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Posted by Chris & Amy Ayers on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 8:13 AM

mcsweeneys dog

Despite its Great Lakes etymology, a Michigan is a chili dog found in upstate New York, not in the Wolverine State. We recently traveled to Saratoga Springs via Plattsburg to sample these hot dogs and found the Big 3 open for business: Clare & Carl's ( review), McSweeney's ( review), and Gus' ( review). We were faced with a quandary: which one should we try? True Roadfooders know the answer: all of them!

3rd place: Gus' Restaurant. After disembarking from the Lake Champlain ferry, our first stop was Gus' since it was the closest. Seeing "Famous Red Hots" on the sign made our mouth water even more:

gus sign

This Michigan was served in a regular hot dog bun, not the New England-style split top as pictured in Michael Stern's review. I ordered the onions "buried," or placed underneath the weiner and chili so as not to fall off while eating. The chili was mild and plentiful, and this was a solid dog and a grand start to our Michigan extravaganza:

gus dog

2nd place: Clare & Carl's. This ramshackle hut is located in the middle of Plattsburgh proper. The neon sign advertises "Texas Red Hots" (note, also, that the best Texas Red Hot is nowhere near the state of Texas, but that's another story!), even though they're called Michigans on the marquee inside:

clare sign

This Michigan was also served in a regular hot dog bun, not the New England-style split top as pictured on, though one end of the bun was semi-closed. Again I ordered the onions "buried," and this time the chili was spicier with little flecks of pepper visible:

clare dog

1st place: McSweeney's. This restaurant was the newest/cleanest of the Big 3, having been renovated recently or simply well kept by the owners. Even their sign depicts a Michigan in its traditional bun, resembling a split-top on its side:

mcsweeneys sign

Now this Michigan was the best of the Plattsburgh 3, hands down! The chili was spicier, delivering a kick of moderate spice with every bite. The car hop service was friendly, and our server brought out the Michigan and fresh-cut French fries on a car-window tray with a full complement of condiments (bottles of ketchup, Frank's Red Hot Sauce, salt & pepper shakers, white vinegar). This is the one Michigan worth returning to Plattsburgh to eat again and again:

mcsweeneys tray

Up next: Michigan variations south of Plattsburgh!


Great for our regional specialty to get some new recognition! Gus' is much more of a full service diner-type operation. The McSweeney's you visited was most likely the former Nitzi's which was completely renovated in late 2011-early 2012. McSweeney's homemade French fries are the best, as a least amongst the three places. McSweeney's also shas milkshakes on their menu for much of the year. But, Michigan for Michigan, there is no question that Clare and Carl's are the best. Wally Plattsburgh NY
Posted by wallhd on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 8:54 AM

Wally, thanks for your comments! Yes, those fries at McSweeney's were excellent. They also had regular pre-frozen fries on the menu, and I asked our server if people often ordered the frozen over the fresh. "You'd be surprised how many people don't want the fresh ones!" she replied. I just don't understand that!
Posted by ayersian on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 9:48 AM

What about the actual frank at each place? I know they are considered by most to be a holder for the chili, but to a lot of us the frank and whether or not it has a casing is important. Some use an average dog like a skinless Tobin's. Some use a better dog like Glazier's which has a casing and is more flavorful.To me it makes a difference.
Posted by John Fox on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 9:50 AM

John, I think of you every time I forget to ask about the franks. I was so focused on getting around to all of these before they closed that the frank info went by the wayside. The times I do ask, servers don't know and have to go and ask. Last summer in ABQ, I was led into the kitchen of the Dog House, where the cook pulled out the box of franks from the cooler! But he had no idea about the #/lb., and I don't know franks well enough to eyeball it to know its weight. I'll continue to ask, though!
Posted by ayersian on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 10:07 AM

Excellent post! Can't wait to read about the others. Being from Central NY you'd think I would have tried these by now. Hopefully soon. That's exactly the kind of chili (sauce) I like to see on hot dogs. The Clare & Carl's version looks a bit like Voss' chili (with the pepper flakes). What did you think of the Doghouse? Cliff and I split a chili dog there last month and it was mighty hot! Hot dog etymology always reminds me of Forrest Gump writing home and describing the members of his platoon: "There were Michigans. They're from Northern NY. And Texas Hots. They come from New Jersey (and Central NY). Coneys? They're all the way in Dee-Troit. And then there's the New York Systems all the way in Little Rhody!
Posted by billyboy on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 10:27 AM

Of the three, I enjoyed Clare & Carl's the best, but part of that might have been the building and the atmosphere. Chris, did you happen to try the Michigan at the White Cottage in Woodstock? I was surprised to see it on a menu that far south.
Posted by buffetbuster on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 11:02 AM

Bill, I was surprised to find the chili dog at the Dog House to be chiles and not chili, and it was indeed spicy hot! Not too hot for me, but I just wasn't expecting that level of heat. Cliff, sadly I've only had burgers at the White Cottage...which means I have to return!
Posted by ayersian on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 11:16 AM

I think the dog we had at the Dog House was in fact, chili. The texture reminded me of Hormel. Wonder if they mixed in chiles?
Posted by billyboy on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 11:28 AM

I have tried all three, as well as the Border View in Champlain Ny... I see you missed that one. There is no dispute, Clare and Carl's is definitely the best of the 4. I would put McSweeny's second, and Border view 3rd. Gus's sauce is always too greasy.
Posted by FEDELST on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 1:01 PM

Ryk, thanks for your comments! We'll definitely add Border View to our list for the next trip.
Posted by ayersian on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 1:15 PM

John-- I have only been to Gus's but they have the options of two franks, one of which is Glazier's. It's deliciously snappy and flavorful.
Posted by roadsidemillie on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 1:27 PM

Ok-now I want some dogs-as described here!Thanks for the cravings, all!
Posted by ann peeples on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 9:20 PM

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