An e-mail arrived last night announcing that Aqui Con El Nene had been named a finalist in Rachel Ray’s Best Hot Dog in America contest. By this morning, the truck had beaten out every other hot dog stand in the Western category, including Tucson's own El Güero Canelo. As of this writing Nene's is in the final four, and those who frequent the place won’t be surprised one bit if it’s named the winner sometime this week.
Long before the Rachel Ray crew discovered the food truck, Nene’s was a favorite with Tucson Weekly readers, who voted it into third place for Best Sonoran Hot Dog in 2010. Prior to that, the place was well-known for great and affordable tacos, an expansive condiment bar and gigantic mesquite-grilled baked potatoes known as “papanchas.”
I have disassembled a Nene taco to see what makes it taste so good, but like most truly great food, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Newcomers order just a few, only to end up back in line for seconds. The experienced order five at a time. The thoughtful bring a dozen home for friends and family.
Halfway through writing this, I found myself rocketing down the road with tacos on my mind and Nene’s in my sights. I got there at 10:15 a.m. and there was already a line. Regulars were fist-bumping the workers, filling plastic cups with salsa and condiments and ordering up armloads of tacos, tortas and hot dogs. “This place is great,” I said to a guy at the salsa bar filling a half-dozen cups with guacamole sauce. “Hell yeah man. I eat here every day,” he said.
Aqui Con El Nene is located on the corner of Flowing Wells and Ruthrauff roads. It opens at 10 a.m. and closes around 11 p.m., and is closed Sundays.