If you’ve taken a moment to lift your head up from your Instagram feed while walking through the winter wonderland that is campus you may have noticed some interesting new food options. Apparently hot dogs are the new cronuts here at U of M, because these odd yet intriguing hot dog carts have popped up in multiple parts of campus. And I wanted to see what all the hype was—or wasn’t—about.
Whether you’re heading down South U on the way to class, hurrying back to your dorm on the hill, or stumbling out of Rick’s on a Friday night, there is definitely no shortage of hot dog options. And that’s not even factoring in Ray’s Red Hots on East U. Once you’ve gotten over your slight embarrassment (why are people so hesitant to admit they like hot dogs?) there is still some deliberation to be done. I visited three carts to get the inside scoop of what makes each one unique.
Whip’s Dog Days
This is the one you’ve probably seen, if you’ve only seen one. It’s right by CC Little and the Chem building. Operating out of Barry’s Bagels, this cart has been in business for 22 years. In addition to hot dogs made with Koegal meat, a variety of potato chips, hot chocolate and soda (aka pop for us Midwesterners) this cart also serves up the infamous Michigan coney. With your choice of chili, cheese, mustard and onion, this dish is sure to satisfy your between-class hunger. This is what I picture when I think of a classic hot dog cart.
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Open for business Mon-Fri 10am to 3pm, Whip’s makes for a great pit stop when you’re on the go.
If that’s not enticing enough, how about the fact that the cart used to be the go-to place for advice? LeRoy Whipple, the owner, used to include “advice for free” on his menu, as students would come ask him any questions they had about life. The crowd got so big that he changed the price to 10 cents—and students had no problem paying. Although advice is no longer on the official menu, you can stop by Whip’s Dog Days for a tasty hot dog and, if you’re lucky, get some advice out of your conversation with the owner.
The core of this cart’s menu is the spicer. This is an all-natural beef and lamb Algerian sausage, also called a Merguez. Take your pick between the mild and hot version, and choose between toppings like Gouda cheese, onions, peppers, pickle and Harissa—a Tunisian chili pepper paste. Order your spicer “loaded” with all of these toppings, go the safer route with only a few or the plain route with none at all (gasp). Did I mention it’s served on a grilled Zingerman’s roll? Nom.
It may not be your typical hot dog cart but that’s what makes Spicer’s Grill so unique. Although it’s only about a year old, this cart succeeds in its vision to bring the feel of Algerian street carts to Ann Arbor. With a variety of items like Italian sausage, Portobello mushroom sandwiches, homemade hummus and of course the traditional Merguez sausage, your taste buds are in for a treat with these delicious creations. Even better, they cook the meat fresh in front of you—no freezer-to-grill action taking place here.
If you’re already daydreaming about which toppings to include on your spicer, you may have to wait a few months. Spicer’s Grill wanted to get its foot in the door by opening up this fall, but as the winter months approach the cart plans to make its full-fledge debut in the spring, possibly at a new location (it was previously operating at the corner of South Forest and South University). So once you survive polar vortex parts II, III and IV this winter keep an eye out for Spicer’s return, and don’t forget to checkout their Facebook page for more details and even some discounts.
Known for its “gourmet street cuisine,” this travelling food cart offers some pretty decadent options. Unfortunately I went after a night out (sorry Backroom Pizza), so photos weren’t very possible in the dark. But not to worry, because the descriptions of the menu on their website are drool-worthy on their own. There you will also find a complete schedule with times and locations of where the cart will be on any given night. EJ’s travels around Detroit and Ann Arbor and parks at spots like outside of Necto and The Blind Pig, the corner of Main and Liberty and on Church Street across from Rick’s. Clearly they know their customer’s social schedules pretty well and follow those with drunchies.
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EJ’s offers several hot dog options. Choose between veal and pork kielbasas, beef and pork spicy sausages, all beef hot dogs and even vegan seitan sausages. But almost better than the hot dogs themselves are the gourmet condiments. Think creations like garlic-infused mayo, Southern BBQ sauce and “fuego sauce” as well as twists on the classics like mustard made with beer and ketchup crafted with onions. If you’re trying to go really hard , add toppings like buttermilk coleslaw, sauerkraut, relish and onion for free(IT’S FO’ FREEEEE). Additionally, EJ’s has rotating specialty items like a bacon-wrapped hot dog and a hot dog topped with pulled pork and mac & cheese. Mind. Blown.
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