A Brief Taste of the Hot Dog

A Brief Taste of the Hot Dog

A hot dog, at its most basic form, is a small sausage in a bun, usually eaten with one or several toppings. It can be made from pork, beef, or poultry, but it is usually a blend of these. Variations in size, spice, and toppings make hot dogs very adaptable and unique, differing greatly in various regions. The proper way to eat a ‘dog’ can be a volatile discussion among people from different regions.

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The origin of the hot dog continues to be in dispute. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, the German city of Frankfurt and the Austrian city of Vienna all claim to be the true birthplace. Frankfurt claims that it was first created in 1487, and the term Frankfurter evolved from this. However, Vienna–Wien, in Austrian– points to the term ‘wiener’ to refute Frankfurt‘s belief. Most likely, they were not invented but rather evolved at approximately the same time.

Tube Steaks Come to America

Although its origin can be argued, most agree that the hot dog first appeared in America on the streets on New York. Around 1870, A German immigrant named Charles Feltman first began selling Frankfurt-styled sausages in rolls from a stand in Coney Island. This began the cultural connection between hot dogs and Coney Island. The connection would be strengthened in 1916, when an employee of Feltman’s, a roll slicer named Nathan Handwerker opened his own hot dog stand on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. His small stand eventually transformed into the Nathan’s Famous restaurant chain.


As mentioned above, a hot dog from one part of the world will not be the same as one from another. Kosher dogs, especially popular in Northeast America, must be completely beef. Hot dogs in the Western United States tend to be made from poultry. Midwesterners seem to be torn between beef, pork, or a blend of the two.

Regardless of what they are made of, a hot dog with out topping is a poor hot dog indeed. The traditional New York hot dog is boiled–leading to the nickname ‘dirty water dog’– topped with mustard and occasionally sauerkraut and red onions. Since they are often bought from street vendors during a commute, anything more will fall off on the subway or bus.

In the Midwest, the popular hot dog is called a “Coney Island Dog” and is topped with a beanless chili and onions. Ironically, these Coney Island Dogs are unheard of in New York City, location of the real Coney Island.

Similar to the way that their pizza is overstuffed when compared to New York’s, Chicago’s hot dogs are loaded with mustard, a dill pickle spear, neon green relish, onions, tomatoes, and hot peppers. They top it off with a dash of celery salt and put it all on a thick, poppy seed roll. They are never topped with ketchup, and asking for it at some places will earn you several dirty looks and possibly a punch to the face.

Southern hot dogs are an interesting variation. It is common to serve them loaded with onions, beans, chili, coleslaw, and hundreds of variations. The coleslaw is usually a unique, vinegary blend. Though some have cheese on them, the use of cheese on a hot dog is fiercely debated.


Since being brought over to America, the hot dog has become woven into American culture. From barbeques to baseball games, a hot dog in your hand a become a symbol of recreation and good times. Go out and grab a pack of dogs today.

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