The Holy Trinity of the Michigan hot dog

Eating a steamed hot dog is like watching Harry Potter. It’s comforting, like a warm breeze brushing your face on a balmy summer morning. The moistness of the bread sticking to the palate would make the most anxious person calm and relaxed.

A toasted hot dog would be more like watching the third Lord of the Rings movie (the original), with the deleted scenes – a mature and well-rounded work.

While much has been said and written about the steamed/toasted debate, few argue about the Michigan hot dog. To leave it out of the equation would be a monumental mistake, if not outright blasphemy!

The Michigan hot dog is the Holy Trinity – sausage, bread and a meaty tomato sauce. Who in their right mind would turn their nose up at such perfection?

The Michigan Sauce

An establishment that cares about the Michigan hot dog and respects it will have a sauce designed for it. It’s all too common to see first-timers using the same sauce for their Michigan as they do for their spaghetti.

Michigan sauce is similar to a Bolognese, but it should be very thick and slightly spicy. The thought of large chunks of carrot or celery in it should make you cringe automatically!

Let’s take as an example the legendary Pataterie chez Philipe – RIP. The establishment was so committed to the art of Michigan that it sold its sauce in jars. An example to follow for all the canteens in the province.

Steamed or toasted Michigan?

Understanding and accepting that the Michigan hot dog dethrones its stripped-down version does not settle the steamed/toasted debate. Indeed, you’ll find the same existential question in the Michigan world.

A steamed Michigan hot dog is normally served in a styrofoam tray or aluminum dish. The hot dog is covered in sauce and eaten with a knife and fork.

The toasted experience is completely different. Usually presented like a traditional hot dog (waxed paper or cardboard tray), a small amount of sauce is gently placed on top so that the Michigan hot dog fits in your hand.

Be warned! The price of your Michigan is a good indicator of what you’ll get to eat. If there’s a big difference between the price of the regular hot dog and the Michigan, you’ll probably be served a steamed one overflowing with sauce. On the other hand, if the price of the Michigan is similar to the traditional one, you will certainly be offered a Michigan that is “low” in sauce and that holds its own.

Any hot dog lover who is not familiar with the Michigan hot dog should reconsider. You’re like a big NHL fan who plays floor hockey but can’t skate.

I beg of you, head to your favourite canteens and give this delicious dish a chance.

Michigan hot dog, I love you.


Photography by Alison Slattery

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