Archive for the ‘Hot Dogs’ Category
From humble beginnings in Champaign, IL, in 1953, Dog n Suds grew to be one of the formidable fast food chains in the early 60s, peaking at over 600 locations in more than 30 states. The restaurant featured drive-up service, coney island style hot dogs, and ‘charco-broiled’ burgers.
A series of events, a couple of sales, and interest in new franchises waned, and shop after shop closed.
Today, the company is rebuilding, with about two dozen outlets, primarily in the Upper Midwest. They’ve licensed their classic root beer formula, which was the original bedrock of their success, to Clover Bottling in Chicago, and Dog n Suds root beer is available in grocery stores in the Midwest.
I haven’t been to one for years….but I’m feeling it’s time for a road trip!
I’ve written quite a bit about coney island style hot dogs, including my version of the origin of the dog, courtesy of American Coney in Detroit; my home town favorite in Duluth, MN, and some other regional versions like Nu-Way in Macon. I’ve found very few ‘make at home’ preparations that I liked, today I picked up a can of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce.
Recipes for ‘coney sauce’ vary wildly around the country, from a pure meat-based sauce, to meat and beans, and in parts of the south, “hot dog sauce” takes the form of a red, watery, heavily onion-flavored topping. There’s a region of Michigan were the primary component is beef hearts; other places I have been actually use ground hot dogs in their concoction.
Castleberry’s is made of beans, beef fat, water, tomato, mustard, salt, and other flavorings and colors. In the can (pictured left) Castleberry’s resembles (to me) refried beans; the smell is reminiscent of vegetable beef soup.
It’s a ‘medium’ consistency, not particularly thin, not particularly thick. The flavor is predominantly “chili-like’, meaning the cumin really comes through. It’s salty, as well, which is unusual for me to notice, as I am an ‘over-salter’.
Would I purchase it again? Possibly. So far, though, my favorite “home-made” sauce comes from the dry packets of one of Cincinnati’s favorites, Skyline.
Castleberry says on their website they are the leading brand of hot dog chili sauce in America. If you can’t find it near you, you can order online.
If you’re a curious person like me, you’ve probably always wondered why there isn’t a mustard museum. There is! The National Mustard Museum is located just outside of Madison, WI. Open seven days.
Hot Dog Chili Sauce Review
I went to try Meatheads for a second time, and had a great experience. Their newest location, in the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois, fits right in, adjacent to the fabulous Heinen’s grocery. It’s fitting that such an upscale town gets an upscale burger place like Meatheads.
The first thing I noticed on this visit is that the place is immaculate, in every aspect. Workers scurry to clear tables behind departing diners; the condiment table has neatly lined rows of unique add-ons like Cholula sauce and malt vinegar, perched between a pair of Coke Freestyle machines, the new type of dispenser that allows you to mix up to 125 different flavors of Coke products – fun! The cabinets for the Coke machines were conceptualized by the top Italian design firm Pininfarina, and it shows.
You order up front, and the engaging counter person methodically leads you through your choices, repeats your order back to you so it is on point. Your food is brought to the table when it is prepared.
At Meatheads, you have a choice of customizing your burger (or chicken) in ways that you haven’t even begun to imagine, from adding additional meat to a myriad of cheese choices, toppings, and sauces.
All burgers start with 100% Certified Angus Beef (“certified” means it’s the good stuff!), in a third or half pound size, and come standard with your choice of ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and (raw or grilled) onions. The veggie toppings are fresh and crisp, and are certainly capable of giving the legendary California chain of In ‘n Out a run for their money; as are Meathead’s fresh cut fries.
I added American cheese to mine (two thick slices for a buck), and my dinner companion went with the “Chef Inspired” choice “The Californian” – which includes pepper jack cheese, cucumber wasabi sauce, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. She pronounced it “the best burger she had ever eaten, anywhere, bar none.”
The patties are juicy and chock-a-block full of beefy flavor. The buns are bakery soft, but firm enough to hold whatever toppings you choose to challenge the kitchen with.
