A Michigan is a small, juicy frank bedded in a trough-shaped, cream-soft bun and topped with mustard, onions and a vivid fine-grind beef sauce. Where do you find one? Only in New York: upstate in the North Country between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, primarily in Plattsburgh.
In the same phylum as the Coney Islands of the heartland and New York systems of Rhode Island, Michigans are primarily summertime food, but Gus's serves them year around. As to why they are called a Michigan, our waitress at Gus's didn't have a clue. Some people thing it was a cook from Michigan who came to Clinton County by way of Coney Island who invented them. Others say it was a Michigander who used to sell chili dogs to local restaurants with the sales pitch, "I'm from Michigan, would you like to try one of our chili dogs?"
Nomenclature aside, Michigans are addictive little porkers, and Gus's is a good place to try them. It started as a dog stand in 1951, but it has grown to a three-meal-a-day restaurant with a full menu that boasts, "The restaurant features just about everything [even Lake Champlain perch], including their famous 'Michigan red hot,' which they invite you to try while dining." One Michigan costs $1.85 and is presented in a cardboard boat. The heft of the sauce contrasts with the fluffy bun and fatty frank, and while each separate ingredient is inarguably ignominious, the combo is taste-buds magic – especially when topped with a judicious line of yellow mustard and a scattering of crisp, chopped raw onions.
"A pair of Michigans served the traditional way, with sauce and onions on top. It is possible to ask for your onions 'buried,' meaning underneath the wiener, thus alleviating the problem of the onions tumbling off the top when you hoist the Michigan from its cardboard boat."
"Originally an informal hot dog stand, Gus's is now a three-meal-a-day diner with a full menu. But it's the local specialty, Michigans, for which it is still best known."