In Search of the Best Michigan Hot Dog – A Northeastern NY and Northern Vermont Tradition – Part III

McSweeneys Red Hot, burger and fries

WHY ALL THE FUSS about a dumb hot dog you may ask? For one, the American hot dog is held in great esteem by many and it ranks closely with other totally American icons like The Hamburger, Buffalo Wings and Down-Home BBQ.  Now the “Michigan Sauce” of which we seek is like the icing on the cake that can turn an ordinary, everyday, good American hot dog into a work of art for the taste buds!
On the other hand it may be just ‘cause we love ‘em and need the excuse of a survey to sample as many as possible in a Summer – but I digress….

This week we enter the venerable establishment of McSweeney’s Red Hots in Plattsburgh, NY.

We have heard good comments about McSweeney’s Michigan hot dogs in Plattsburgh (they prefer to call them Red Hots) so we stopped for lunch at their Route 3 location.

McSweeneys Red Hots of Plattsburgh, NY
McSweeneys Red Hots of Plattsburgh, NY

Their building inside is bright, new and clean looking with a very large open dining area. They have carhops! When we first pulled up a smiling young lady ran up to see what we would like and we said we would really like to dine inside.

Inside McSweeneys Red Hots of Plattsburgh, NY
Inside McSweeneys Red Hots of Plattsburgh, NY

They had a nice menu selection of burgers, dogs, chicken, salads and some specialty sides like Gravy & Cheese Fries and Special Fries – fries with McS meat sauce & cheese.

McSweeneys Red Hots Menu
McSweeneys Red Hots Menu

Niki has wanted a really good hamburger with just lettuce and tomato so she ordered it (Hamburger Deluxe $2.95) with a side of onion rings ($1.50). As this is important scientific Michigan research I had to order one of their famed red hots ($1.95) – with onions of course (no extra charge) – and a side of the “Special Fries” ($2.80) which really sounded good.

McSweeneys Red Hot, burger and fries
McSweeney’s Red Hot, burger and fries

Our orders arrived eventually and we thought the onion rings were really good. Niki says her burger was just okay. Now the Red Hot/Michigan fell well short of my hopes and expectations. It was a run of the mill hot dog on an non-toasted bun with sauce that tasted like canned Hormel chili sauce (without the beans). A little spice had been added to give it a touch of heat. The fries came in their own cardboard container with a good dose of the same “McS” meat sauce and a melted and solidified layer of tasteless white cheese on top. I actually put catsup on both dishes to coax some tomato flavor. Maybe it’s the preference in these parts as the sauce tasted much like that of Mac’s Ice Cream Parlor in Keeseville. Again, more like canned, bean-less chili than “real” homemade Michigan sauce. If you just tuned in to our experiment – we define our “real” Michigan sauce as a homemade, slightly sweet, tomato-based sauce with ground beef that might almost pass as a pretty good pasta sauce as well.

That said we do respect the fact that McSweeney’s does a good business with workers coming in on their lunch hour as well as the many retired folk we noticed who appear to be regulars and all were enjoying their food.

Again we are trying to find the best Michigans in the North Country based on the sauce we have come to know and love from Gene’s Hot Dog Stand in Port Henry. We would also like to hear from anyone who has tried both Gene’s and either The Happy Pike, Mac’s or McSweeney’s to chime in and give their opinion. Could be we just have it all backwards?

We have one more “big name” in the Northern NY Michigan sauce field (next week) before we head across Lake Champlain to see how Northern Vermonters like their Michigans.  Anyone have a Vermont favorite?

McSweeneys Red Hots - 3 locations  in Plattsburgh, NY
McSweeneys Red Hots – 3 locations in Plattsburgh, NY

McSweeney’s Red Hots – 3 locations around Plattsburgh, NY
(We rate it 2 stars in the Michigan sauce department)

Route 3 West, west of the Mall and west of Lowe’s
562-4687

Route 9 North by the City Beach, next door to the Chamber of Commerce.
562-9309

Route 9 South, just south of PARC, across from Stewart’s.
561-1133

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On the Road Again – Between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, NY – Amongst the Adirondack High Peaks

A Visit to “Tail O’ The Pup”
We have passed this restaurant many times over the years and thought it about time we stopped in to see how the food was. It’s been around since 1927 so we figured it must have something pretty good going for it.

