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Minneapolis-St. Paul Dish of the Month April 2012: Hot dogs/Sausages.

What are your favorites?

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  1. I really like Sentyrz Market in NE Mpls. They have a great variety of sausages and they are pretty inexpensive for the quality. I had a bbq last summer and bought a variety of brats and sausages and everyone loved them. I remember really loving a bleu cheese brat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bobannon

      You beat me to it Sentyrz is one of the best. Some of their sausages are misnamed to me but they still taste great. Price is a plus.

      1. re: Bobannon

        Have you ever tried their jalapeno brats? I don't know if they make them anymore, but those were quite tasty.

      2. All right - this technically isn't in MSP, but...there's a butcher in Clear Lake, about an hour from the Cities, called McDonald's Meats. And their hot dogs are the best hot dogs I've ever had in my entire life - perfect level of spice and meat quality.

        They've also got tons of different kinds of brats, which are good, but not as good as the hot dogs.

        They're worth the drive, especially if you're already on the way up to a cabin or something.

        For any of you who've spent time in southeastern Wisconsin and have had Shullsburg cheddar (which is awesome), they happen to carry it, and I've never seen it anywhere else in Minnesota.


        1 Reply
        1. re: gildeddawn

          Until April 2012 I had never heard of McDonald's Meats in Clear Lake. I've stopped there four times since that time when travelling up Highway 10. They have great garlic summer sausage as well.

        2. April, here we come!

          I like Seward Co-op and Kramarczuk's. Never heard of Sentyrz, but may have to check that out.

          McDonald's Meats is awesome.


          5 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I like Kramarczuk's too, but Sentyrz is better and at least 50% cheaper. I wish I could remember all the good stuff I bought last summer. I guess this means it's time for a trip back.

            Osseo meat market is pretty good too.

            1. re: Bobannon

              I am a fan of Sentyrz, too. Great sausages, nifty store, and a northeast event.

            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              Sentryz is right up the road from Kramarczuk's on 2nd and 17th. Don't forget to ask for a couple of their homemade pickles to go with your sausages.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I stopped at Sentryz and Ziach in NE on Friday.

                Short version: Next time I want sausages, I'll be going back to Kramarczuk's or Speedy Mart (for fresh brats).

                Longer version: Sentryz has wine and beer and liquor. That's a plus. Sentryz parking is easier than Kramarczuk's. But the sausage wasn't as good.

                Ziach brings theirs in from a place in Chicago. Many of their selections are heavily smoked. Their sauage has a flavor I find off-putting. Stale fat with too much smoke. The hot mustard was really good. The people were nice. The polish wasn't as intense on the garlic as I'd like.

                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                  Yes, Ziach's versions are more heavily smoked than some others. A friend that likes Polish had the same complaint when I brought him some Ziach's. Personally, I like the heavier smoke, but it's clearly not for everyone. I do like their variety there, though. While it's all in the smoked range, I'm a fan.

                  While not on the sausage theme, they also have a very good bacon, Gypsy bacon, which oddly given their heavily smoked kielbasa, isn't actually smoked much.

              2. I like the following from Seward Co-op:

                Chorizo (not in a link) I use it with scrambled eggs.
                Vietnamese sausage
                Buffalo chicken sausage.

                1. I wish folks would state which sausages specifically they like at the places they are naming.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: shoo bee doo

                    I think (hope) we're just getting warmed up, shoo bee doo. :) I like the ones you mentioned at Seward, too (except for the buffalo chicken one), and also their breakfast sausage (not in a link). In general, I do not like their sausages that have cheese in them, though I cannot think of the specific names of them right now. I think their plain ole' brat is pretty good, too.


                  2. Hidden Sausage Gem: Speedy Mart in St. Anthony Park on Como Ave a few blocks east of MN 280. Get the plain fresh bratwursts. Take them home and cook them up. They're amazing.

                    Also good: many offerings from Kramarczuk's.

                    And another thing: I can't remember where I found it, but I bought a salami-like product from La Quercia in Iowa at some store in the Twin Cities. It was amazingly good cured sausage. Way better than run-of-the-mill gourmet salamis.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder


                      What a funny tip! That's the sort of place I'd never think to check out!

