Steve T. Meat Sauce
Tasting this on its own, I was a little wierded out. Instead of the familiar Greek-Christmas-spiced chili flavors, what I got was a sort of funky, bitter and acidic, greasy, gray meat sludge lacking in salt and hardly any recognizable spice. Maybe the strangest hot dog meat sauce I've ever tasted.
Steve T Hots & Potatoes (T as in Tahou, nephew of Nick) was formerly known as Nick Tahou's II - a second location of the famous originator of the Rochester Garbage Plate. I'm always happy to hear complicated regional food family trees and/or fueds - usually means you're going to eat something awesome.
Texas Hot with Steve T Meat Sauce
But once you put this stuff on a hot dog with mustard it all makes sense. If you've never had a Zweigle's dog, they are really unique - slightly sweet and chock full of spices similar to what you find in Greek hot dog sauce. Not so much cinnamon and nutmeg but more clove, juniper, allspice and mace.
Split and charred - how they cook Hots in Rochester - it really works with the funky gray sauce, the acidic lard flavor bouncing off the sweet spiced dog and bright yellow mustard. If you look at the picture of Steve T on the jar and imagine a hairy sweaty Greek guy lining these up his arm at 3 a.m. it all really all comes together. Probably the closest of this test to the Nick Tahou original.
Don's Original Beef Hot Sauce
Next up is sauce from Don's Original AKA Don and Bob's. Another local Rochester joint with a convoluted history. "Bob" was Robert Berl, who inherited the Zwiegles company from his grandparents. Like Nathan's in Coney Island NY (and Cincinnati Coney dogs at Coney Island Park in Ohio) Don & Bob's began as a seasonal stand on Lake Ontario near Seabreeze amusement park.
What's fascinating about this one is it's totally different from the others, not Greek at all, and with just a touch of the greasy lard / vinegar funk of Steve T's - and much more Italian. Chock full of tomato and fairly sweet, spiced with oregano and basil but also tamarind and molasses. Think spaghetti meat sauce meets hot dog sauce meets worchestershire.
Texas Hot with Don's Original Hot Sauce
Don's also has a more even, thick consistency than some of the others, making it perfect for a hot dog and definitely a better introduction to Beef Hot Sauce for a non-Rochester person. Although maybe a little too sweet and tomatoey for me, and It would be a shame to play it safe with this one and miss out on the challenging, crazy, funky, real-deal Steve T sauce.
Coach Tony's Gourmet Beef Hot Sauce
Coach Tony's is different from the first two in that it's not associated with a restaurant - instead the concoction of a local baseball coach known for his homemade Beef Hot Sauce who turned in into a business in 2004. Similar to the Steve T school in that it's sort of thin and soupy, slightly acidic and extra greasy with no tomato or sweetness.
But this one had more spice - even this jar of "mild" was hotter than all the others - and a hint of clove which I really liked, along with a healthy dose of butter. Sort of the best of both worlds, a middle ground between the weird uber-authentic greasy sauce and the more familiar Greek tasting stuff.
Texas Hot with Coach Tony's Beef Sauce
Delicious on a hot dog, Coach Tony's was definitely one of my two favorites. My only complaint is that it was also one of the thinnest, probably designed for plates and not dogs, and I had to cook it down a bit to a good hot dog thickness. Or maybe just eat it with a knife and fork.
Texas Hot with Zweigle's Hot Sauce
Zweigels, the Rochester company that makes these wonderful hot dogs, also has their own Hot Sauce, although theirs is made with turkey, which actually wasn't bad at all, and I'm hoping more healthy especially since I tried all 5 of these in one sitting.
Firmly in the sweet tomato camp - makes sense with the Zweigles / Don & Bobs connection - this one is also the closest to what most of us know as hot dog chili: tomato, chili powder, and thick like the stuff that comes out of a pump at 7-11, with none of the exotic lard funk of the other brands.
Rochester Plate Sauce
A more recent product aimed at taking Rochester Beef Hot Sauce to a larger audience. Instead of jarred it comes boil-in-the-bag-style, which initially turned me off, but after trying all of these I get it - when you open the jars of the other brands, you're presented with an unpleasant mess of separated oily residue and cold meat grease, but there's none of that with the individually portioned bags.
Also I don't know if I would be able to bring myself to eat jarred meat sauce more than 2 days after opening it (no matter what the USDA says it just seems sketchy). The individual bags also definitely eliminate that sketch factor. And to be completely honest, the other sauces are all gone from my fridge, but this stuff is still in my cabinet, ready for the next time I want hot dogs at 4 in the morning.
Rochester Plate Sauce; platesauce.com
Texas Hot with Rochester Plate Sauce
One of my two favorites along with Coach Tony's. Again the best of both worlds - a good amount of grease but not too much, a little bit of tomato sweetness and tartness, and the biggest surpise of all being the healthy dose of greek spicing, way more than the others bringing this almost into Cincinnati Chili Territory.
Someone from Rochester might even say it's too much like Cincinnati Chili and too far from the real stuff - although for me it's more of a middle ground, still way too intense to eat straight out of a bowl, although I did try it over spaghetti with shredded cheese and oyster crackers, and it was awesome. It's also got the thickest and smoothest consistency of these, making it perfect for hot dogs, unless you're really going for that authentic funky, greasy 3 a.m. thing.
Rochester Plate Sauce; platesauce.com