Tail O' The Pup in Ray Brook, New York
Tail O’ The Pup in Ray Brook, New York

The restaurant resembles a small theme park without the rides. It’s a cluster of small buildings surrounding an outdoor eating area with picnic tables under large red & white striped awnings. It does visually attract the curious passing by.

The Tail O' The Pup Restaurant is located in Ray Brook, New York in the Adirondack Mountains
Tail O’ The Pup a “unique” dining experience since 1927

They have their liquor license and serve beer, margaritas and other drinks. The menu includes simple fare including BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs and the usual salads and sandwiches.

The Tail O' The Pup eatery is located in Ray Brook, New York in the Adirondack Mountains
Outside dining at the Tail O’ The Pup Restaurant in the Adirondacks

The platter selections on the menu come with 2 sides. Niki had the pulled pork sandwich with potato salad. She said the sandwich was nothing really special and the potato salad was tasteless and she ask to trade it for the cole slaw. I had the foot-long hot dog platter with cole slaw and “waffle fries”. The hot dog was grilled nicely and in a short but toasted roll. Not a Michigan but quite good with onions and a little BBQ sauce.

Hot dog platter at Tail O' The Pup in Ray Brook, NY
Hot dog platter at Tail O’ The Pup in Ray Brook, NY

Overall impressions – not the best and not the worst. Perhaps the hamburgers or lobsters are to die for but not the selections we made. The tables weren’t the cleanest and you do need to avoid the bird droppings when you sit. The families around us and the motorcycle club seemed to be enjoying the outdoor setting. We didn’t visit the gift shop as we didn’t find the place memorable enough to require a souvenir. We decided to have dessert at the ice cream stand just a hundred yards down the road. A wise choice as it turned out!

Tail O' The Pup Restaurant on Rte 86 in Ray Brook, NY
Tail O’ The Pup Restaurant on Rte 86 in Ray Brook, NY

The Pine Cone Ice Cream Parlor is definitely worth a visit when you travel between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The place is clean, bright and serves both hard ice cream and soft-serve. They did not skimp on the hot fudge on my sundae and Niki says her scoop of “White Lightning” (dark chocolate ice cream with marshmallow mint streaks) was to die for and is ready to go back anytime!

The Pine Cone Ice Cream Parlor in Ray Brook, NY
The Pine Cone Ice Cream Parlor in Ray Brook, NY

NY State’s  Meadowbrook Public Campground and Day Use Area is adjacent to both The Pup and The Pine Cone. We drove through the Campground and found it fairly empty. Meadowbrook is the best bargain in town at $18/night for NYS residents and add $5 for out-of-state visitors who come to visit the nearby Lake Placid Olympic Training venues and the Village of Lake Placid. There are 62 campsites, hot showers, flush toilets, trailer dump station, recycling center, a small day-use area, pavilion rental, firewood sales and hiking. The roads are kind of tight for RV’s but we did see a couple of pop-ups. More info on their website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24482.html.

Meadowbrook is a NYS Campground
Meadowbrook Campground in Ray Brook, NY

Tail O’ The Pup (We give it 2 stars) is located at
1152 Sara-Placid Highway (Rte 86), Ray Brook, NY

You’ll find The Pine Cone (we rate it 4 stars) at
1179 NY-86, Lake Placid, NY 12946

Disclaimer: Our reviews are strictly our own opinions and may differ greatly from your own. We invite anyone who has had a different experience to respond to any of our articles and we will gladly add your input with our own review.

In Search of the Best Michigan Hot Dog – A Northeastern NY and Northern Vermont Tradition – Part II

Our search continues for The BEST Michigan Hot Dog

As mentioned in our first report, no one seems to know exactly how or why “The Michigan” became so popular in this area (but we are glad they did and will leave it at that).

The Michigan hot dog sauce recipe seems to vary in different areas of the Northeast much the same as BBQ sauces do in the South and Midwest. This sauce is traditionally tomato based with ground hamburg added and then the “secret spices” favored in an area.

This time we took the trip to West Chazy, New York, about 16 miles South of the Canadian Border and a few miles North of Plattsburgh. “The Happy Pike Ice Cream and Snack Bar” is located on the shore of Lake Champlain’s Monty’s Bay at 562 Lake Shore Rd, West Chazy, NY 12992. They are open all Summer from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
(Note: “Pike” refers to the Northern Pike – a relatively large fish found in Lake Champlain.)

