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~ Happy Valley PA's Pop's Mexi-Hots Hot Dog Sauce ~

IMG_3352Yesterday was a big day.  During a stop at Meyer's Dairy, I got my first taste of a Pop's Mexi-Hot hot dog, complete with Pop's ground-beef-based and chili-powder-laced sauce, ballpark mustard and diced onion.  Considering what I always tell my friends, "I was a hot dog in a past life", I can't believe I've lived in Happy Valley forty-two years and never tried one.  What I knew about State College's iconic Pop's Mexi-Hots yesterday was zero.  Today, after the fact, it's a different story.

IMG_3370Mexi-Hots is a Pennsylvania, registered, fictitiously-named business, originally filed on February 4, 1948 (the company will celebrate it 70th birthday on February 4th, 2018).  The filing status is active.  The company's principal address, originally on the the corner of College Avenue and Pugh Street in downtown State College and owned by the Carelas family, is currently located at 2390 South Atherton Street -- Pop's Mexi-Hots are now made by and sold at Meyer's Dairy.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a57be4970cMeet Meyer Dairy.  Founded in 1970 by two  brothers and located just four short miles from my kitchen door, I have been buying milk and ice cream from these folks since the day I moved to Happy Valley in 1974.  Joseph Meyer, the owner explains, "We're farmers, so we produce our own milk.  We put in a drop tank to bring it up from the farm to process and bottle it in our shop."  Over the years they added many varieties of ice-cream, and the flavors change daily. Besides one of their generous cones of the creamy-dreamy stuff, there's plenty of room to sit down and enjoy a Mexi-Hot or a hamburger too.  They sell lots of other local and PA based products too:  grilled stickies from The College Diner, apple butter from the Lions Club and Middleswarth potato chips.

After pondering, calculating, weighing, measuring & testing...

IMG_3324... I believe the force was with me & I couldn't be more pleased.

IMG_3299 IMG_3299My copycat version evolved by combining two vintage recipes (given to me by girlfriends Elaine and Karen), in conjunction with taste testing my experiments alongside Meyer's Mexi-Hots in my kitchen (I brought a six-pack home with me yesterday).  Many vintage recipes claim to be the original -- the two shared with me were no exception. That said, even if a recipe is indeed the original (few are handed out freely and most go rogue via disgruntled ex-chefs or former employees), the rightful-owner of the original will almost never confirm it, and, the point is not worth argument. Their standard retort is, "the secret ingredient is missing".  I can tell you with certainty:  my version is pretty damned close.  Dang close.


2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef

1  quart water

1/4  cup white vinegar

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

1  pound yellow or sweet onion, cut into 1"-1 1/2" chunks (about 2, medium-large onions)

1/2  pound celery, cut into 1"-1 1/2" chunks (about 5 large ribs)

8  ounces green bell pepper, white rib sections removed and cut into 1"-1 1/2" chunks (about 2 large green bell peppers)

1  tablespoon paprika

6  tablespoons chili powder

1  tablespoon celery salt

2  tablespoons salt

1  tablespoon black pepper

IMG_3253 IMG_3253 IMG_3253~ Step 1.  Let's get crazy over with first.  Place the ground meat in a large bowl and add 1-quart of water and 1/4 cup white vinegar.  Using your hands, squish this all together until a soupy, unappetizing, mess-of-a-mixture forms.  As strange, weird and appalling as this will seem, "back in the day" this was the common treatment for ground meat used in long-simmered, slow-simmered chili-type sauces (and various soup recipes too) -- it kept the texture of the beef soft and steamy, and, the bits of meat separate (as opposed to quickly sautéing it which yields a drier, chunkier, lumpier mixture).

IMG_3261 IMG_3261 IMG_3261 IMG_3261 IMG_3261~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot, place the vegetable oil.  In work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the chunked onions.  Using a series of 18-20 rapid on-off pulses mince the onion. Transfer the minced onion to the stockpot.  Add celery and green pepper to processor.  Using a series of 18-20 rapid on-off pulses, mince the celery and bell pepper together.  Transfer them to the stockpot with the minced onion.  

Note:  The alternative is to take the time to mince (mince -- not fine-dice) the vegetables by hand, transferring them to the stockpot as you work.  The food processor is a huge time-saver.

IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280~Step 3.  Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, sweat the vegetables until steaming and soft, 5-6 minutes.  Add and stir in the spices (the paprika, chili powder, celery salt, sea salt and black pepper).  Cook for 1 minute.  Add the soupy meat.  Bring to a rapid simmer, reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer, then, continue to cook, stirring every 10-15 minutes, for 2 hours.  For best results, place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.  Reheat prior to serving or freezing.

Would you like a side of mac 'n cheese with that?

