With Baja Dogs, we have hit the trifecta of an Eat and Run: It’s really good, it’s cheap, and it’s fast.

A new food cart in Monument Square, Baja Dogs is owned by Mike Heathers. You may recall Heathers as the owner of Portland Spice Company in the old Portland Public Market and later a small food and spice business in the Back Cove area.

Heathers grew up in New York and Spain, so the kind of Latin-inspired fare he turns out from his cart is close to his heart.

“I don’t want to be like everyone else, because there’s a thousand hot dog carts,” he said. “What I really want to do is, eventually, I want to try to do music and stuff to get people to come. I want to be the hip hot dog cart.”

He won’t have to have music to attract people to his food.

The first menu item I tried was the signature Baja Dog ($3), a bacon-wrapped grilled turkey dog on a bun. It was smothered in chopped tomatoes, onion, mustard, ketchup and crema Mexicana, a sour cream-like sauce that Heathers buys at Bodega Latina. After asking me if I wanted some heat, Heathers added some jalapeno.

This dog was so good, I wished I had ordered two — and if it’s one of those days when you’re really hungry at lunch, you should order two. Or you could do what I did and order the grilled corn to go with the Baja dog.

The elote ($1.50) is grilled corn slathered with butter and then mayonnaise. Next, Heathers sprinkles it with chili con limon, a mixture of ground ancho chiles and other ingredients to give it a little kick, and adds cheese — traditionally cotijo, but Heathers uses Parmesan. The charred corn is served with a wedge of lime.

Heathers said he’ll be using local corn when it’s in season.

A friend suggested I try the Mixta next, because he thought it was even better than the Baja Dog. He was right.

The Mixta ($3) is a grilled beef dog nestled in a corn tortilla that’s been covered in guacamole. It’s topped with green cabbage slaw, mayo and cilantro. Heathers makes the guacamole and cabbage himself.

Other options include a grilled dog ($2) with just basic toppings, a bacon-wrapped turkey dog with lettuce, tomato and mayo ($3) and a veggie dog for $2.50. Heathers can make the Mixta with a veggie dog too.

Heathers says he may add some other items, including a burger, but he doesn’t want his menu to get too complicated.

His hours may get longer, because he’d like to eventually stay open until 10 p.m. “to get some people in the square at night.”

“That’s how it is in Mexico, the zocalo, which is the town square,” Heathers said. “They usually have a gazebo in the center in the park and cafes all the way around it. They’re cooking until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, you know? Every night of the week, there’s activity there, there’s life. I think (Monument Square) folds up really early, and it would be nice to blow a little life into it. I don’t know if I’ll have any success, but that’s my dream.”

Dream on — as long as it includes more Baja Dogs and Mixtas.

 

 

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.