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Archive for the ‘Hot Dogs’ Category

Coney Island Recipe – Hot Dog Sauce

I love coney island style hot dogs, which are not to be confused with chili dogs.  Coney islands follow a basic formula of a natural casing wiener, adorned with meat sauce, chopped raw onions, and yellow mustard.  There are variations of them around the midwest, usually at shops started by Greek families two or three generations ago.  Some of the more famous include American Coney in Detroit, Skyline and Gold Star in Ohio, and of course, Deluxe Coney in my home town of Duluth.

On occasion, I make my own sauce at home, whipping up a batch large enough to consume immediately, and freeze the rest in sandwich bags to take out whenever I have the urge over the succeeding couple of months.

My recipe has been developed and fine tuned over many years, and is similar to the sauces listed about, but not identical.  Each establishment has their own ‘secret ingredient’, I am sure.

Coney Island Style Hot Dogs

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 6 C water
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 4 t chili powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 4 t cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2  finely diced onions, one for broth, one for assembly later
  • 2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
  • High quality, natural casing hot dogs (I used Usinger’s)
  • Buns
  • Yellow mustard


Bring the water to a boil, and add and stir in the tomato paste. When thoroughly mixed, add the dry spices and herbs. Now here’s the twist, which is different that I usually would have done in the past, but it really works for this. Crumble the beef RAW into the broth, and the onions, and simmer for three hours or until reduced to a thickness that you prefer. You may have to further crumble the beef while cooking with a wooden spoon or potato masher, but chances are the hot water will do the job for you.  I usually end up cooking for considerably longer than three hours, reducing my concoction to a thick and meaty sauce.


Steam or griddle fry your dogs, place one on a bun slathered with yellow mustard. Ladle a quantity of chili to your personal preference and dust with diced onion.

Pictorial, step by step:

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

6 C water, 6 oz tomato paste

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Spice / herb combination

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Water, tomato paste, spices boiling


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Crumble raw beef into ‘soup’



Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Usinger’s of Milwaukee, NC wieners


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Finely diced onions


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Lunch time!



Coney Island Recipe



Eckrich Lil Smokies Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies” – give me a mess of good quality, fine tasting ones, and I’ll pass on the rest of breakfast.  You never see them on a restaurant menus, not really sure why.

Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday.  They were half the price of the other brands.

Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

How were they?  OK, especially at the price.  A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies.  I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.

Why the ‘char?’  I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine.  For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 Eckrich Lil Smokies

 John Morrell Cincinnati



Lil Smokies Review

New Orleans, LA – Brothers Food Marts

Fry Deli“Fry delis” – are a distinctly southern thing, a serving counter of fried on location foods like chicken, catfish, sausage, biscuits and potato wedges, found at gas stations and other outlets below the Mason Dixon line. I explored a few on a previous sojourn when I was comparing chicken fingers and strips in LA, MS, GA, and AL last year.

This trip was no exception, as I grabbed pieces of fish or chicken to nosh on at various locations on this expedition, including some from “Chester Fried“, and ‘Krispy Krunchy“, two inexpensive (to own) franchises stuck into corners of gas station along the way.

Brother’s Food Marts is a local chain New Orleans of mini-marts (New Orleanians are fiercely loyal to local businesses, some chains have never successfully penetrated the market – like 7-Eleven or Starbucks).  You’ll find Brooks scattered around the metro, sometimes as stand alone locations, sometimes at gas stations.  There’s one in the CBD (Central Business District) a few steps from the both the French Quarter and my hotel base this trip.  This one is open 24 hours and their fry deli is amply stocked with fish, chicken, and fries, as a “meal combo” or to be purchased by the piece.

Nothing like being able to get a crispy hunk o’ catfish at 3 AM, I say.  Which I did.  Later on, down the highway, I hit a Chester’s for some strips, which were lightly breaded and H-U-G-E compared to other chicken places.  Tasty.   Course if you want something a little lighter, you can always opt for a cup of boiled peanuts, regular or Cajun seasoned!

Fry Deli

Fry Deli Catfish

Fry Deli Chicken Chesters

Chester’s Chicken Strips

Boiled Peanuts

Brothers Food Marts

Brother's Food Mart on Urbanspoon

Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies’ as a breakfast meat.  Give me enough of them of good quality, and I’ll skip the eggs, toast, and potatoes. You never see them on restaurant menus, though I don’t know why.

My personal preference is for the all beef variety, though I am motivated by price point too, and that’s why I grabbed a package of Eckrich’s yesterday, which were on sale for half the price of the other brands. Like all pork products, the price of smokies has skyrocketed lately, and they easily tip the $ scales at $6 a pound, plus.

Cooked them up this morning and they were ok, especially considering the price.  They aren’t as flavorful as some of the other brands, and taste more like “cocktail franks”, which should, and usually are, a totally different product than little smokies.

