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Birmingham Hot Dog Sauce

From: Gwendolyn 
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2012 4:14 PM
Subject: Meatless Hot Dog Sauce

Help….there are lots and lots of Greek-owned hot dog stands in Birmingham, AL.  They all serve basically the same kinds of hot dogs – 
a special meatless sauce, and a special chili sauce.  I can find several chili sauce recipes online, but not the meatless sauce.  
It is a brownish-red sauce and delicious.  The recipe is basically the same at all the hot dog stands, with the exception of perhaps 
an ingredient or two to specialize the sauce for that particular hot dog stand.  Can you help?


Hi Gwen,

Thanks for opening up the world of Birmingham hot dogs to me. I lived within 150 miles of Birmingham for decades, and visited there several times, but I never knew about the hot dogs.

Let’s clarify things about the sauce first:

Birmingham’s special hot dogs are served with two kinds of sauce. One is the familiar chili sauce with ground beef. This is similar to what is commonly known as “Coney sauce” or “Greek sauce”. The other is a seemingly meatless sauce with onions. One writer described this second sauce as tasting like “like a cross between barbecue and New York pushcart style red onion sauce.” That New York style pushcart sauce would be like Sabrett’s, which is meatless, and for which I have a clone recipe here:
Sabrett's Style Hot Dog Sauce

I said “seemingly meatless” for the Birmingham “special sauce”, because we have little idea what’s actually in the original “special sauce”. Meat may not be apparent, but it may contain drippings, etc.

“In Birmingham, at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs and Gus's Hot Dogs, grilled hot dogs were served with sauerkraut, ground beef, and homemade sauce that resembles New York red onion sauce (Sabrett’s – Phaed). The owner of Pete's died in April 2011 taking the sauce recipe with him to his grave.”

Serious Eats
“Greek hot dogs in Birmingham are a curious regional anomaly, especially the "special dog" which consists of a grill-charred cheap Zeigler brand pink wiener topped with seasoned ground beef, sauerkraut, a few chopped onions and "sauce" which tastes like a cross between barbecue and New York pushcart style red onion sauce.” (Sabrett’s – Phaed)

As the Wikipedia item states, Constantine 'Gus' Koutroulakis of “Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs” passed away last year, and he supposedly never gave away his recipe for his special sauce. There is an article about him here:
Beloved Birmingham Hot Dog Man

However, the “other” famous hot dog place – “Gus’ Hot dogs” claims that their recipe is basically the same, with a few changes that they have made.

There are a couple of recipes for the chili style sauce, with ground beef, on these sites:

Pete's Sauce

Alabama Hot Dog Sauce

However, Gwen, I must disappoint you – I had no success finding an actual recipe for the “special sauce”.

There is an excellent video about how the Greek hot dog vendors came to Birmingham looking for work and found their calling in selling hot dogs to the steel workers. It’s here:
Birmingham Hot Dogs
In an interview in that video, one of the hot dog vendors (not Gus) actually tells the ingredients that he uses to make “special sauce”. However, it is not a recipe – he does not give any amounts of each ingredient. You’ll have to write quickly...

If you want to experiment, you might start with the Sabrett’s sauce clone recipe and add some ground allspice, cloves, and cinnamon for a Greek hot dog sauce like that served in Birmingham. I found a mention on a message board of these spices being used in Birmingham hot dog sauce.


I suspected you might not be able to find a recipe.  I think they will all take their recipes to their graves.   
Sneaky Pete does sell a bottled sauce but I am allergic to msg and all its derivatives so I cannot use it.  
I just put together a concoction using the ingredients in the video smells pretty good.  
I am originally from Birmingham and have fond memories of the hot cannot get them like that anywhere else.

Thanks for your help...if you ever come across a recipe please let me know.  
Gus of Petes Famous was a dear friend ...I spoke to him the day before he died.  
From: Jeff 
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 12:22 PM
Subject: Pete's Famous Special Sauce

I hope I'm doing this right. I am a serious lover of Pete's famous special sauce. No one makes anything 
this even close to that grayish white sauce. If you have the recipe I would so love to have it. 
Thank you  


Hi Jeff,

I did a thorough search for this a few years ago, with little success. See: 06-25-2012

Today, I found these:

Pete's Famous Hot Dog Sauce
Tailgating Hot Dogs

I doubt that either of those is Gus’ authentic recipe, which is said to have gone with Gus when he passed away. They are copycats – someone’s attempt to recreate the original recipe. Doesn’t mean they aren’t close, though.


