Like the Coney Island hot dog and New York System wiener, the Michigan is a small frankfurter in a soft bun topped with vividly spiced beef sauce, bright yellow mustard, and chopped raw onions. In addition to unique seasonings that give its sauce a warm glow, a Michigan is distinguished by its bun – a soft, split-top affair similar to the rolls used in New England for hot dogs and lobster rolls. (But a Michigan’s bun is never grilled.) The bun is thick at the bottom and shored in at both ends, giving it capacity as well as absorbency. These features are especially important for customers who order their Michigans “buried” – an arrangement that puts the onions underneath the hot dog, thus hoisting the chili sauce on top to a precarious level nearing overflow. Michigans do not exist in the state of Michigan. They are unique to the Clinton County area of upstate New York, between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. Their history is uncertain, although they definitely were named in Plattsburgh. Why the geographic dissonance? It likely hearkens back to Detroit and the popularity of chili-topped wieners there starting with the opening of the first Coney Island stand in 1917. One credible story credits the Michigan’s prominence in Plattsburgh to a short-order cook who came from Detroit sometime in the 1930s and got the locals to love them. Another account says that after Clare Warn opened her summertime hot dog stand, Clare and Carl’s, in 1943, she tried to improve sales by dressing her franks with a special sauce she invented. Her top salesperson was Eula Otis, a Michigander who is said to have gone around announcing, “I’m from Michigan. Would you like to try one of our chili dogs?” The state’s name stuck.

Restaurants With This Dish

Noon Mark Diner


Gus’s Restaurant


Ronnie’s Michigan Stand - Glazier Michigan
Ronnie’s Michigan Stand


Clare and Carl’s


Chez Micheline



What do you think of Michigan?

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