INternational house of hot dogs with latin flavor by GAbriela riquelme
On an unusually hot late afternoon in July, the outdoor seating at the International House of Hot Dogs (IHOH) is an inviting space for the rare but perfect Alaskan summer day. Luis Portillo is the owner of IHOH and he greets everyone with a grin of familiarity, as if he’s greeting an old friend.
Some customers are curious to know why Portillo-- originally from Mexico, sells hot dogs. Portillo tells me that the quintessential item at IHOH, the bacon-wrapped hot dog, is actually a creation with origins in his home state of Sonora. When he started his business in the summer of 2012, he knew it had to be on his menu.
Portillo moved to Alaska from San Diego in 2001, he enjoyed a career as an anesthesia technician for many years before leaving his comfortable salary to follow his dreams of running a business. “When you don’t take a risk, things don’t happen,” he said. “I didn’t have any experience when it came to food.” But hard work and a determination to succeed was what fueled him.
IHOH started out as a modest cart across from the transit center in downtown Anchorage. When the summer ended, he knew he wanted to continue selling hot dogs. A friendship between Portillo and the property owner of Trendsetters Hair Salon resulted in Portillo setting up a new food trailer outside of the salon on Northern Lights Boulevard and Eagle Street for many years. “He told me, ‘If you wanna, come park it outside of my property.’ He probably wasn’t expecting I’d buy this big of a trailer.”
The business moved back downtown to its current location on L St. in 2017. While being in in the middle of Midtown was amazing publicity for his business, Portillo says there is no place like downtown Anchorage. Their first year in their new location hasn’t been without it’s challenges, but Portillo says he owes his success to his loyal base of customers.
IHOH’s menu features many gourmet hot dogs like the “Mexican Dog”, the “Greek Dog”, and the “Texan Dog”. Portillo wants to make sure Anchorage’s diverse community is reflected on the menu. “[Hot dogs] are an American dish that we took and added our own little twists,” Portillo said.
Portillo says his ultimate dream for IHOH is to turn it into a full-fledged restaurant one day. “Latinos-- most of us are entrepreneurs. It’s in our nature.”
IHOH is located at 415 L Street in downtown Anchorage, between 4th and 5th Avenues. Summer Hours: M-F, 11 am to 7pm, S-S, 11 am to 5pm. Closed on Sundays during winter
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