                      What are their Christmas sausages? A special sausage just for CHristmas, or their regular selection but packaged for gift giving and shipping, etc.?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Here's the skinny on the Speedy Christmas Sausage: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media...

                        We just polished off the last of our hoard from Christmas; very tasty stuff! I think it starts showing up in November. Just leave some for me to hoard!

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I hope you try it and like it...to the point where we get a critical mass coming in to the neighborhood for that sausage, and so they'll make more! As far as I could tell from the packaging info, there are no grain fillers or gluten (an issue for me). We buy about ten pounds a year; would love to stock up on more if it weren't for our "Minnesota-Niceness" in letting *everyone* get some.

                            Tim and Tom are pretty responsive to their customer base: if you ask, they will consider, so...? :)

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Me too! Sounds better than Ingrebritsons!

                        1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                          Agreed on the Speedy bratwurst! Their only close rival for my affection is the bratwurst from Tollefson Family Pork at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market.

                          And Jim, I think I know the La Quercia salami you're referring to: Borsellino salami. We pick it up at Byerly's. Good eating.

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            Thanks! I'm heading to Byerly's and Sentryz today.

                            1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                              I'll add that I just saw the Borsellino at Seward Co-op as well.

                        2. Deans Bar in St. Paul had the best Coney Dog in the Twin Cities (much better than the Gopher Bar), but sadly they closed earlier this year.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: jeff55432

                            I'll politely disagree with you on that having eaten Coney's all over the US. Dean's coney sauce was one note, far too sweet, and their choice of hot dog was the most serious downfall. Just because you are slathering it in sauce doesn't mean you cheap out on the hot dog itself. Dean's tasted like cheap bologna.

                            1. re: Db Cooper

                              Well, with all due respect.....that's why I liked their version! :)

                              1. re: jeff55432

                                To each their own, I just don't think a hot dog should taste like bologna. I will say I would rather eat or drink at what-was Dean's instead of the Gopher which I think is an embarrassing blight on a 21st century city. But when it comes down to the food, Gopher won and it unfortunately wasn't close. That's perhaps while they are still in business and Dean's no longer exists.

                              2. re: Db Cooper

                                DB, What's your favorite coney in the Twin Cities? Or at least your least wurst coney?

                                I've enjoyed the coney at The Gopher in St. Paul, but I wouldn't say it's a great coney. I like the fried bun...it's a nice touch. Valley View in Eagan was decent as well. I'm more in favor of the thin sauce with spices (from the old-time places) than the bury it in hamburger-based slurry approach Uncle Franky's takes.

                                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                  Truth be told Jim, there just aren't a lot of options. I can tell right now that you'd love the Lafayette in Detroit because that is your right up your alley sauce wise.

                                  As much as it pains me to say it, the Gopher probably does the "best" one here in the Twin Cities. Their coney sauce is good, the dog is solid, and I like the buttery fried bun. The worst one I had was Dean's and it wasn't close. There really aren't a ton of options. I have heard the Weinery has them, but they weren't available the time I went there as they were out of sauce that day. It's not close to my house either as I live in the Payne/Phalen neighborhood. The Valley Inn isn't bad at all either.

                                  The guy I would like to see try it is The Walking Dog in downtown Minneapolis. He seems to be a guy who understands meat in tube form and I would think he could perfect something like that. But so far, no dice.

                                  1. re: Db Cooper

                                    Next time I'm in Detroit, I'll try Lafayette, it's probably a lot like the coney place in my home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana....that place, on Main Street has been in operation since long long ago (pre WWII, I think). In the mean time, back to The Gopher.

                                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                      If you are in Detroit, you might as well do both. The American is right next door. I prefer Lafayette, but American isn't bad either.

                                      I may find myself making a late night Gopher run now too. The kid who works at night, I think his name is Keith, is a really good guy and more my speed versus the daytime staff who seems a little too fired up politically for my dining tastes.

                                    2. re: Db Cooper

                                      I used to work across the street from the Walking Dog. His 'chili' for his chili dogs is the watery stuff with beans like they serve at Chicago style hotdog places. I tried to convince him to switch to a real coney sauce but he never took me seriously. I later worked in Lowertown St. Paul within walking distance of the Gopher and we used to go there almost every Friday. The only improvement I would say the Gopher should do is to buy better weiners. The Gopher's coneys are made with cheap chicken lip hotdogs, at least they were when I was a frequent customer.