The Happy Pike in West Chazy, New York
The Happy Pike in West Chazy, New York on the shore of Lake Champlain

It’s located just across the road from the Monty’s Bay Marina and with both indoor and outdoor seating. You are treated to a beautiful view of Lake Champlain and some nice really boats at anchor while you dine.

Monty's Bay,West Chazy, NY on Lake Champlain
Monty’s Bay in West Chazy, NY on beautiful Lake Champlain

Why The Happy Pike? On August 15th there was a “1st Annual Michigan Hot Dog Festival” at Elfs Farm Winery in Plattsburg with 25 chefs competing and with the public deciding who makes the best Michigan sauce in the Northeast. The Happy Pike won top honors. We just had to see what “the best” tasted like in its native surroundings.

Winner of the 1st Annual Michigan Fest in Plattsburgh, NY
Winner of the 1st Annual Michigan Fest in Plattsburgh, NY

As mentioned in our last article, we have established our personal choices as the best being “Gene’s” in Port Henry and the worst (to date) as “Mac’s” in Keeseville, NY. We like our sauce just a tad on the sweeter side and one that probably would go well on a pasta dish, too.

That said, we would place The Happy Pike sauce in between our 2 title contenders so far. The sauce has a touch extra of vinegar and an added touch of spicy heat. Just so you know, this sauce is tasty by any standard but not leaning towards our preference. The Happy Pike offers a good selection of sandwiches and Hershey ice cream desserts and soft-serve as well. The Michigans can be ordered individually or in a combo meal of 1, 2 or 3 Michigans and your choice of 2 sides. The portions were large and a good value for the price.

Our “Search” is unofficial and decidedly biased but we hope that we explain our findings and reasoning well enough so that you might decide the favorites you would like to try. It’s the Summer of the Michigan Hot Dog for us and can you think of a better (more “tasteful”) way to enjoy retired life on the RV road?

Join us on our latest Day Trip to Essex, New York on Lake Champlain

The Historic Essex Inn in Essex, New York

This small Villageof Essex, New York includes 150 early-19th century buildings – built predominately of brick, stone and clapboard – with none of the buildings exceeding 2 1/2 stories in height.

The Historic Essex Inn in Essex, New York
The Historic Essex Inn in Essex, New York

The entire Essex Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Essex,NY - Charlotte, VT Ferry on Lake Champlain
The Essex,NY – Charlotte, VT Ferry on Lake Champlain

We have added 17 photos on our Pinterest site at

Jack and Niki
snowbirdrvtrails.com

RV Repairs On the Road – What can we do?

Tom's R.V. Repair in Ausable Forks, NY

Say you are in a strange place you have never been before with your RV. If it’s a breakdown on the road, you pull over to the side out of traffic, grab your cell phone and thank the Heavens that your wife talked you into having Roadside Assistance.

What if you are in a campground and you need a repair? Often the Host or Manager can recommend a local RV repairman. If not then if you have the Internet; you always have options.

We recently noted a propane odor and the alarm sounded once briefly. Propane is one system in our RV that I do not attempt to fix on my own.

A good website to have available is “RV Service Reviews.” http://rvservicereviews.com/Index.asp

That’s how we found Tom (Tom’s R.V. Repair) here in the Adirondacks. There are not many RV dealers nearby and truth-be-known we have learned not to place a lot of faith in the dealer service areas anyway. Their emphasis is on sales with fingers crossed that no problems will come back to them.

Tom has 28 years experience in RV repair and actually does warranty work for dealers. He arrived when he said he would, demonstrated that he knew his craft and actually helped me solve a couple of other minor concerns at no extra charge.

Tom's R.V. Repair in Ausable Forks, NY
Tom’s R.V. Repair – Ausable Forks, NY

So, for what it’s worth and the situations we have encountered, we will only use mobile techs for repairs and for any major problems, we take it to the factory for repair.

Speaking of which we will be making a trip to Indiana this Fall to visit the Lippert factory to have a slide realigned. This particular slide was in the shop at the largest RV dealer in Florida for 30 days and they couldn’t fix it.

Just sayin’….