IMG_3358Scrumptious right down to the last Mexi-hot bite:

IMG_3362Happy Valley PA's Pop's Mexi-Hots Hot Dog Sauce:  Recipe yields a generous 2-quarts/8+ cups Pop's Mexi-Hot hot dog sauce w/each 1 cup being enough to sauce 6-8 hot dogs.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor (optional); 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot w/lid; large spoon

Texas Chili Dogs #2 (4 Dogs Exit Picture)Cook's Note: In the 1950's, 60's and 70's my hometown of Tamaqua had two hot spots to eat hot dogs:  The Texas Lunch and The Coney Island. Trust me when I tell you, Texas-style chili sauce for hot dogs and Mexi-hot-style chili sauce for hot dogs, while similar in appearance, are two entirely different products.  To learn more, and get my recipe, click here:  ~ Mel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dogs ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


Steve -- Everything you said rings true!

Myers had Jim Carelas making sauce for years after his retirement, They tried to buy the recipe but he would not sell the family secret. Eventually Jim's helper hacked the recepe and got it close. It devolved over time until it was but a hint of the true product.

Myers had Jim Carelas making sauce for years after his retirement, They tried to buy the recipe but he would not sell the family secret. Eventually Jim's helper hacked the recepe and got it close. It devolved over time until it was but a hint of the true product.

Denise -- Thank-you SO MUCH for the kind words and feedback.

Hello -
Thank you from a member of the Carelas family. Pop was my grandfather and I miss him and the Mexi-Hot sauce everyday. Oh how you brought tears to my eyes knowing you went back to discover the beginnings. It’s difficult for me to order a Mexi-Hot at Meyers Dairy when I return home to visit for it doesn’t taste like what I had growing up or when my Pop worked at Meyers Dairy, but I do appreciate to hear you and others enjoy them. It’s heart warming to know Pop and our family are not forgotten.

I miss sitting at the counter watching my Uncle Bill work at the grill and banter with my Pop or listening to our Mimi chatting with the customers while Pappy is cooking fries. The grandkids loved the Mexi-Hot sauce so much we would eat it straight from a bowl with crumbled crackers. Such memories were created at Pop’s Mexi-Hot. Yes, there is a secret ingredient missing.

Tami -- Thanks for the nice comment. I too hope the kitchen at Meyer Dairy opens again soon too. Until then, I'm certain you'll enjoy these MexiHots! ~ Melanie

Thank you so much for this recipe. I grew up in Boalsburg and mexihots have been a staple for me for a very long time. I remember when Myer Dairy opened! Still living in State College and every time I stop I am hoping to see the kitchen open again. I can't imagine no more mexihots, they are iconic in Happy Valley. For now I'm going to enjoy your recipe and I thank you again for helping to keep Pop's mexihots going strong!

Kris -- Thank-you so much for the nice comment and I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post!

Oh my, I grew up in SC and every once in awhile, my mom would bring home Mexi-hot hot dogs. My favorite, bar none, EVER to date! My grandfather had a restaurant in Huntingdon called Texas Lunch and while people would line up for blocks to have one of his chili dogs, I always favored Mexi-hots. I wonder what the secret ingredient is???? That will always be one of my most cherished memories as a kid in SC. Just thought I’d type in the name to see what would come up.Very fun to read these posts!

David -- I'm so happy to be of help to you, and, thank-you for taking the time to say so. It's people like you who make writing a cooking blog worth all the hard (but tasty) work. Enjoy your Mexi-Hots! ~ Melanie

Thank you for this recipe. I went t Meyer's dairy on Monday of this week and was told that the kitchen was closed so that Mexi-Hots if nothing changes will no longer be available in State College.
As a native of State College I started eating Mexis in the late 1940s when the store was on South Allen Street. I was away from Happy Valley from 1964 to 1980 but whenever I had the opportunity to get to State College I got Mexis at the College Avenue location. When I came back in 1980 I was glad to see that they were still available and for the last 2 years my sister and I had a standing date to get the on Fridays.
While it will not be the same at least I now have a recipe I can try so the loss of the Meyer's location will not mean the Mexi-Hot will be lost to me.

R. Hatch -- Good to know. Thanks for sharing!

Mexi-Hot was in fact a legitimate logo for a company that made cookers and had a registered recipe since at least the early 1940s.

I would very much like the opportunity to meet one day. Not sure how I no longer live in PA.

Denise -- We are all thankful for your family, and, for Meyers for keeping the tradition going. I am so pleased you enjoyed my rendition and commentary. Perhaps we can meet in person some day -- you just made my day with your comment. ~ Melanie

I am in tears while reading this article. Thank you for the wonderful tribute to my Great-grandfather Pappy, my Grandfather Pop, and to all the Carelas'. It was always a special treat for me to sit at the stools and be with my family. I sure do miss those days. And yes a secret was left out of the recipe. What is sold at Meyers Dairy is close but being from the Carelas family it's not the same. But very grateful to the Meyers for keeping the tradition going

Vic -- Great to hear from you and thanks for your kind feedback. I've lived here in State College since 1974, my husband since 1968, so, we've eaten our fair share of the original MexiHots too. We are...!!!

I graduated from PSU in 73, and I lived on Pops MexiHots my last 2 years. Great article! Next time I am near State College I will surely stop in Meyers dairy, and I will try you recipe next rainy day! I do seem to remember cheese being involved, but my memory may be flawed...

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