Lifting this mammoth, Colombian-style hot dog from Los Perros in Lauderhill to my mouth is like looking down the barrel of a gun. I'm no longer hungry — I'm scared for my life. It's nearly a foot long and three inches wide, and the dog's beefy largess is coated with enough goopy pink sauce, salty crumbled potato chips, and puréed pineapple to give Takeru Kobayashi pause (he's the man who set four world records in competitive hot dog eating). I summon up the courage and take a bite, and gobs of mayo and crushed chips tumble onto the paper plate with a thick plop.
Damn. It's actually delicious.
Around the world are hundreds of regional variations on the hot dog, a sandwich so versatile that it inspires both fanatical reverence and heated debate. But the Colombian version is among its strangest incarnations — and most enticing.
These "super perros" are the ten-car-pileup of hot dogs: There are so many seemingly disparate ingredients slopped on that you can't help but stare as one passes you by. Yet, the kitchen-sink methodology works in the same way dogs from, say, Chicago do. There's the fatty, greasy earthiness of the dog against the sweet and sour pineapple; the interplay between the starchiness of the bun and the creamy, mayo-based pink sauce. Then there's the gaggle of optional ingredients, including but not limited to sour cream, bacon, onion, mozzarella cheese, garlic sauce, and ketchup. And just when you think this heart-stopper couldn't get more deadly/indulgent, the coup de grâce: a layering of crumbled potato chips, their flaky, salty crispiness adding the sort of textural variation that satisfies whether employed in five-star dining or food from a street cart.
For all those reasons, the Colombian dog works fantastically as drunk food: grub perfect for devouring after a long night of drinking, partying, and general rabble-rousing in that it is both starchy enough to soak up booze and fatty enough to quell the impending hangover. Add to it the fact that eating a super perro requires no silverware, no plates, little coordination, and not much cash and you can see how it became a late-night institution on the streets of Bogota. That it's now become a staple in Miami — America's clubland — makes perfect sense.
Among the forerunners of the Colombian dog invasion is Miami-based chain Los Perros. Owner Carlos Lozano's ode to the flavors of his mother country began more than ten years ago with a cart at Flagler and Bird Road. Since then, Los Perros has grown to five locations (the newest of which opened last July in Sunny Isles), each known for late hours, greasy dogs, and a clubby atmosphere to match the stumbling patrons.
Los Perros' lone Broward outpost is hidden deep in western Lauderhill, a suburban area that's not exactly renowned for its nightlife. Even so, this location sticks to the formula: Its walls are painted a dark blue, the lighting is dim, and the room is festooned with plasma TVs playing music videos from Daddy Yankee and Shakira. When I walked in on a recent weekend night, reggaeton blared from the sound system while the televisions flickered like a strobe light against the dark restaurant. It should be noted too that the plaza Los Perros is not particularly well-lit, which could be a bad thing if you plan on drunkenly bumbling around the parking lot.
Another caveat: For fast food, these dogs don't really appear as quickly as they should. It's not uncommon to wait ten minutes or longer for your super perro ($5.95), but once it arrives, what you get is premier drunk food. The dog — slipped into a frilly, paper doily and hogging up nearly half of the plastic cafeteria tray it's served on — is artless and beautiful all at once. Gobs of colloidal pink sauce drip down the sides of its bun, and the mash of chips melds with the crushed pineapple to form something vaguely reminiscent of the coating on sweet and sour pork. Somewhere underneath all that is a hot dog coated in stringy, melted mozzarella that pulls from the bun in thick strands. It's indulgence at its finest, which is what you'll likely need if you're wandering in at 4 a.m. looking for a quick fill.
After a few bites of the beastly tube of beef, you may find that whatever synapses in your brain are responsible for restraint have snapped. And, like me, you may pick your tray up from the brushed aluminum table and truck it over to the pump dispensers against the far wall, only to further "compliment" the ghastly dog (and likely insult your stomach) with gobs of garlicky green sauce or more of that pink ketchup-and-mayo goo. In place of the hot dog itself, you can also fill your messy bun with beef, chicken, or chorizo sausage, each of which increases the need for more sauce exponentially.
