What is a Michigan Hot Dog?
"A Michigan hot dog or, "Michigan", is a steamed hot dog on a steamed bun topped with a meaty sauce, - more like "Sloppy Joe" than chili (no chili-oregano-cumin). generally referred to as "Michigan Sauce". The chili may or may not be tomato-based, depending on where the Michigan is purchased. (Some descriptions say it's a hot dog with spaghetti sauce on a steamed bun) Michigans can be served with or without chopped onions. If served with onions, the onions can either be buried under the sauce, under the hotdog itself, or sprinkled on top of the chili. The Michigan is served in a buttered-grilled Frankfurt loaf (bun with no crust on the sides)."
"Michigans are a particular favorite in the North Country of New York State, and have been so for many decades. In fact, one of the earliest known advertisements for Michigans appeared in the Friday, May 27, 1927, Plattsburgh Republican."
"Michigans are also very popular in Montréal and other parts of Québec, where the sauce that is put on them is invariably tomato-based and is often simply referred to as "spaghetti sauce". Lafleur Restaurants, a Québec fast food chain, is known for its Michigans and poutine."
"Oddly enough, "Michigan hot dogs" are never referred to by that name in Michigan itself, nor anywhere else in the Midwest. A similar food item, the "Coney Dog" or "Coney Island dog", is a hot dog topped with onions and either chili or a meatless chili called coney sauce. Conversely, the "Coney Island" is not called as such on Coney Island, or anywhere else in New York State; it's called either a "Michigan" or a "Red Hot." Finally, in southeast Michigan, a "Coney Island" is also the local slang term for a greasy spoon."
The Origin of the Michigan Hot Dog
"Although there are many different varieties of Michigan sauce available today, the original Michigan sauce was created by Mr. George Todoroff in Jackson, Michigan. The sauce was originally created to be used as chile sauce. In 1914, Mr. Todoroff took his recipe to Coney Island in Brooklyn New York and opened his first restaurant. However, the hot dog hadn’t arrived on the scene when he first opened his restaurant, so he had to wait until 1916 to make his first famous "Jackson Coney Island" hot dog. Todoroff's restaurant in Jackson remains in business to this day."
"In 1867, Charles Feltman, a German born immigrant, was selling pastry items from a small food cart at Coney Island. To make any money, he needed to sell a lot of food from a small space. His idea was to take a hard roll, steam it and wrap it around a German sausage. At that time, sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan caricatured German figures as Dachshund dogs and eventually coined Feltman’s sandwich a "Hot Dog"! The hot dog was a big hit and it didn’t take Todoroff long to capitalize on combining the hot dog and his chili sauce."
"The name of the Michigan hotdog originally came from Plattsburgh, New York. However, how and when the Michigan Sauce arrived there is somewhat of a mystery. As mentioned above, the earliest known advertisement for Michigans appeared in the Friday, May 27, 1927, Plattsburgh Daily Republican . The ad announced the, "Opening of the Michigan Hot-Dog Stand Tuesday May 24, located between the two dance halls...."
"It has been surmised that the hot dog stand mentioned may be the same one mentioned in the Plattsburgh Sentinel on Sept. 16, 1927, as being owned by a Mr. Garth C. Otis:"
""Garth C. Otis has leased the quarters in the Plattsburgh Theatre building formerly occupied as the Locomobile salesroom in which place he will conduct an eating, place under the name of the Michigan Hot Dog and Sandwich Shop opening Saturday. Mexican chili con came will be one of the specialties. Mr. Otis promises a first class place for those who desire short order lunches.""
"That said, its also been reported that the Plattsburgh origin of the "Michigan" name came from Plattsburgh residents, Jack Rabin and his wife, who discovered the Jackson Coney Island Hot Dog while vacationing in Coney Island, fell in love with it, and subsequently recreated the sauce at Nitzi's, their "Michigan Hot Dog" stand on Route 9 just outside of Plattsburgh. One very large problem with this story, however, is that a 1984 Sentinel article indicates that Nitzi's was established in 1935, and says that Jack Rabin indicated that "his sauce came from Mrs. Eula Otis, who first coined the name "michigans" for her hot dog and sauce. Otis, or "the blonde," as Nitzi calls her affectionately, was originally from Nashville. She met her husband in Detroit, Mich., where she learned to make meat sauce, and they moved to Plattsburgh in the 1920s, Nitzi said."
"In any case, it is currently believed that the Nitzi/Otis recipe is currently in use at Michigans Plus, located in the former iHOP building on Route 3."
At least one other story exists linking Plattsburgh to the "Michigan Hot Dog".
"This story claims that a Canadian, possibly a salesman, traveled between Montreal and New York City. and - on his way home - he would stop in Plattsburgh and spend the night at the Witherill Hotel. Apparently, he would bring back several of Todoroff’s "Jackson Island Conies" and get the cook at the hotel to warm them. The cook liked the flavor so well that he created a similar sauce with similar taste and it caught on and spread in several of the local restaurants. Soon thereafter, everyone in Plattsburgh began referring to them as, "Michigan hot dogs"."
"Finally, in Vermont, the Michigan dog is almost always split and cooked on a grill before the meat sauce onions and mustard are added. Often, but not always, the bun (or slice of bread) is also grilled. The first ones sold around the Burlington area were called Charlie's Red Hots and the small shop was started during WWII by a well-known and respected restaurateur. The family closely guarded the sauce recipe. The originals are no longer sold, but there are many Michigan copies around and many local families claim to have the "Charlie's" sauce recipe."
Recipes Vary Greatly!
Michigan Hot Dog - Example Sauce #1
Use fry pan.
- 2 sm. onions, chopped fine
- 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
Cook together until hamburger is done; drain. Then add:
- 1/2 tsp. hot pepper (crushed red)
Cook for 2 hours.
Michigan Hot Dog Sauce - Example Recipe #2
Blend all ingredients. Simmer for 3 hours.
Michigan Hot Dog Sauce - Example Recipe #3
- 2 (24 oz.) bottles catsup OR
- 1 (12 oz.) bottle catsup and 1 can tomato paste
- 1/2 catsup bottle of water
- 1/2 jar hot sauce (2 1/2 oz. size)
Cook hamburger and drain. Simmer catsup, water, hot sauce, onion and green pepper until vegetables are cooked. Add hamburg and serve over hot dogs in a bun.