From Colombia comes the good old American hot dog with a whole lot of new tricks. Opening his first U.S. location on Collins and 71st, Colombian hot dog king Edgar Gomez plans to conquer Gringolandia with a chain peddling hot dogs with unconventional toppings. Fancy a little pineapple on your Weiner? How about some peach? Or crab? Or shrimp? Why not an extra carnivorous jolt of pepperoni? Pile it on at La Perrada de Edgar. Sometimes you don’t know you’ve been missing something until it’s handed to you on a plastic tray in a red-and-white checkered paper boat. That’s the reaction of plenty of gringos who happen upon La Perrada de Edgar, a sparkling new fast food joint featuring Colombian-style hot dogs on Collins Avenue, just south of 71st Street. “Pobrecitos,” says Lissette Pugliese, who has been working at La Perrada since it opened four months ago. “Most Americanos know only plain hot dogs, with nothing but ketchup and mustard on top.” Stepping into La Perrada, an unsuspecting diner is confronted with oh, so much more. Forget about onions, chili, or relish. Here a hot dog is the foundation for a smorgasbord: the Roman (“bun, sausage, mozzarella cheese, bacon, meatballs, potato sticks, cheese sauce”), the Hawaiian (“bun, sausage, mozzarella, cheese, pineapple, potato sticks, cheese sauce”), and the Super Edgar (“bun, sausage, mozzarella cheese, shrimp, crab, potato sticks”). Taking nothing for granted, the descriptions note that each hot dog comes with a bun. All of these combinations are topped with special sauces invented by owner Edgar Gomez, a one time fashion designer turned hot dog vendor. Here’s how the hot dog arrived in Colombia — and how it came back transformed. The 57-year-old Gomez, who studied both fashion design and the culinary arts as a younger man, traveled to the Dallas, Texas for a fashion industry trade show, hoping to find international distributors for his clothes. When he arrived at the convention complex, however, ended up in the wrong building — at a trade show for fast food.
Rather than flee to his world of skinny models, Gomez stuck around, fascinated as he toured the exhibits and learned the history of the hamburger, the milk shake, french fries, and most of all the hot dog. In the early 1980s, American-style fast food had yet to make serious inroads in the land of arepas and empanadas. He sensed an opportunity.
Edgar arranged to spend more time in the United States, learning the fast food business. Even so, he stayed true to one mantra from his fashion days: accessorize! He thought the hot dog lacked something, so he added a little fruit here, some vegetables there. When he returned to Bogota, he opened the first of what would become a nationwide chain of more than 100 stores.
He started with the hot dog, but soon opened fast food Italian and Mexican restaurants as well. Soon he had imitators across the country, creating something of a national hot dog craze. La Perrada on Collins is the first step toward bringing that craze back to the source. For Colombians like Lissette, born after Edgar opened his first store in 1984, the heaping hot dog is as much a national food as ajiaco or pan de bono. Now her boss has determined to bring the Colombian hot dog back to the source. He sold all of his stores in Colombia, and is starting over again in the United States, looking, he says, for “peace.” In addition to La Perrada on Collins, he has stores in Orlando and New York City already in the works and claims to have received requests for additional franchises.
Oddly enough, for a purveyor of processed meat, Edgar is proud of his fresh ingredients and of making the food on the premises daily. “Look around, there’s no grease or oil here,” he beams. In addition to hot dogs, he also offers fresh fruit shakes, a range of sea food cocktails, and another of his signature dishes, fresh strawberries and cream. Currently open until 2:00 a.m. La Perrada will soon be open 24 hours.
“In Colombia, this is a place to meet with friends before or after a night of partying,” he explains. It shouldn’t take long before Miami’s clubgoers are fueling up here as well. But as delicious and filling as his super-topped hot dogs may be, he might want to consider adding one more item to the menu: the South Beach Diet Dog, naked, without the bun.