Alley Dogs

Jul 9, 2017

The first time we had what we call an Alley Dog was a couple of decades ago when a friend introduced us to Santee Alley off East Olympic Boulevard in downtown LA. This was back when Santee Alley was truly an alley and the little thrown together stalls and kiosks were selling knock-off Luis Vuitton and Chanel purses—do you like a particular style, but want Luis not Chanel? No worries! Grab an unmarked purse and we’ll brand it for you!

The alley was packed on the weekends: couples, friends, whole families; mostly Latinos with a sprinkling of Whites, Blacks, and Asians (the faux blonde Beverly Hills women only came on weekdays). People carried babies and plastic bags full of goodies, politely shouldering through, even while pushing strollers. Sellers stepped out and threw their voices above the noise, peddling the day’s special deals. Electric cars for sale spun in circles while dodging feet, watches were displayed up a forearm for all to see, music blared.


Santee Alley, 2012; photo via


Our girl was eight when first she joined us. Given twenty bucks by our friend, we soon realized a a natural born shopper had been unleashed. She began by purchasing a soft, light pink hat. This was followed by lots and lots of indecision before she strutted away from a different stall, donning a pair of thick white frame sunglasses. By the time we’d traversed the two blocks of Santee Alley, she had added faux pearls and a shocking-pink shoulder purse. She had found her element.

Every now and again, back in the day, spots would turn over, the sellers of faux goods nabbed, another quickly taking their place. Quality was cheap to good, prices were cheap to expensive, bargaining was expected. In those days, the folks selling hot dogs and sodas or cut fruit sprinkled with tajín always stopped to conduct their business near an alley, a doorway, or a corner, their heads in constant motion, eyes always on the look out, ready to dash from cops wanting another bust.


One of dozens of stores in the Toy District.


Often we’d head over to Los Angeles Street between 3rd and 4th Streets to the Toy District, another treasure trove of cheap goods: party supplies, kitchen supplies, wallets, jewelry—earrings, bracelets, and necklaces—sold by the dozen, hats, t-shirts, dolls, stuffed animals, mammoth piñatas, and yes, toys, toys, and more toys. Several belt buckle stores were always on our list to visit and we found leather goods and retro punk/Day of the Dead backpacks, carrier bags, bandanas, socks, ties, and even suspenders and shoelaces. There is product repetition from store to store, but look carefully and you’ll find some gems. Heading toward 4th street brings one closer to Skid Row, but after growing up walking the streets of New York City and living for ten years in the flats of Hollywood, a little (or a lot of) dirt and homeless people aren’t a deterrent for us. We’ve never had any issues in this area, even with our girl along.

A few years ago, the City started clamping down and Santee Alley became more traditional and thoroughly less interesting. Stalls and kiosks no longer litter the alley, but proper shops, some even with chandeliers, professional paint jobs, and dramatic lighting. A disheartening example of rules and regulations sucking the life out of something fun, funky, and popular. To our relief, the Toy District was still the run down, quirky bundle of joy we remembered and though the food carts are now new and City licensed, we happily grabbed a coke and waited for our Alley Dog. We were not disappointed.

This past week, it was too muggy and hot to venture downtown, so we whipped together our own Alley Dogs. They proved incredibly rich and filling, while also mightily delicious.



Oscar Meyer bacon
Hebrew National kosher beef franks (regular, not jumbo)
Hot dog buns (we went all out “bad” and bought Wonder out of respect for our forefathers)
Heinz Ketchup
French’s yellow mustard
Best Foods mayonnaise
Ripe avocado
Pico de gallo
Red pepper
Green pepper
White onion



Julienne onion, red pepper, and green pepper. Toss a bit of olive oil into a frying pan and slowly cook the veggies. We start with the onion because we want to almost caramelize it, cooking slowly to coax the flavor out. Don’t wait until they’ve caramelized to start with the peppers. Put in the red peppers first as they seem to take longer.

Wrap one bacon slice around each hot dog, starting at the top with a full wrap (like a bandaid wraps around a finger) before wrapping the bacon firmly and diagonally down the dog—you shouldn’t see any space between the bacon as it wraps around, which helps keep the bacon tightly on the hot dog. Heat grill or pan and place dogs with the bacon end piece facing down so it won’t flop around. We’d recommend cooking over medium heat, so the bacon can get crisp while the dog heats up, but the bacon doesn’t actually burn (unless that is preferred).



While the veggies are slowly cooking, peel, core, and slice the avocado. Position spoons and knives for the salsa, mayo, mustard, and ketchup.

Toast the hot dog buns on the grill or in a toaster oven.

Gather all ingredients and start building your dog. When we ordered our first Alley Dog, we asked them to give it to us with the works. That means hot dog, grilled onions and peppers, bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with squirts of mayo, mustard, and ketchup, followed by avocado pico de gallo. At home, we spread the mayo, mustard, and ketchup on the hot dog roll, then place slices of avocado topped with pico de gallo on one half, the onions and peppers on the other half, then set the dog in the middle. Fold ‘er up and you’re ready to go. A cold brew or bottle of pop is a great accompaniment, and don’t forget your own small mountain of napkins. You’re going to need them.



Pre hot dog bun prep.







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