By Ben Coleman

SDCC is a weekend of tough questions: Which panels to wait in line for? Where are the best exclusives? Who is a cop and who’s just cosplaying as one? Do I need an $8 convention center hot dog right now? I can’t help you with those first three examples, but here, for perhaps the first time ever, is a comprehensive review of the San Diego Convention Center’s “Jumbo Dog”, which can be procured from several of the Cafe Express kiosks along the show floor, as well as the battlefield kitchen-style popup between the Sails Pavilion and Ballroom 20. I got mine from the latter, since they had three fully staffed cashier stations and a very efficient line setup. Plus the black vests and industrial tablecloths had a kind of catered affair vibe that I was down with.

No meal can exist in isolation of its surroundings, so let us begin with a brief description of the SDCC press workroom where I enjoyed this simple fare to the mild bewilderment of my nearest colleagues. The space is large and sparsely decorated, with one wall given over to a banner festooned with the iconic black and yellow SDCC International logo. The other three walls are a classic unadorned eggshell white, fitting in that this is just a medium-sized panel room filled with folding tables and power strips. It’s a spare dining space, one might even say minimalist, but it has the benefit of having the aforementioned chairs and tables and power strips.

As for the food, presentation is similarly austere: each dog comes wrapped in single-sided tinfoil, and if you order a drink as well you are provided with a multi-purpose cardboard tray to carry it all around in. I opted to pair the Jumbo Dog with a $5 bottle of water, which did not taste twice as good as a $2.50 bottle of water, but did represent a significant improvement over San Diego tap water in a paper coffee cup, which I’ve had a great deal of experience with this week.

Condiments are a self-serve affair, so I went with a single yellow mustard and a pair of relish packets. No ketchup for *this* guy who’s been to Chicago twice. The neon yellow mustard offset the mutagen green relish quite nicely, and despite my failings as a food stylist I was able to get a fairly good distribution of condiment along the length of the meat tube.

With the preliminaries over, what of the dog itself? Honestly, it wasn’t bad! I’ve certainly had worse, especially in the context of a convention center food desert. There was a decent snap to the casing, and despite pretensions of jumbo-ness I found the ratio of meat-to-bun downright reasonable. And despite having sat in a cater waiter chafing dish for god knows how long, the textures of each component hadn’t strayed too far into the gas station hot dog nightmare realm. The bun was stiff in places but reasonably pliable overall, and did a fairly good job integrating the condiment smear and any residual hot dog water into a slightly more complex flavor profile.

As with any cured meat product, there’s the issue of salt. The SDCC Jumbo Dog wasn’t as salty as some I’ve had, but my kidneys certainly weren’t thanking me afterward either. This is very much either a “sometimes food,” but not quite the “an act of desperation” that I was expecting.

I do not think I will be subjecting myself to another any time soon, but I tip my cap to whoever’s in charge of catering procurement for the convention center. You did a pretty good job with this one! My gut biome may have taken a hit for this piece, but my appreciation for ill-advised hot dog consumption didn’t.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!


  1. I agree that the jumbo dog at SDCC is better than you expect from convention food kiosks. I recommend the kiosk on the Mezzanine level for relatively fast service especially in the “off” hours inbetween normal meal times. Its also convenient to take your meal out onto the back patio/stairs and get away from the crowds without leaving the convention center.

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