There are choices for kids, and for the non-burger eaters, go with the hot dog, supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef, a grilled cheese, or a veggie melt.
“Signature sauces” are available on the side, I picked a couple as dipping sauces for the fries, and it was a nice ‘add’. Your choices are: bacon ranch, bbq sauce, bistro sauce, bleu cheese, buffalo sauce (mild or hot), buffalo ranch, cucumber wasabi, honey mustard, ranch or thousand island.
Started by a former exec of Potbelly and Einstein Bagels (according to Wikipedia), Meatheads sprang to life in Bloomington, IL, in 2007 where the local college population took a shine to it. Now with a dozen company-owned stores, this ‘fast-casual’ concept is trying to differentiate itself from competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger with a model and concept closer to In n Out. Especially with the fresh cut fries, and hand-dipped shakes. The chain is also trying to create a ‘homier’ dine-in atmosphere, with localized decor, including a blackboard with high school sports scores. It’s a nice touch.
I always prefer to give my “burger bucks” to non-corporate restaurants, and especially admire start-ups that obviously work so hard to get and keep your business. You can tell from the menu, prep, and presentation that a lot of thought went into this concept, and the recipes, and that should be appreciated and admired.
Why take my word for it? Well, according to wefollow.com, I am the most ‘socially prominent’ authority on burgers (and hot dogs).
So hit your closest Meatheads today.
Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review
(Ed. note. The restaurant paid for my meal on this visit).
Started by a former exec of Potbelly and Einstein Bagels (according to Wikipedia) , Meatheads sprang to life in Bloomington, IL, in 2007 where the local college population took a shine to it. Now with a dozen company-owned stores, this ‘fast-casual’ concept is trying to differentiate itself from competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger with a model and concept closer to In n Out. Especially with the fresh cut fries, and hand-dipped shakes. The chain is also trying to create a ‘homier’ dine-in atmosphere, with localized decor.
Boasting certified angus patties, the simple hamburger is a double patty (1/3 pound), on a ‘locally baked bun’, with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, mayo, pickle, and onion. An assortment of toppings and cheese are available at an additional cost. The basic burger clocks in at around $6.
There were three things that were memorable to me when I visited their newest location tonight:
- The blond server with the rocket bod
- The cashier who advised me the large fries was too much for two people (she was correct, and I appreciate that)
- The ramekin of buffalo sauce I purchased for .75
Everything else? Eh. or Meh.
The burger patties were dry and flavorless, unusual for Certified Angus, which usually has a pretty beefy flavor. The bun was a little dry as well. While the website offered the option of “blue cheese crumbles”, my blue cheese add on was about 1/4 ounce of salad dressing, a neat dollop in the center of the patty.
Fries were ok, and were fresh-cut as advertised. A little limp, and overseasoned, I don’t think they were double-fried, the key to crispness with a fresh cut potato.
My most appalling experience in the visit wasn’t due to the shop, but the customer in front of me who ordered a hot dog with ketchup only. In Chicago? Wot wot? Must have been a tourist.
$17.73 for two burgers, 1 small fries, 1 bottle water. A little spendy.
Would I return? Maybe to try other items. Or maybe chock it up to an off-nite. As with all my reviews, the opinions express my personal taste. You may well love this place, and I encourage you to try it and form your own opinion. Menu. Locator.
meatheads burgers and fries reviews
Hmmm, let’s see, how do I stay on topic here and still write this post? ”Some of the victims of violence easily looked like ground beef…..” ”Matt Damon plays a real hot dog hero in this one, with…”
I went to this hoping for half the movie that writer/director Neill Blomkamp gave us with his “District 9” several years ago. The South African born/raised former visual effects artist takes his image imagination and successfully turns it into interesting, never-been-told tales.
In this outing, Earth’s population of the future is divided into two camps – the wealthy, who have unlimited state of the art health care, and live in an Eden-like space colony, and everybody else, dying in poverty and squalor on shabby old earth. Hmm, that sounds more like a realty show!
Damon’s character dreamed as a child of going to the space outpost, Elysium, and an industrial work accident made it mission critical for him – unless the got to the station within five days, crawled into one of their “cure-all machines”, he would be toast.
