When the character Angel gets out of prison in a popular Chilean novel, he walks the crowded streets of downtown Santiago craving a hot dog. He stops and salivates at a hot dog stand.
"The bun, with the hot dog in it, was piled up with a balanced tower of mashed avocado, chopped tomato, a line of hot sauce, a mass of bitter sauerkraut . . . and on top of all that, a frenetic crown of mayonnaise and mustard," Angel says in Antonio Skarmeta's book "Victory Dance."
Fingering the coins in his pocket, the teenage ex-con fantasizes of "bathing the front of his shirt with the indigestible ingredients, smearing the nose and even the eyes in a voluptuous carnival."
Angel's longing for a hot dog buried in condiments is shared by many in this prosperous salmon- and copper-exporting South American nation of 15 million people.
Hot dogs add up to $23 million in revenue a year for Doggis, a chain that offers a dozen combinations of condiments on hot dogs and has grown from one to 82 restaurants in 20 years.
Doggis has more outlets than any other fast-food company in Chile and is number two behind McDonald's in market share and brand recognition, having gained a lot of territory this year after huge investments in advertising.
Juan Enrique Rosales, a Doggis marketing executive, says the chain is aiming for 7 percent annual growth over the next few years.
Doggis has plenty of competition. There's the Domino chain, which features hot dogs as its central item. At Schop Dog, a chain of beer and hot dog stands, a cold one with a basic hot dog costs about $2.50.
Chileans call hot dogs "completos," or "completes," meaning they have everything on them. They are really a bit of hot dog with your condiments.
"This is embarrassing, but there is nothing I miss more from Chile," said Sebastian dell'Orto, 36, a designer who has lived in Cuba for a year. "The first thing I did when I went home on a visit was to go with my son to a soda fountain to eat completos with sauerkraut, avocado, tomato, mayonnaise."
No one seems to know why hot dogs are so popular here, but the most accepted theory is that sausage-loving German immigrant communities in southern Chile brought their tastes with them.
"Nowhere else in Latin America do people eat hot dogs the way we do," said Rosales, who has traveled around the region gathering ideas for Doggis.
In the United States, people talk of the great American hot dog, but Rosales said Chileans consider the edible very much their own, even if Doggis serves the hot dog in a very American environment.
Doggis is closely modeled on U.S. fast-food franchises. Service is timed to the second. Kids' meals come with toys. Cashiers offer a super-size option, while upper managers agonize over whether to add salads to the menu.
Hearty cornmeal pies and seafood anchor Chile's traditional cuisine. The country is opening up to international cuisine, from sushi to Thai, but Chileans remain loyal to the reliable hot dog.
"The whole thing is about taking a break in a busy day, getting a completo and looking at the people next to you eating the same thing. It's also a good excuse for a beer," said dell'Orto, reminiscing on his visits to Schop Dog.
Like any fast food, hot dogs can come with greasy second thoughts.
"They aren't even that delicious. But they're filling. Chileans like a ton of condiments. A completo with everything on top is so appetizing," said Mauricio, 34, a salesman on lunch break at a Doggis in downtown Santiago.
Mauricio ordered a classic completo with diced tomatoes and mashed avocado and mayonnaise piled on. Yes, he wants to super-size his combo with Coca-Cola and french fries. The cost? About $3.25.
Bustling, glazed-eyed fast-food cashiers hand over Mauricio's blue plastic tray. His hot dog is already full of condiments. But it's not enough. He moves to the condiments counter and pumps on more mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup.