Only four people in the entire world know the secret. May lightning strike this blog if that be untrue. And those four are not about to divulge their closely guarded knowledge. You can try to get one of the four, Steve Francisco of Steve’s Dawg House, to let you in on the secret but, he won’t tell you. What he will do is serve you what that secret creates.
The story of the secret begins in 1951 as a hot dog cart in upstate New York just outside of Ticonderoga. Owned by Steve’s dad Bruce, that hot dog cart eventually became a restaurant. As part of the journey, the push cart at one point became a food truck owned by Steve at just 19 years-of-age.
As these hot dog establishments were located in upstate New York, Steve and his Dad felt the traditional Coney sauce used on Coney Island hot dogs (served at the Coney Island amusement park in New York City), may not be appreciated by upstate residents. And so begins the story of the Michigan sauce.
Rather than alienate customers, Steve’s dad Bruce referred to his ‘coney sauce’ as Michigan sauce. It’s his interpretation of the classic Detroit Coney Sauce, hence Michigan. And the recipe for Bruce’s sauce is known to only those four people we met at the start of this story.
In between pioneering the food truck culture in the early Seventies and last year’s opening of Steve’s Dawg House, Steve served in the military and had a business as a painting contractor specializing in restorations of historic houses. Upon deciding to hang up his paint brush, Steve packed up and moved west to Portland with the secret of the Michigan sauce.
Steve’s Dawg House is the only place on the planet where you can get Bruce’s Michigan sauce on a hot dog. The Michigan sauce is a chili-based meat sauce (not just a chili sauce) which then smothers a Sabrett hot dog (same ones you’d get at any hot dog cart in NY City), and is topped with spicy brown mustard and onions.
Also on the menu at the Dawg House you will find a classic Chicago Dog that has been authentically dragged through the garden and a quarter-pound dog resting under a generous blanket of sauerkraut. Add cheese to the Michigan dog and you got the PDX dog.
The unsung star of Steve’s menu has to be the Garlic Rosemary fries. Fresh head of garlic are run through the food processor with a bit of oil, then is added a pat of butter and fresh-cut rosemary. All these ingredients are mixed together over heat and then applied to the fries. This potato perfection is garnished with seasoning salt and Parmesan cheese. If you like, they’ll even top that with Michigan sauce.
Steve’s Dawg House is located at the Rose City Food Park at NE 52nd and Sandy. Hours are: Mondays, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM & 5:00 PM–7:00 PM; Wednesday–Friday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM & 5:00 PM–7:00 PM; Saturdays, 11:00 AM–7:00 PM; Sundays, 11:00 AM–3:00 PM; Tuesdays they’re closed.