The red onion sauce slathered on hot dogs in New York was the creation of Alan S. Geisler, who died January 6th of this year.
Sometimes a certain food becomes a trademark, or a part of life, that you forget that at one time, it wasn’t there. That is the case with the tangy red onion sauce that is smothered all over hot dogs in New York alongside sweet relish and sauerkraut. Life long New Yorkers may never realize that it’s something that is as native to the city as pizza.
Fifty years ago, hot dog vendors went through the time-consuming process of making their own onion sauce, but Mr. Geisler’s version made at the request of a hot dog and bun supplier who later became his partner superseded all of those. If you are slinging on the red onion sauce in New York, chances are the sauce was made by Sabrett, the company behind, Gray’s Papaya, Papaya King, Katz’s Delicatessen the legendary Dominick’s truck in Queens and the “dirty water dog” carts.
The sauce — which is made from vinegar, onion, tomato paste and other ingredients has had people and hot dog vendors all over trying to duplicate it and with displaced former New Yorkers trying to find it.
A food technologist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Geisler first came up with the sauce at the request of Gregory Papalexis, who was a close family friend of the Greek immigrant founder of Papaya King, Gus Poulos. The onion sauce became a hit, and Mr. Geisler and Mr. Papalexis later went into business together at Tremont Foods, which after some mergers and various names (including House of Weenies), has been absorbed into Marathon Enterprises
Every city in the U.S. has their own style of hot dog from N.Y. with red onion sauce; Chicago has a variety of veggies and a poppy seed bun, to West Virginia and Texas who love to pile on the coleslaw. And in California its bacon wrap dogs.
So how do you like your hot dogs?
If you want N.Y. Red Onion Sauce for home go to Hot Dog Catering.