                                    3. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                      Jim, I think you mean the Valley Lounge in Eagan, not Valley View.

                                  2. re: jeff55432

                                    Remember the Coney shop on St. Peter? They keep saying the next generations are thinking of opening it again but it never happens. I think they still own the building and won't sell it. That was a wonderful coney with an interesting atmosphere..

                                    1. re: shoo bee doo

                                      You are correct. The Original Coney Island is still there and it remains closed indefinitely. They did re-open during the GOP convention and during the Red Bull ice racing events in January. Both times it was just for drinks though, no coney dogs. And it was only for one evening. My wife and I got lucky as we were heading to the Saint Paul Hotel when we noticed it was open for the night.

                                      They can say they are going to reopen it all they want, but it isn't going to happen. One, it will take a significant investment to bring everything up to code food-wise. Two, the daughter who owns it (and it is hers solely) is a flake. She's extremely personable and very friendly, but she's two or three aces short of a full deck. She is the daughter of the original owners and she inherited the restaurant upon their passing. She doesn't have the business IQ, nor the money I suspect, to reopen the place. Nor will she sell it because she doesn't want to lose that connection to her parents. Thus, the place remains stuck in time and in limbo. Which is a shame because it is a jewel box that is being wasted.

                                      1. re: Db Cooper

                                        Thanks for that information. Some trusted person should help this lady out.

                                        .....or at least get that recipe for the Coney Island sauce. I think the sauce had Greek origins, didn't it?

                                        1. re: shoo bee doo

                                          All Coney Island dogs trace their origins back to Greek immigrants no matter where you are in the US. Even the Gopher Bar is run by the Kappas family. If you study the history on the Coney (which actually first got it start in Michigan if you can believe it), it all traces back to the Greeks. That may help you as you try to "break" the sauce, at least in terms of seasonings. I pretty much only know it involves hamburger and raw onion. After that, it's a crap shoot. I don't think cumin is involved though.

                                          Many trusted people, wiser than you or I, have tried to help this lady (Mary I believe) out when it comes to the Original Coney Island. She won't do it. Because then it wouldn't be a family business anymore. Even though her family can't handle it, afford it, or do it on their own. Thus, the conundrum. And there is no way that coney sauce recipe is ever being given away. Trust me, I asked. I realize that this all sounds a bit crazy, but as I wrote above, we're not dealing with the brightest bulb on Christmas tree.

                                          1. re: Db Cooper

                                            Thank you for this interesting information, Db Cooper. You have amazing experience and knowledge regarding this subject. Poor Mary.

                                            1. re: Db Cooper

                                              I did some Googling, and the origin of the coney sauce is in fact Greek. The sauce is based on a rustic ground lamb sauce eaten with pita bread and yogurt. It consists of ground lamb, onions, paprika, oregano, salt, lemon juice and chicken stock all boiled down until the sauce has a creamy consistency. There are no tomatoes in this sauce and as Db said, no cumin.

                                              So the story is that a Greek immigrant one day decided to place this sauce on a hot dog and thus the Coney Dog was born. And while the name 'Coney Dog' did originate in Michigan, there is debate as to where this type of hot dog was first sold to the public. Some claim Michigan, others claim Pennsylvania or NYC. The sauce evolved as ground beef replaced the lamb, and tomatoes replaced the chicken stock and additions such as cumin and chili powder (which makes no sense to me at all; by adding these, you are just turning the sauce into a chili.)

                                    2. Mackenthun's Meat Market in St. Boni is my go to place for sausage. They're a full-service, old fashioned style place and worth the drive if you're out in the west metro.

                                      Love their basic bratwurst but I enjoy the more unusual types when the mood strikes. They suggest the cinnamon apple brat is a breakfast sausage. I liked it grilled on a bun with a side of potato salad. Oh my! The turkey wild rice with cranberries is also very tasty with spicy mustard or horseradish sauce.

                                      DQ, I think you might like their jalapeno brat. IIRC, it has no cheese, just a nice spicy kick.