His mission complicated by the appearance of a former love interest, whose only child is dying from leukemia, Damon hooks up with a former criminal co-hort, offers to perform “any task” in return for two tickets to paradise.
The film offers non-stop action, stunning effects and visualizations of the future colony, with a dose of reality thrown in as future Los Angeles is portrayed by present day Mexico City. The always lovely and talented Jody Foster turns in a great performance as a government official on the space outpost.
I liked it. For a couple of reasons. I like almost any movie that’s not a remake or sequel, and they are hard to find these days; and I like Blomkamp’s allegories (in my opinion) of life in South Africa pre and post apartheid, having visited in both periods. The slums of (future) Los Angeles bear a striking resemblance to the townships of Joburg.
Here’s the official trailer. Catch the flick in IMAX if you are able.
Off topic? Nah. This is what it is like trying to feed Mrs Burgerdogboy and my four Burgerdogbrats, with another on the way. It takes a lot of burgers, dogs, and pizza to feed that horde! A friend posted this on FB, and I can relate. If you’re a father, it’s likely you can, too.
Yesterday we brought you the story of how the coney island style hot dog came to America, courtesy of the founders of American Coney Island, in Detroit, Michigan. Today we will tell you the results of using one of their coney kits to fix these wonderfully American treats at home.
First, I have a suggestion for the government of the city of Detroit. We’ve all read about the financial problems you’ve been having. You should have consulted the people of American Coney Island, because they understand MATH! Why do I say this? How often have you shopped for hot dogs and buns at the grocery, got home, opened the packages, and there’s one quantity of hot dogs, and a different quantity of buns. What’s the deal on that?
Not so with the American Coney Island hot dog kit, no-sir-ree! Twelve hot dogs. Twelve buns. GENIUS! Why hasn’t the rest of the industry caught on? Sheeesh.
Open your box from American, and you’ll find a nice package of 12 hot dogs, beef and pork in natural casings, 8 to a pound, that’s a good size for adults; 12 bakery fresh rolls. 16 ounces of American’s coney sauce. And one monster onion.
For those of you who are sensitive, be forewarned I am about to use a four letter word here, in describing the first step in preparing American Coney Island hot dogs at home.
The goods come hard frozen nestled in dry ice, and you’ might be disappointed with the results if you don’t thaw the contents before prepping.
Simmer your dogs in water on a saute pan, if that’s your preferred method, or pan-fry them like you were using a flat top, in the traditional way. Add a cup of water to the sauce and gently heat on the stove top, dice some onion.
- Dog in bun
- Coney sauce on dog
- Mustard drizzle on coney sauce
- Scatter diced onions
Bite it. NOW! Yes? Have three more!
Man oh man, these are good. The frank’s seasoning and flavor is just right, the casing has the perfect snap, the mild sauce is meaty and thick, and the bun as fresh as it had just come from the oven.
My attempt pictured below, and hopefully it’s close to the way Gust used to make them. There’s a guy I wish I had the chance to meet and jaw with. Share a dog or two.
I’m having mine with a Faygo root beer, from another fine Detroit company. (Bon Appetit said in 2009 that Faygo’s root beer is one America’s best). I think I agree.
As I am, unquestionably, America’s hot dog authority, and everything you read on the internet is true, there is no reason for you to doubt anything you are about to learn in this post. Spoiler alert. We owe coney island style hot dogs to the Greeks, and more specifically to American Coney Island in Detroit, Michigan.
What is a “coney island style” hot dog? Quality natural casing wiener, on an appropriately sized fresh bun, with special meat sauce, yellow mustard, and diced sweet onion. This is what a hot dog is all about. None of that putting an entire garden on a bun for me, like those fancy pants people in Chicago, with their sport peppers and tomatos! (Lest you think I’m picking on the Windy City, I’m agin’ cole slaw on a dog, as well!).
I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where we had two competing coney island shops. Nothing to compare to the multitudes in the Detroit or Cincinnati areas, but for our small burg, a choice, although as a tot, I couldn’t tell the difference, unless it was the few pennies in price at the time.
