burgeoning hub of galleries.

  • Barrio Dogg grew out of necessity to support the gallery financially. His team converted a 1964 Impala into a hot dog cart.
  • "The hot dogs took off but we said that we would always commit to making sure the gallery would follow us," Rios says.
The inside of Barrio Dogg has a wall covered in art and a very colorful bar with seating.
The bar is decorated with art and the front end of a car. Photo: Courtesy of Reanna Castruita

The vibe: A curation of photos and murals by Carmen Peña of One Love Photography and Firme Copias, a West Side tattoo shop, cover the walls.

  • Rios calls the restaurants "time capsules," decorated with photos donated by San Antonio clubs and families as well as pages from vintage Lowrider magazines.

What they're saying: Rios says the skill of building cars is reflected in the design of the restaurant and the menu.

  • "We take a lot of pride in it because it is connected to la cultura and it would be disrespectful if we didn't," Rios says.
A time capsule restroom is decorated with photos donated by San Antonio clubs and families as well as pages from vintage Lowrider magazines.
One of the "time capsule" restrooms. Photo: Courtesy of Reanna Castruita

What's next: The restaurant is currently in a "preview" phase, but the full menu, which includes five hot dogs and four signature micheladas, will roll out Monday.

  • Rios says seasonal hot dogs, inspired by international cuisine, will eventually join the menu.
  • Barrio Dogg is also planning an "April Foos" event on April 6 at Jaime's Place.

Stop by: 11am-10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am-midnight Friday and Saturday.

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