                                      For simmering in sauerkraut, the Kielbasa and German sausages are my go to. And the Swedish potato sausage....I could go on, but I'll stop. :)


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: justalex

                                        Those all sound fantastic. I've been gifted Mackenthun's sausages before, but I don't think any of the ones you've mentioned (which all sound fab to me!) were in among them.


                                      2. As a Chicago expat, I like the Chicago-style hot dogs at Chris & Rob's. They do a decent job, though they would be MUCH better if they had a grill and made char-dogs. However, I haven't seen this variant at any of the Chicago hot dog places in the Twin Cities, though it's very common in Chicago. (The char-dog is a Vienna beef hot dog, regular size or jumbo, slashed to prevent it from curling up, and cooked on a hot grill until blackened. It's served with the traditional Chicago dog condiments.)

                                        I had the sausage sampler at Butcher & the Boar, and the real standout for me was -- believe it or not -- the cheddarwurst. Don't laugh. It was seriously delectable. Nothing like the supermarket versions.

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: Jordan

                                          Man. I'd never heard of a char-dog, but now I really want one.

                                          1. re: gildeddawn

                                            You can get them at Midway Airport...

                                            1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                              Thanks for the hint - I'm flying out of MDW tomorrow.

                                              1. re: bob s

                                                I think its the gold coast dogs in MDW... I also recommend the maxwell street polish (deep fried polish, fried onions, sport pepper, mustard) and they do a char polish too....same as char dog but 1/4 lb.

                                                1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                  Yes - it was Gold Coast at the food court at MDW. The jumbo char dog was good but not a life-changing experience.

                                          2. re: Jordan

                                            I asked if they could do one last time, and they weren't really into it. I bet Pat would do one at the wienery if you asked him to.

                                            1. re: mitch cumstein

                                              You can't really do it without a grill. I don't think any of the local hot dog spots have grills. (I haven't been to the Wienery in years, though.)

                                              Usually, Chicago hot dog stands offer a pretty full grilled menu -- burgers, Polish sausage, dogs, maybe other things. They often have a mishmash of stuff -- tamales, gyros, grilled chicken in pita.

                                              1. re: Jordan

                                                When you say grill, are you referring to a flattop or one of these electric/gas grills?

                                                1. re: jeff55432

                                                  Grilled over charcoal -- there's usually an interior charcoal grill on the line.

                                                  1. re: Jordan

                                                    OK, gotcha. Yeah I guess that would make a difference. Of course, what isn't good cooked over a charcoal grill? Have you ever tried Pappy's Chicago Style over in East St. Paul? I have never been, but their Yelp page seems to give them mostly good reviews. Also the picture of their Chi-Dog looks like it was grilled in some way or another.

                                                    1. re: jeff55432

                                                      Never heard of Pappy's! Thanks for the tip -- I'll take a look.

                                                      1. re: Jordan

                                                        BJ's in Maplewood also makes a great Chicago style dog. He does not grill his dogs however. They also have a decent Italian Beef. He's in a strip mall over by Sonic off of 94 and White Bear Avenue. It's worth a stop IF you are in the area. I wouldn't drive from Shakopee or Maple Grove for it.

                                            2. re: Jordan

                                              I've had the Chicago dog at C&R's East River Road location, and I asked for it charred, and they obliged (they blackened in a pan) and it was really good. However, (and I should note that I am a pickle snob), they use way too sour of a pickle and an equally sour mustard, which to me, almost ruined the whole thing. I think the condiments should be as authentic as the hot dog and the bun.

                                            3. This is going to be a good DOTM.

                                              Two standouts for me are:

                                              The Surly beer brats at Oxendale market. Several groups of friends that have had them at our house have gone on to place orders of 100+ for their own gatherings. They're that good.

                                              Any kielbasa at Ziach's Polish Foods in NE Minneapolis. Particularly good are the juniper sausage and their current (as of last week) seasonal Easter sausage. Personally, I prefer their kielbasa to Kramarczuk.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                                Adding Ziach's to my list of stops today....

                                              2. One of the most interesting (and not in the Minnesota meaning) sausages that I've had here in the cities was the blueberry and pine nut sausage - lamb I think - from Clancey's. Haven't had them in a few years, so I don't know if they still make them.