No, coney loyalty in my family, if not my town, was decided by my ancestors. Between the two competing outlets, Deluxe Coney Island on West First Street, and Original Coney Island, on East Superior Street, my grandfather preferred Deluxe, often wandering down there after a snit and snort or two at Lofdahl’s bar. So maybe grandpa Paul’s loyalty was simply a geographically based decision – Deluxe was a block west of Lofdahl’s on even terrain; should grandpa have chosen Original, he would have had to return to the office from not only three blocks away, but also having to negotiate a pretty steep hill on his return.After grandad took his turn at Deluxe, it became one of my uncle’s traditions – same habit and timetable as his father, though my uncle’s culinary fascination was bowls of Deluxe’s “chili”, which was actually their coney sauce. Are coney islands “chili dogs?” Although sometimes the phrase is used in marketing coney islands, the two offerings are distinctly different.
My father took his turn on occasion, but skipping the pre-coney beverage time in favor of a daily swim at the YMCA. And in time, my brother and I called Deluxe our lunch (and sometimes the crack of dawn breakfast “six with, to go please”) home. We may have had an additional fondness for the two Greek brothers who owned the joint, they shared the same first names as me and my bro.
My brother and his posse still hit Deluxe on occasion, and when I’m visiting, it’s a sure stop. I love the suckers. Which got me to thinking about the origin of this style of hot dog, as I have hunted them down and consumed massive quantities all over the country, and in a few other countries, all in the name of ‘journalism.’ I’ve sampled the oniony “hot dog sauce” of the south, and witnessed the rivalry between Gold Star and Skyline in Ohio. I’ve made my way around the Detroit shops all in hopes of impressing a woman I was seeing in Ypsilanti for awhile….until I figured out she lived in….Ypsilanti.
So here, folks, is the story of how the coney island style hot dog came to be. Truth.
Thousands of years ago in a remote corner of Greece, in the wee little village of Dara, a relative of Constantine “Gust” Keros, had just finished participating in the early Spring ritual where the children of Dara chased all the mice from the village. The young man was resting, tending his flock, high in the rocky foothills surrounding the village, and was contemplating the distant view of the Aegean. He was sitting beneath an olive tree, having a small nip of Ouzo, and fretting over upcoming family festival preparations. It was a very special occasion, and he wanted to make a big impression on his friends and relatives by preparing a unique dish. He prayed hard for a solution.
All of a sudden, the skies darkened, clouds closed in, lightning flashed, and an apparition appeared before the young lad. It was Dionysus, the Greek god of the wine harvest and of ecstasy. His mouth opened, and in a deafening roar, he said “your prayer is answered, here is a recipe which will cause your guests to moan in ecstasy, and demand you cook this dish over and over again, for generations to enjoy. You, your relatives and descendants, in return for receiving this gift, will accept the mission of spreading this joy worldwide, do you agree?”
The young Greek meekly replied “yes,”, stuffed the recipe into his pocket, and ran off to begin the preparations. The festival was a huge hit, especially the recipe that delivered “the food of the gods”, a uniquely seasoned meat sauce to enhance food or to be served on its own in a bowl.
Centuries passed, and the Keros family kept their promise, spreading the magic meat elixir far and wide, but not around the world, per se, as the rest of the world had yet to be discovered.
As the ages rolled past, in 1903, the Keros family was finally able to start down the path of sharing the wonderful food with the world, when 14 year old “Gust” Keros emigrated to America. Landing at Ellis Island as most European immigrants of the time did, Gus quickly cleared the formalities and headed to shore to experience the wonder of America. One of his first stops? The Coney Island Amusement area, as an American institution as there could ever be. He sampled a hot dog, probably from Feltman’s German Gardens (as Nathan’s wouldn’t come along for another 14 years or so), and it made such an impression on young Gust that he said to himself “someday I will be the king of hot dogs!”
