Sauce buns and red hots were a summertime tradition back home and seem to be regional specialties not know to those outside of the small town I grew up in. Sauce buns are just like the name implies, sauce on a bun, but if you added a hot dog it became a red hot. These cannot be described as chili dogs or Coney dogs because they are sweeter than that. If you bite into one of these expecting a chili dog you will be disappointed. However, if you know going in that this is something totally different than that, you just might love them.
This recipe is inspired by Jaenicke’s in Kankakee, the local hot dog stand where we used to eat these. I might be dating myself, but I remember getting a baby beer with my hot dog. It was the smallest root beer mug I have ever seen, filled with their homemade root beer, delivered by a carhop. There was only one location back then, “down by the river.”
These sauce buns have a sweet red meat sauce that is flavored with chili powdered, resembles chili, but doesn’t actually taste like chili. They are very hard to explain to anyone who has never had one or has never been to an old fashioned root beer stand in the Midwest prior to big franchises. It’s kind of like sloppy joe and chili dog sauce rolled into one.
I have never eaten at an A & W, but I have heard these might be similar. I have had Coney dogs, not the same. This is also not Cincinnati chili or Skyline chili.
This takes a while to simmer down, so give yourself about 4 hours of cooking time the day you make these. Since they do take so long to make, I suggest making a larger batch and freezing the leftovers. This sauce will also hold well on a stove top over low heat or in a slow cooker making it a great choice for game day food.
I serve these buffet style with sauce in one slow cooker and hot dogs in another. Cheese sauce and onions are the only toppings we have ever used on sauce buns and red hots, but since some people may be adverse to a sweet sauce on their hot dogs, I include normal hot dog condiments too.
Mix everything together in a large saucepot. Do not brown the ground beef first.
Bring to a slow simmer, stirring frequently.
Leave uncovered and simmer for 4 hours. Stirring often to prevent scorching and sticking.
Sauce Bun: Serve on hot dog buns with cheese sauce and onions.
Red Hot: Spoon over a hot dog in a hot dog bun.
For a more authentic sandwich, pop filled hot dog buns in microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, just long enough to soften the buns.
More recipes that remind us of “back home”: