Have you ever orchestrated a surprise for your spouse, a big surprise, and had it not work out exactly as you had fantasized?

I flew Suzen 3000 miles, rented a car, and drove her to a sacred place. Near my boyhood home was, and is, the greatest hot dog stand on the planet. Now known as Roakes, it was The Foot Long, when I grew up in Portland. Long dogs, onions, and the sauce from heaven.

We’d been married for a decade and I had talked and talked about this hot dog stand. Now we were there.

I bought her one, brought it to her, placed it respectfully in front of her, and waited.

Suzen picked it up, smelled it, sighted down the whole length like a rifle barrel, puckered her mouth, took a bite, and chewed. And chewed. And swallowed.

“It’s not Nathan’s,” came her verdict.

I do love her, and I have forgiven her. But I will never forget.

I’m now on a crusade to find a recipe for that sauce. The Foot Long, aka Roakes, won’t give it up. I’m researching on the web and finding lots and lots of recipes. You can search for “hot dog sauce” and “Coney sauce.” Of the ones I have found, this one is the best. I’ve modified it significantly to give the chili punch my memories say are needed. This sauce is delicious and I will use it, while I search for how to modify it to reach the Roakes pinnacle.

If you have a Roakes recipe, please share it. In the meantime, this sauce will make your dogs sensational. Made with all these spices, it is a deep, dark red and actually sticky because of all the spices. Its aromatic richness is the perfect adornment for a dog grilled until it is black and cracked.

Classic Coney Sauce

Yield: 2 quarts of sauce


2 pounds ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
¼ cup mustard [standard yellow]
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder


Place the ground beef and onions in a large skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the meat is browned. Turn the meat and separate it with a wooden spoon while cooking.

Pour off any fat that has separated during the cooking process.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to mix thoroughly, and cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes. Taste test for doneness to please you and to adjust the seasonings.

Source: Brian O’Rourke