                                                1. Another great sausage I had recently was the merguez from Seward Coop. It had great spice, very good heat, and a great lamby taste.

                                                  1. Anyone ever tried Kowalski's sausages? (I had a gift certificate to use up...)

                                                    I just picked up a few varieties of sausages at Kowalski's and was snapping a few pictures before stashing them in the fridge. I told my husband, "I'm photographing them now so I don't have to later," And he said, "You say that as if it's a thing."

                                                    Anyway, I think these will be lunch or dinner on the grill tomorrow, except for one that is a breakfast sausage and the other that will end up in jambalaya.

                                                    Will report, with photos, later!


                                                    1. The Nook's "Double Dog Dare You", Saturday special, Coney or Chicago, Mix or Match, $6.25. Includes fries.

                                                      So, the opportunity cost for me of ordering anything other the Molitor burger is very high because I don't get to the Nook very often these days and I hate to miss out on my very occasional chance to have a Molitor. I was scanning the hot dogs on the menu, trying to decide if I really wanted either the Coney or the Chicago, each $5.75, when my husband pointed out the Nook's Daily special for Saturday is the Double Dog Dare. It seemed too perfect to be true, so I took the plunge.

                                                      I'm not at all a hot dog expert, and especially not a Coney or Chicago Dog expert, so I can only speak to whether I liked these renditions, not whether they meet some kind of ideal.

                                                      I did think it was a good value, two dogs and a generous serving of fries for $6.25, but I thought the Coney was pretty abysmal, alas. It is a "Frank" hot dog (with a little snap, not totally bologna'ish) on a plain poppy seed bun, covered with a chili-looking sauce and topped with finely shredded cheese, chopped raw onions, and a squirt of yellow mustard.

                                                      The bun was not buttery/toasty, but a plain poppy seed bun (which works fine for the Chicago style dog, I know), and I thought the ground beef chili or whatever one calls Coney sauce was was pretty flavorless, except for an undertone of burn flavor. My husband took one bite and swore it tasted of nothing but cumin. The chopped onions were too large for my tastes, certainly visually overpowering.

                                                      I thought the Chicago dog was a little better. It has, if I recall them correctly, 6 of the 7 essential elements, the missing element unfortunately being the Vienna beef hotdog. The hotdog was a Frank dog (according to our server) and it was kind of charred'ish (I pulled it out of the bun a little for the last of my photos for those of you who want to judge for yourselves. Otherwise, it's a poppy seed bun (sorry, I don't know how to tell if it was steamed: it wasn't toasted, I can say that with confidence) with a Frank hotdog, pickle spear, chopped (sad out-of-season, not the Nook's fault) tomato, chopped onions, sport peppers, bright green relish, yellow mustard, and celery salt. Too heavy on the mustard for my taste and I wish the sport peppers were of uniform size, but otherwise not too bad.

                                                      I'm glad I tried it, but next time, I'll order the Molitor.

                                                      P.S. My husband says the buns were steamed.


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        OMG! I looked at the coney dog photo and holy onions! Apparently someone never learned how to chop an onion properly.

                                                        1. A few I like that I did not see mentioned above:

                                                          Lamb sausages from the Wedge
                                                          Bulk Italian sausage from Seward
                                                          Jalapeno Corn Dogs in the beer garden at Butcher and the Boar

                                                          1. You know, there were fresh bratwurst on sale at Korets in St Paul this week. They were quite good, not too spicy, not too fatty, very meaty, plump, with a great pop and bite. Did I say cheap? less than $3/lb on sale.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: docfood

                                                              OK I give up where is Korets? Did you mean Korte's Super Market?

                                                              1. re: ibew292

                                                                oops, sorry you are correct, a misspelling.

                                                            2. Bumping this up for some info for folks that might be looking for it: Tollefson Family pork products (Mpls. Farmers' Mkt) are gluten free in all their products, per Dan Tollefson. Now that it's (somewhat) summery, I'm thinking brats, and these rank pretty high in my book for the grind and for the mild seasoning. And if seasoned pork patties rank in any way as sausage, try Tollefson's ; great as a burger.