io9 is at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 and we made a pre-convention center detour to the Sonic the Hedgehog Speed Cafe, a fast food activation inspired by SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog video game universe.
Secret Sauce Society’s co-founder Kevin Seo was at the pop-up to explain how the collaboration with SEGA came about. And yes—it all started with Sonic’s iconic chili dog. “This one started with a long relationship with the SEGA team and we really dreamed about an idea to bring great chili dogs—Sonic’s chili dogs to real life,” Seo shared. “And so there was a lot of design conversations, dreaming conversations, and it finally led to the team working with our group, Secret Sauce Society, to bring together awesome hot dogs.”
Sonic the Hedgehog Speed Cafe was bustling when we visited the location in the heart of Gaslamp—it had about a four-hour wait time from what we could tell, as the line full of video game fans queued down the block. The menu curation has a variety of offerings inspired by the game with flavor twists, like the aforementioned “Sonic’s Classic Chili Dog,’’ and also featuring a crispy fried chicken sandwich called the “Knuckles Sandwich,” because it has a hit of spice that will punch you in the face (I tried it!).
Seo laughed, explaining “That’s why Knuckles Sandwich is spicy, because it because it has a punch.” Additionally, there’s “The Evil Genius” egg salad sandwich and “The Perfect Eggdog,” which looked darkly questionable but were actually peppery with umami. Of the curation Seo said he was inspired by the character profiles, clearly, “Yeah, and ‘The Perfect Eggdog’—what’s fun about that is that item is from the new cookbook that just launched. So we also did a play on that, where we did the exact same hot dog that you can get in [the Sonic the Hedgehog] cookbook.” Sides and drinks include “Golden Ring” onion rings and colorful frozen slushes inspired by Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails.
The design and ambiance felt right at home with the original SEGA Genesis aesthetic. “It was like, we’re fast food meets Sonic,” he said, hence the name “Here’s a lot of racer stripes that go along with Sonic, so you’re going to see a lot of that theme that’s around. Our merch is inspired by that as well. If you look at some of the designs that we have, it’s kind of like these like racer logos—so we all brought all of that feel in. And also for us, we love culture and we know that Sonic ultimately is a Japanese brand. So we kept that for a lot of our hoodies and shirts with original logos from Japan as well.”
Click through for a look at the Sonic the Hedgehog Speed Cafe now open through August 20; during Comic-Con (July 19-23), hours run from 11:00 am-midnight.
Location: 910 J St Space 2, San Diego