Daniel Aguirre has been running the Happy Dog Hot Dogs food cart for five years now.
For most of that time, he’s been in front of Santa Cruz Auto Body on River Street, usually around lunch hours.
This past summer, Happy Dog was named the best hot dog place in California by Travel + Leisure and one of the 10 best in the country by TIME. Both lists were based on Yelp ratings. Aguirre’s secret may be in the sauce, as he keeps his condiment selection stocked with a wide variety of toppings, some of which he makes himself.
What’s your favorite condiment?
DANIEL AGUIRRE: We’ve got our own beer mustard that’s fantastic that we make. We also make our own kraut, and then I’ve got an aioli that’s fantastic. It’s a garlic aioli. It goes well with the Corralitos sausages and the Polish. People also put it on their all-beef.
How many condiments do you have? 20?
We’ve got 15, 18 mustards. Sometimes I bring several different flavors of aioli. I make a smoked chipotle aioli. We’ve got mayonnaise, two types of relishes, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers. We’ve got three types of ketchup, sweet dill relish.
How many condiments can you reasonably fit on one hot dog?
People try to put everything on there, but the star of the show is the dog. We encourage people to remember that the condiments just enhance the flavor. We know that in New York, you tell them what you want—“Give me a dog with slaw and mustard.” And they dress it for you. But out here, it seemed like people would enjoy making their own dogs, so we want them to have fun. We don’t put a cap on anything. We let them come back as many times as they want. Just have fun with it. with a hot dog, you can try different bites of flavor. That’s why we have so many.
Are your hot dogs really the best in California?
I’m truly blessed to have been mentioned. I can tell you we’re the best on our block! There’s nobody else there.