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  • Writer's pictureAdam Horvath

The Michigan Dog- Chili’s first Cousin, Twice Removed

Courtesy of Cultinary Road Trip

Full Disclosure, I've never actually been to Plattsburgh. I’m telling you this because a part of me feels like a fraud as I typically travel to the birthplace of a foodigenous before writing about it. And even though it’s only a little over a 5 hour drive up the New York State Thruway from me, for some reason I keep putting off trekking for a Michigan, the regional steamed hot dog slathered in seasoned chopped beef that’s neither a chili dog, Texas weiner or coney. Did you happen to catch that part about Plattsburgh being in New York, but it's called a Michigan dog? That’s weird right? I’ll explain more in a little bit.

From Brooklyn to…

Coney Island is the undisputed birthplace of the American hot dog when German immigrant and entrepreneur Charles Feltman transformed his pushcart pie business into a mega hot-dog-palooza complex in the late 1800’s. Shortly thereafter, in true American capitalism spirit, Nathan Handwerker, a Feltman’s employee started his own business Nathan’s Famous when he undersold his boss by a nickel (half price) creating his own iconic wiener empire. At that time, hot dog joints were like crypto, everyone wanted in on the action!

As a result of food’s growing popularity, combined with a flood of new immigrants passing through Ellis Island and into Coney Island’s kitchens, an exodus of Greek and Macedonians left Brooklyn to open up their own hot dog restaurants throughout the Midwest.  Michigan became the unintentional epicenter of the culinary movement with locations springing up in Jackson, Flint, Kalamazoo and Detroit to name a few. These restaurateurs upped the game by adding their native, oft cumin & cinnamon forward meat sauces, akin to a thin, beanless chili on top of their hot dogs. This new combo was named a coney dog, an homage to where it all started.

It Comes Full Circle

This is the part of the story that really gets my juices flowing. To recap, the hot dog was introduced in Brooklyn but thanks to some Balkan ingenuity, it was transformed to a "chili" dog in Michigan. It was called a coney even though neither Feltman nor Nathan's put chili on their dogs. Now get this. Then sometime in the mid 20's, a Michigan born couple Eula and Garth Otis moved to Plattsburgh New York and opened up their own hot dog stand using a bastardized coney recipe she created herself. It was apparently meatier with less or no tomato at all and apparently lacked the Greek aromatics used in its seasoning. And of course, they aptly named the new hot dog they were selling in New York, A Michigan Red Hot.

The Otis's eventually sold to a former employee "Nitzi Rabin" who ran it for decades, and the location is now McSweeny's Red Hots since 1991. There's also Clare and Carl's Hot Dog Stand slinging Michigans since 1942 and another OG Spot Ronnie's Michigan Stand that are frequently mentioned by other foodies. There are many other seasonal stands and restaurants that make their own version of the Michigan. No two meat sauces are identical.

As I admitted, I have not been to Plattsburgh so I can only rely on my "foodie" resources to confirm the taste, like Hawk Krall's Serious Eats post which suggests the snappy dogs are primarily the red dyed Glazier's brand and the sauce is thick with a lowkey Greek chili feel. Or my buddy Eric from Cultinary Road Trip whose pictures above from two different spots confirm a thick chopped onion and squirt of yellow mustard as they are typically served. You can also ask for your dog to be "buried" with the onion served under the meat sauce. Eric also states that the Michigan is better than the Texas Weiners which I grew up eating in Paterson New Jersey. I personally find this blasphemous, but he's from Quebec so? Speaking of Quebec, while the Michigan is regionally located within Plattsburgh, there are some places in Canada and Vermont that have them on their menu.

I look forwarded to updating this post in the near future with my personal opinion on the hot dog with the geographically ambiguous name that's definitely not a chili dog, but related.

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2 תגובות

I Never Sausage a Hot Dog!
I Never Sausage a Hot Dog!
15 באפר׳

You know I'm down for a road trip to eat all the Michigans we can find!


Steven Newstead
Steven Newstead
15 באפר׳

I remember stopping with my dad at the natural spring on my way from New Jersey to Malone, NY to fill up empty milk jugs with spring water and get a Michigan from the food cart alongside the spring coming out of the mountain.

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