Besides the dogs, the chain also offers quirky Colombian fare. I loved the papas criollas ($3.95), small, yellow potatoes fried whole. White corn arepas are good too, each filled with all manner of shredded meat, fried chicharron, and cheese (and the greasy/sweet yellow corn ones are just like the kind you get at Dolphins games). I couldn't, however, muster up the willpower to try maicitos ($7.50), bowls of creamy sweet corn topped with the same goopy ingredients that grace the hot dogs. There's not enough booze in the world, I'm afraid.
Los Perros is a fun, late-night adventure. But if you want a true-to-form experience that won't have you trucking to Lauderhill, the 2-month-old Borojo in downtown Hollywood is another suitable destination for Colombian perros. I stopped in recently after playing a few games of pool and guzzling beer at Toby's Billiards just a few doors down, but when my friends and I arrived at Borojo, we were the only folks at the party.
The lone server behind the counter, a thin guy with thick stubble and a Latin accent, sat us down with a few menus and pointed first to Borojo's sizable list of arepas. He told us they, not the dogs, were Borojo's specialty. "If you don't like the arepas," he said with a grin, "then they're free."
Not a bad deal, we thought. And so we ordered two arepas: one layered with thin, pounded pork loin and Colombian hogado sauce ($7.50), the other a pairing of pork, mushrooms, and béchamel that was recommended by the waiter ($7.99). We also nabbed two dogs, of course, one with a beef frank, the other with chorizo ($5.50 each). To drink I got a Postobon, a bizarre Colombian apple soda that tastes like bubblegum. As we waited for our food, we watched the parade of the odd stream down Hollywood Boulevard, a show that's always entertaining in its own right.
Compared to the clubby vibe of Los Perros, Borojo looks sterile. The room is hip in a sort of vaguely modern way, with wide, blank white walls with orange trim and a few flat-screen TVs mounted on the back walls. At its center is a big countertop that you don't order at — instead, the wait staff comes to your table and takes your order themselves. Before our food arrived, our waiter brought us three miniature corn empanadas, each searing hot from the fryer and filled with potato and herbs. On the side was a spicy green sauce made with Colombian aji peppers and vinegar. "This sauce is fantastic," one of my friends commented, scooping it up with bits of crunchy empanada. We kept the bowl around to later slather on everything we ate, and it was one of the best parts of the meal.
The arepas? I'd have asked to get them for free, though my friends enjoyed them. The hogado sauce was a mixture of chopped tomatoes with scallion and, in combination with the cheese and pork, unflatteringly resembled a sort of strange chicken Parmesan. The béchamel-slicked arepa was better, with freshly sautéed mushrooms and a smooth, creamy white sauce, but I felt it was a weird combo.
The hot dogs — like everything else served at Borojo — come on fancy, square white plates with metal forks and knives. Maybe it was the tableware, but I felt like Borojo's take on the dog was more refined than Los Perros'. Each dog was painted — not globbed — with sauces, and that painterly hand had obviously exercised some restraint. The crushed potato chips were crispier as a result and thus more texturally satisfying than at Los Perros. And the dog itself was hot and juicy. The Colombian-style chorizo Borojo serves is an awesome thing too: slightly spicy, stuffed with cilantro, and flecked with bits of ham-like meat and hunks of pork fat that don't quite render while cooking. My only complaint was the lack of pineapple: I couldn't discern whether there was any on there at all.
Still, we unanimously enjoyed the super perros at Borojo. "I liked it way better than any Chicago dog," one of my friends said as we paid our tab and left. "I'd be proud to eat here at 2 in the morning."
That's a bold statement, no doubt. But we are in South Florida, after all. And if we've got a type of hot dog more regionally appropriate than Colombia's own export, I'd sure like to meet it. Head on, of course.