I pondered in the blog about hot dogs last July on National Hot Dog day and I haven't changed any since then. I freely admit that I've seldom met a hot dog I didn't like. Fancy, plain, beef, pork, steamed, fried, cooked over a camp fire - they're all good. Toppings should be modest and not overwhelming to the hot dog itself and maybe that's why I like Fairmont hot dogs so much.
As a kid I generally had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks (sometimes longer) visiting with relatives in Fairmont on my summer vacations. Every household I visited had their favorite hot dog dive (and believe me - they are all very much dives). Aunt Eunice and Uncle Hans liked Devil Dogs, the Collins' family prefered Woody's, my Mom liked Tony's, the Ashcraft's always hit the local Dairy Queen - every corner had a hot dog place and you'd go in and order them by the sack full. The one thing all of these had in common was the fact they they all came with some sort of tomato-based meat sauce on top. Most come in a variety of spice for heat ranging from mild to scorching hot. Eunice's Devil Dogs were always spicy hot but I think Tony's took the prize in the heat department. One spring we got a batch of "hot" from Tony's and stopped at a lovely local riverside park to eat them. The bees swarmed around us very quickly but when I offered up some of the sauce to lure the bees away they wouldn't touch it! Smart bees! Here's a photo of the park - the bees and our hot dogs are long gone! But it's still mighty pretty in the spring.
A couple of years ago my cousins and I went to Fairmont to visit the family cemetary plots and of course we stopped for hot dogs. The Devil Dog shop long ago closed up, but Tony's and Woody's are still there and going strong. Tony's wasn't open that day so we stopped in at Woody's. At a buck a piece, we each had 3 hot dogs (yes, THREE) and the cousins were so impressed, we all bought sauce to bring home and freeze.
The frozen sauce is now long gone and we haven't been back to Fairmont since then so Donna (the eldest cousin) went on a search to make her own at home (which is quite a statement because she does not like to cook - at all). I made a call to friends in Fairmont and they came up with a recipe for Woody's sauce, but the measurements were less than forthcoming and Donna claims it was OK, but not the same.
Personally, I think you have to have these hot dogs while actually sitting in one of these little hole-in-the-walls in Fairmont - it's the total experience that makes them as good as they are. In this case it could easily be more about the experience and the nostalgia than the actual food itself. BUT, not to be outwitted by a little hot dog, I've done my best to recreate a sauce here in Ohio that my friends and relatives in Fairmont would be proud of.
SO THEN CAME THE FUN PART
Certainly, if you need to figure out the best hot dog sauce you can get at home, you MUST have a tasting party. And that's what I did. I gathered several of my favorite people together, made a few differing recipes of sauce and we had a little fun finding our favorite. At the suggestion of a buddy at the office I even tried out a store-bought can of sauce (it was horrible and didn't make it to the tasting!). I've provided the recipe for the winners here so that the other family and friends who don't wish to travel 5 hours to Fairmont may have their own great hot dog experience in the comfort of their own home!
This was pretty popular around our little table. It has some more complex seasonings that everyone liked. It was a bit too complicated for my simple tastes.
1 pound ground chuck
Add remaining ingredients; stir well to combine. Simmer over low heat 15 minutes.
1/4 cup tomato sauce
3-4 Tbls. ketchup
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. pepper