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My brother and I acquired a hot dog cart about a year ago and, after pondering our work amid the pandemic, decided to finally take the leap and start our own business.
Having worked in a restaurant on the River Walk, I learned about what customers want and saw a gap that we could fill. Though tourists and locals would be out late bar-hopping downtown, there were few late-night food options. That was our chance.
We knew we didn’t want to run a standard hot dog cart and chose to tap into our culture to come up with the concept for El Weinecero, bringing Mexican-style hot dogs to downtown San Antonio.
We made some modifications to the cart to customize it for our needs, collaborated with Chef Alejandro Gomez on the menu and secured a location at 507 E. Houston St. With the graphic design skills I acquired after earning my degree in communications from Texas State University and my brother’s background in marketing, we were able to design a logo and website and promote our business. We launched in October and in just a few short months have built a solid customer base.
In addition to Gomez, who is originally from Mexico and worked in Chicago for many years, we also work with one other cook, Johnny Trejo. We’re a small but dedicated team.
Running a hot dog cart might seem like an easy job, but a lot of hard work goes into what we do. Even though we are the owners of El Weinecero, we fill multiple positions. We manage all our ad campaigns, our website and social media accounts, bookkeeping, as well as serve as host, cashier, kitchen prep, food runner and dishwasher. And even though our stand is only open three days a week, we are working five to six days a week. Mondays we do marketing. Tuesdays we stock inventory. Wednesday we prep in the kitchen for the work weekend.
Serving up late-night hot dogs downtown we get to talk to people from all over, hear their stories and why they’re visiting San Antonio, and introduce them to flavors they might not be familiar with. It’s great when we hear from customers that their friends or family members recommended our food. Our system is not your typical food stand system. I act as the host, explaining our menu and taking orders that I then put on a ticket for my brother or Johnny. The cook then grills up the frank, peppers and other toppings, a process that customers can see up close.
The most rewarding part is seeing our customers’ reactions when they take their first bite. For a lot of people, it’s their first time trying a Mexican-style hot dog. Our Perro y Gallo is a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with pico de gallo and our own avocado sauce. The Perro Chiludo is a Mexican twist on the chili cheese dog, the Perro con Elote is topped with Mexican street corn, and the Perro Caliente is loaded with peppers for folks who like their mouth to be burning hot. It’s especially gratifying when a customer gets back in the line to try another hot dog from the menu.
Our goal is to sell 100 hot dogs a night, and we usually meet that. Going into this new venture, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how successful we would be or how long we could do this for. Now, with a growing customer base, we know we can’t stop any time soon. We’re proud of what we’ve already managed to accomplish and eager to continue doing this work, growing our customer base and eventually expand into catering and maybe beyond.