Some of my best memories from living in the suburbs of Chicago took place at the all-inclusive block parties and backyard BBQs those in our neighborhood hosted. For whatever reason, this friendly tradition rarely survives the migration of most Midwesterners as they find new homes in our desert town. But this 4th of July, the 4th Avenue Delicatessen is bringing some of that community spirit to Downtown Tucson.
Even though it’s only been open for ten months, the 4th Avenue Deli has already become one of the most popular new downtown neighbors. It’s easy to see why, with its inventive creations—both easy on the palate and the wallet—and for community-bonding events such as the upcoming 4th of July Hot Dog Shoot-Out.
The first round of this carnivorous competitive-eating frenzy takes place this Saturday, June 14th, from 6:30 – 9pm at Mr. Head’s Art Gallery and Bar, with subsequent qualifying rounds to be held over the following weeks at The Hut and Surly Wench Pub.
Che’s Lounge will host the final round of the competition on Independence Day, Friday, July 4, from 6:30 – 9pm.
A $20 cash entry fee for participants covers all hot dogs consumed during the competition, and includes a souvenir T-shirt designed by local artist Danny Martin. Competitors can sign up in person at the 4th Avenue Deli, located at 425 N. 4th Ave., or at the qualifying rounds themselves. Each 10 minute round will feature a total of up to 10 participants in separate men’s and women’s competitions.
The ultimate winners will receive free hot dogs for one year at the 4th Avenue Deli, as well as a $50 gift certificate to the deli. Perhaps most important of all, the 4th Avenue Deli’s Top Dog 2014 winner will forever be immortalized in a photo above the deli’s hot dog menu, looking down on all who dare to challenge his or her record at the inevitable 2015 Shoot-Out.
I spoke with 4th Avenue Deli’s owner Austin Counts about the Shoot-Out, and about what’s new at the deli.
What is currently your most popular hot dog?
AC: Our most popular hot dog is a toss-up between the Dirty White Boy (chili dog topped with bacon, cheddar, onions and mayo) and the T-Dog, which is our take on the Sonoran Dog (hot dog topped with shredded pepper jack, bacon onions, jalapeños and our spicy T-Town mayo). Personally, I think the Dirty White Boy is the most popular, but my staff says the T-Dog. Either way, they’re both damn good dogs.
Can you reveal any new creations you’re working on?
AC: In August we’re planning on unveiling an updated new menu, which will feature a few new sandwiches and the addition of several 1/4 pound jumbo dogs. The Slobby Dog (in honor of Slobby Robby at Generation Cool) was just the tip of the iceberg.
How did the 4th of July Hot Dog Shoot-Out come to fruition?
AC: I came up with the idea to hold this contest after reading an article about last year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. It just seemed like something the 4th Avenue Deli should do for the entire 4th Avenue community, all of whom have been very supportive in our first year. Also, it’s something fun for Tucson to do on 4th Avenue during 4th of July, which is also the slowest day of the year for many 4th Ave businesses. If this year is a success, the deli plans to hold one each year on 4th of July (with qualifying rounds in June).
Is there an official deadline for signing up?
AC: There is no official deadline to sign up, it’s more first come, first serve. Once the spots for the qualifying rounds fill, we won’t be accepting anymore entries. There’s about 48-50 spots total, with up to 10 spots available for each round.
What about an official after-party?
Official after party will be at Che’s Lounge once the contest is over. With that being said, I should point out that Jill Brammer at Che’s was instrumental in making this happen. She was the first person I approached with the idea and if she and Jim Vancza were not into hosting the main event, there is a good possibility it wouldn’t be happening. Also, our friends at Mr. Heads, Surly Wench and The Hut were a huge part in making the Hot Dog shoot-out qualifying rounds happen. This wouldn’t be possible without their support
For $20 (cash only), entrants get a free T-Shirt featuring local artist Danny Martin’s Hot Dog Cowboy souvenir shirts. Can spectators purchase those separately at each of the qualifying events?
Yes, those are only $15. If there are any spots left, we’ll be signing people up until 8pm on each of the qualifying nights. We’ll also be selling hot dogs, chili dogs and NYC dogs at each qualifying round and the final night at Che’s Lounge. Marques Emanuel will host, with entertainment provided by 5,6,7 Wax. Slobby Robby will be officiating the events.
Qualifying Shoot-Out rounds will be held from 6:30-9:00PM at the following locations:
- Saturday, June 14 at Mr. Head’s Art Gallery and Bar on 513 N 4th Ave.
- Friday, June 20 at The Hut on 305 N 4th Ave.
- Friday, June 27 at Surly Wench Pub on 424 N 4th Ave.
- Friday, July 4th at Che’s Lounge on 350 N. 4th Ave.
For details and rules, check out the official 4th of July Hot Dog Shoot-Out event page.