North Carolina Beef Dog

From: andy
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2012 6:54 PM
Subject: "Beef Dog" recipe made with stew beef???????????/
Dear Uncle Phaedrus, 

I have visited your site many times in search for lost recipes for many different things. Great Work!!!

I was grew up in the North (Ohio) but have deep southern roots.......... but I have found a local treat that has stumped me!

I am now living in North Carolina and at many, if not all, "Ma and Pop" type diners the serve a sandwich called a "Beef Dog". 
It is made with stew beef that has been simmered in some type of spices and topped with hot dog chili, mustard and onions served 
on a hamburger or hot dog bun. Must be a deep dark secret, because I can't find a reference to it on the net. 
Would love some help finding an actual recipe that tells how to cook the stew beef. Most of my tries end up tasting like BBQ beef. 

Thought of asking you when I picked my greasy beans this morning. 

Thanks for your help!

Hi Andy,

As you can imagine, searching for “beef dog” turns up a lot of things, such as “beef dog food”, “beef dog treats”, and dozens of “all beef dogs” referring to ordinary all beef hot dogs. Even including “North Carolina” as a search term still only gives hot dogs and coneys made with all-beef frankfurters. I’m not finding anything like your description.

If this is a local item, then I need to know exactly where “local” is. In what city or town in North Carolina are you seeing these sandwiches? What are the names of some of these diners that serve them?


From: andy
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 8:50 AM
Subject: Re: "Beef Dog" recipe made with stew beef???????????/


Local is Mooresboro,NC.... also  Shelby, Forest City, Chesnee, Caroleen, really the whole western part of North Carolina.      
Names of restaurants "Hutchins" (Caroleen), "Shelby Cafe" (Shelby), "Turners" (Chesnee) "Hamricks Store" (Boiling Springs), 
"Jerry's" in Pokeville all in NC.


Hi Andy,

Well, all these are very small towns. Many of the places you name are snack bars and mini-marts and delis. Chesnee is actually in South Carolina, rather than North Carolina. The only one of these places that has a menu online is Shelby Café, and there’s no “beef dog” listed on the copy of their menu that’s online.
See: Shelby Cafe Menu

What about bigger places in Western North Carolina, like Gastonia or Asheville? Or Spartanburg, South Carolina?

I’m just not having any success in finding any mention at all of these “beef dogs”. Usually, even with local dishes like this, there is a mention of them on a message board somewhere.

You might have more luck just asking people when you dine in these places, or even calling them on the phone and asking them.

I’ll post this on my site in a couple of weeks. Maybe a reader can help.


Thanks so much for your help! I am going to check the library for local church cookbooks (etc.) that may have a recipe or referral to "Beef Dog" ..... 
If I do find a recipe, I'll forward it to you. I guess the "Beef Dog" a well guarded secret. If your ever in the area, I'll take you out for one!
Never Give Up!!!! I'll find it yet!
Take care,

Chesapeake Clam Chowder

-----Original Message----- 
From: Darlene 
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2012 10:58 AM
Subject: Clam Chowder

I found your recipe for Oyster stew from the book Chesapeake.  I also thought there
was a recipe for Clam Chowder in that story too.  Do you by any chance know if that
is true? I cannot find the book to save my soul as I would even love to reread it.
Many thanks....

Hi Darlene,

I don't have a copy of the book at present. I can't find any mention anywhere of a clam chowder recipe from "Chesapeake", just the oyster stew recipes.

You can get a used copy of "Chesapeake" from for as little as $3.00. It's also available new and also on Kindle.


Blackberry Fruit Salad

From: Sandy
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 6:48 PM
Subject: Fruit Salad recipe

Uncle Phaedrus,

About 3 years ago I found a recipe on the internet for a fruit salad that had a dressing made with 
blackberry jam/preserves/jelly and a carbonated beverage like 7-Up.  It was made with a variety of 
melon balls, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, apple,  peaches and pears plus any other
fresh fruit of your choosing and walnuts.  I have looked at most of the cooking sites and searched
under using blackberries to no avail.  
If you have the recipe for the dressing recipe I would appreciate your help.  
It would be a plus if the dressing was vegan, but that is not absolutely necessary.

Hi Sandy,

Sorry, I had no success locating a recipe that fits your description.


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