A couple of weeks after moving to Ann Arbor, my friends and I suddenly realized Michigan doesn’t have a food it’s known for. No Philly cheesesteak, no Maryland crab cake, no Buffalo wings. Nothing came to mind.
So, my mission? Discover Michigan’s signature food item. I found friends who had their suggestions — one told me Michigan has great Mexican food; I have since determined this friend has never had “great” Mexican — but all were wrong until someone suggested hot dogs. Boy, was he spot on.
From what I have experienced so far, Michigan is a great hot dog state, and Ann Arbor in particular has a few places making A+ dogs. None are better than Ray’s Red Hots on East U, with nine varieties of hot dogs and sausages, each one worthy of praise. My go-to and favorite is the signature Ray’s Red Hot, a naturally cased 100% Angus-beef dog on a poppy seed bun, for $3.75. The hot dog has the perfect amount of snap, and is as juicy and tasty a dog as I have had in A2. Eat your dog plain, or with a little bit of mustard, and be perfectly satisfied — or take the taste over the top by adding toppings.
On my most recent visit, I try my dog Coney-style with chili, chopped onions and yellow mustard for a $0.97 up charge. The chili is really flavorful — the perfect “hot dog” consistency. The steamed bun does a great job soaking up the chili without falling apart. I haven’t had the privilege of trying some of the classic Detroit Coney joints, but I have a feeling that Ray’s can hold its own.
Lest you be blinded by the hot dog selections, Ray’s also has burgers, fries, rings and shakes. While I haven’t tasted a burger yet, the ones that I’ve seen look like a worthy substitute to my favorite dogs. The waffle fries are excellent too, with just enough potato, fried to a crisp. (Pro tip: pile those hot-dog toppings onto your fries or rings for a hearty snack.)
Now, not every one of my visits to Ray’s has been flawless. (Think: cold fries and dogs with a lackluster mix of toppings.) Still, Ray’s is a classic, all-American hot dog joint every student should try before leaving campus…
…especially between 2 – 5 pm on weekdays, or 10 pm – 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights. One dollar will get you a Wolverine Dog, a ballpark-frank style dog served on a white bun. Think a single dog won’t fill you up? Try the “Starvin’ Student Special,” a Wolverine Dog or turkey dog with chips or waffle fries and a drink for just $5.
Address: 629 E University, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 am – 8 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am – 3 am, Sunday 12 pm – 8 pm