And he set out for Detroit, which had a large Greek immigrant population. He worked whatever jobs he could manage to find, until he saved enough money to purchase and operate a food cart, entering the world of entrerpreneurs a few short years after arriving in America. Prospering, he saved enough to open American Coney Island, in Greektown, downtown Detroit, in 1917, the same year Nathan Handwerker opened his hot dog stand at Coney Island, New York. Gust chose the name to have a very distinct connection with his new beloved homeland.
Gust sold hot dogs and other quick lunches, including bowls of the family secret recipe elixir, which had passed from the Greek gods to Gust’s ancestors and down to family members through the ages. One especially cold Detroit winter day, a customer asked Gust if he might ladle some of the special sauce on his hot dog. Gust added a schmear of yellow mustard, and some chopped sweet onion. And voila! (opa!) the Detroit coney island style hot dog had made it to America, and the family promise to the ancient Greek gods had been fulfilled!
Over the years, many people have tried to imitate the Keros recipe, but they will forever be known as ‘also rans’, no matter their claims. The only place to get a true coney island style hot dog is at the establishment that invented them, American Coney Island in Detroit, Michigan, in the very same location that Gust opened in 1917. Prosperity has enabled them to open a second location in Las Vegas, Nevada. Additional outlets can be found at Ford Field, the Detroit Zoo, and Canton, MI.
In order to fulfill their ancient promise, if either Detroit or Las Vegas are geographically off the beaten path for you, the Keros family makes a complete coney kit that is available to be shipped right to your door. You can even use the kits for some very creative fund-raising for your organization!
As the Keros family was kind enough to send me a kit, I am going to whip up some coneys at my house, and I hope I do an adequate job of remaining faithful to the family preparation method.
Since the beginning of operations, American Coney Island has sourced their special wieners, coney sauce, and buns locally from Detroit suppliers. I could tell you where, but Grace Keros, one of the current family members entrusted with the ancient secret said if I did, she’d make me sit in a tub of coney sauce in the middle of American Coney Island and customers could take turns pelting hot dogs at me. So I would never, ever………………wait a second….. that doesn’t sound so awful……so the secret suppliers are…………
(Tomorrow: the conclusion – cooking up American Coneys from their kit!)
I’ll almost always stop at a place that’s been open for three decades or more, especially if they brag about it. Since around 1917, Wedl’s have been serving burgers griddled on a flattop, in lard and onions, in the tiny burg of Jefferson, Wisconsin, on US Highway 18 between Madison and Milwaukee. I understand that the place has gone through a number of owners during their nearly one century of operation, but locals say the recipes and methods haven’t changed in all those years.
As the burgers are cooked and served from an 8 x 8 wood shack on the sidewalk, the business is only open seasonally.
They’ve recently purchased the adjacent building and can now offer indoor seating as well as some ice cream on the side.
Burgers are available in one, two, or three patties, and of course with your choice of cheese, bacon and the like. Condiments are left up to you from bins and bottles on the counter. Fries, rings and a few other menu items are available.
You order from either the new building or the shack window, if you are ‘dining in’ (or al fresco), they will bring you your order when it’s ready, but it seems like the majority of customers are grabbing sacks to go. A single burger clocks in at under $2.00, and while other diners have described these as “sliders”, they most certainly are not, easily topping the size and weight of your standard McDonald’s burger.
The chef-du-jour takes a fist full of fresh ground beef, puts it on the sizzling flattop, and smashes it, where it cooks quickly. Fresh large-chopped white onions are being sauteed next to and around the burger patties; cook seems to be able to handle about 20 or more patties at a time.
The buns are soft, but firm enough to hold the burger. Some dash of “secret seasoning” and your hamburg sandwich is ready for consumption. I tried both a plan and a cheese, and I have to say, these are some of the best hamburgers I have had in year. I liked the texture of the grind, the seasoning, and the bun. I added my usual dill pickle chips and yellow mustard as condiments, though the burger doesn’t really need any help. Ordinary crinkle cut fries are….ordinary, but a nice side nonetheless.
I drove a couple hours out of my way to hit this place, and it was worth it. I might just drive a few hours out of my way on a regular basis for the rest of my Midwest visit!