Why the ‘burnt’ appearance?  I am predisposed to prefer sausages with a natural casing, and as far as I know, there are no little smokies with casings. Too difficult and expensive for mass production, I imagine.  So the ‘char’, presents a texture that more closely resembles a natural casing sausage.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’d buy them again at the same price, but at the same price point as other brands, I’d opt for my usual favorites. According to the USDA plant number, these babies are manufactured at John Morrell’s plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

 Eckrich Lil Smokies


 John Morrell Cincinnati







Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

White Sox Stadium Adding Xfinity Zone

The Chicago White Sox have expanded their partnership with Comcast and will open the Xfinity Zone in the right field stands for opening day, March 31.

In addition to being able to grab some traditional baseball food and beverages, the Xfinity Zone will be decked out with twelve big screen TVs to see all the action close up, as well as a giant interactive social media wall.

The Xfinity Zone will feature a complete food menu with new items such as the Ultimate Turkey Club and the Supreme Corned Beef, in addition to ballpark classics like hot dogs, sausages, fried mac and cheese bites, the walking taco and the Irish nacho helmet.  Fans will be able to enjoy their food with a beverage from a full-service bar in the Xfinity Zone, which will include draft, bottled or can American premium, import and craft beers, including MillerCoors products.  The bar also will offer a variety of cocktails, wine and soft drinks.  Food and drink service starts when the gates to the ballpark open and concludes in the seventh inning.

Artist’s rendering of the Zone.

White Sox Xfinity Zone


white sox stadium



Reseda, CA – Fab Hot Dogs

It’s a long day livin’ in Reseda
There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard
And she’s  a bad girl, ’cause she don’t even miss me
She’s a bad girl for breakin’ my heart

In the heart of Reseda, smack dab in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, you’ll find  Fab Hot Dogs,two additional locations in the Greater Los Angeles area, bringing the nation’s specialty dogs to SoCal, including a New York style, Chicago dog, and New Jersey’s famous “Ripper.”

In addition to the specialty dogs, you can decorate your own over nearly twenty toppings and condiments.  Feelin’ L.A.?  Get your sausage bacon-wrapped. A New Mexico kinda day?  Pile on the Hatch green chiles.

In addition to the dogs, Fab is one of a few very places you can pick up a burger made with arguably the nation’s finest ground beef, from Pat LaFrieda in New York, flown in fresh daily.

On occasion, they offer third pound “American style Kobe”, Wagyu beef patties, as pictured below, this one topped with delicious Gorgonzola.

Sides available include fries, tots, rings, and variations thereof.   The Valley is chock-a-block full of burger and hot dog places, but why not hit the best?

Fab Hot Dogs Reseda

Fab Hot Dogs Reseda Menu

Fab Hot Dogs Reseda Menu

Fab Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon


Fab Hot Dogs

Parkview Beef Wieners Review

Parkview Hot Dogs ReviewI have written about Parkview brand before, the in-house mark for processed meats at the discount grocer Aldi. These hot dogs are produced at a plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota, which was previously owned by Minnesota old-timey brand Schweigert’s, who make the official hot dog of the Minnesota Twins ( nearly 600,000 sold at the park this season).  Both the plant, and the current Schweigert’s brand are in the portfolio of Cargill these days.

The dogs come eight to a one pound pack, and the first two ingredients on the package are beef and water.  That’s a good thing, with pan shrinkage virtually unnoticeable.

The sausage has a very fine grind, and an extremely mild flavor. At 8/pound, a hearty bun is recommended, perhaps an S. Rosen Poppyseed, or equivalent.

BTW,  as pictured here?  I put the slices in the weenies prior to cooking, just for effect.

Parkview Hot Dogs Review

Parkview Beef Wieners Review

Dog n Suds

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!

Dog n Suds



Dog n Suds

Grand Opening New Franchise

Dog n Suds

Coney Island Hot Dogs

Dog n Suds

Bottled Root Beer

Dog n Suds





Castleberry Hot Dog Chili Sauce Review

Castleberry Hot Dog Chili SauceI’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.

Finished product featured Milwaukee’s Usinger’s Beef/Pork franks in a lamb casing, garden onions, Plochman’s yellow mustard, and buns from Pan O Gold Bakery in St. Cloud, MN.

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.

Castleberry Hot Dog Chili Sauce

Hot Dog Chili Sauce Review

Regional Chain – Meatheads Burgers and Fries 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, I am the most ‘socially prominent’ authority on burgers (and hot dogs).

So hit your closest Meatheads today.

Menu and locator are online.


Meatheads Burgers

The Californian

Meatheads Burgers

Hamburger with American Cheese


Meatheads Burgers

Crispy Natural Cut Fries


Meatheads Burger and Fries on Urbanspoon







Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review

(Ed. note.  The restaurant paid for my meal on this visit).

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