The Myth, The Legend: The Hot Dog

Antedating the sausage, fast facts to impress your friends, and a national frankfurter index, all for your handy reference. Friend, we got you covered, like mustard.

The OG Paleo Diet

Beer and a dog. The American Way.

How important is the sausage to humanity? It’s mentioned in one of the oldest writings known to man. Homer vividly describes the impatience of a man grilling one over a fire in The Odyssey. Some historians place the use of natural casings (read: intestines) to Emperor Nero’s cook, Gaius in the first century A.D., discovering their suitability upon pricking a roasted pig with a knife.

The modern hot dog traces its roots to Vienna (hence, weiner) and Frankfurt (hence, frankfurter). Those crafty folks also gave us hamburgers – guess where they came from?

A wave of German immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1800s, and sausages came with them. The very first to make its way onto a bun was likely the “dachshund sausage” sold by a German immigrant from a cart in New York in the 1860s. Nothing new under the sun, people. Except maybe the selling practices. (Read on.)

Feltman's Epicure Parade

By 1870, a German immigrant by the name of Charles Feltman opened the first hot dog stand on Coney Island, and by 1880, St. Louis had picked up on the idea. 1893 saw the world converge on the city of Chicago, and two Austrian immigrants put the hot dog in front of tens of thousands of starry-eyed fairgoers. Some cite Chris Von de Ahe, the owner of the St. Louis Browns and a local bar as the man to first pair hot dogs with his beer; others claim it was Harry Stevens, a concessionaire at the New York Giants baseball stadium, who actually popularized the ‘red hots’ at sporting games.

In 1916, Nathan Handwerker – a Polish immigrant and employee of Feltman’s at Coney Island – opened a hot dog stand of his own, selling them for half the price of his competitor; Feltman was eventually forced to close up shop. Nathan’s Famous hot dogs would become a favorite across the country.

The Queen is still skeptical about hot dogs.

The hot dog would even make its way onto a White House menu in 1939, when King George VI of England and Queen Elizabeth made the first British royal visit to the US, ever. Now, this was over a pretty serious matter: Nazi aggression in Europe. The faire? Franklin Delano Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor hosted a picnic, where they decided to serve food that would champion the American way: hot dogs. They held a picnic with the gardeners and groundskeepers. The reviews were mixed. When presented with a silver tray with the hot dogs, the Queen simply asked, ‘How do you eat this?’. Apparently, FDR’s mother was not pleased with her son’s antics, but the king was – he asked for another dog, and even threw back a brew along with it.

In the same year, Los Angeles finally put the West Coast on the map, with Paul and Betty Pink’s first location.

A Nation Speaks

Presidential nosh of hot dogs.

Some stats from a national survey conducted by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council:

7 Billion
Hot dogs eaten in America from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
21.4 Million
Sold at major league parks in a season. That would stretch from Dodger Stadium to Wrigley Field.
Hot dogs sold by a single vendor per game.
Fans who cannot live without hot dogs at the ballpark.

Hot dog fan.

Have or will eat a hot dog at a sporting event this year.
Sporting location for a hot dog? Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Yankee Stadium in New York. It was a tie. Rogers Centre in Toronto? The only baseball stadium to receive 0 votes. America, Eff Yeah!
Votes for Babe Ruth to win a hot dog-eating contest among current and former baseball players. John Kruk was second (17%) and Tommy LaSorda was third (15%). Prince Fielder got 8%, despite self-identifying as vegetarian.
Rate Mohammad Mastafa pays for his hot dog cart location near New York’s Central Park Zoo. This isn’t the only ridiculous financial stat we’ve heard about hot dogs in New York, though. Keep reading.

Temple of the Dog

Poster by Vienna Beef of Gargantuan Chicago Dog on Navy Pier, AKA: Ferris Wheel riders' worst nightmare

There may be no place to get a hot dog quite like Chicago, and no people who more jealously guard their hot dog tradition than Chicagoans. With good reason: here are just a few indicators of Chicago’s gustatorial preeminence within the genre.

#1: The Babe.

Hail Babe Ruth, king of the hot dog eaters.

Babe Ruth, card-carrying frankfurter fiend, purportedly loved road games in Chicago best of all. It’s possible that his pre-game hot dog ritual was brought to its zenith in the bowels of Old Comiskey Park, where the Babe was rumored to routinely eat 12 – yes 12 – hot dogs while his teammates were suiting up. Of course, this led to some problems in 1925.

#2: Straight off the Boat. The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair mentioned above was an original site for the arrival of the Vienna Sausage, via Austrian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany. They must have been popular – the pair sold enough hot dogs during the World’s Fair that they opened a storefront by Halsted and Roosevelt. They even got Buffalo Bill Cody hooked.

#3: Rules is Rules.

Giant hot-dog self-applying ketchup.

Ketchup? Really?

Chicago native Ira Helfer owns a Vienna Beef hot dog stand in Honolulu that was visited by then-President Bill Clinton and several of his Secret Service agents. When one of his Secret Service agents asked for the verboten condiment ketchup, Ira took away his hot dog.

Weird? Only if you haven’t tried it.

In the green hills of Seattle, Washington, you can get a hot dog with cream cheese, grilled onions and Sriracha hot sauce. Unconventional? Yes. But while some say Seattle slew the pooch, you can find a variation on the theme right in Flint: Tim Bishop of the Flint Farmers Market knows the recipe when asked, and offers a cream cheese-bacon-jalepeño dog – if you ask nicely. Many Seattle folks also eat vegan hot dogs, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

Is Nothing Sacred?

Crook: Ahmed Mohammed was caught on camera selling hot dogs for $30 to tourists in New York City outside the 9/11 Memorial

Remember the vendor outside Central Park Zoo? Well, this other guy seems to have beaten the system. For a while. Ahmed Mohammed had been ripping off tourists, charging up to $30 for a dirty-water dog from his cart outside the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan. While the memorial is arguably the nation’s largest tourist trap, (besides Branson, Missouri, that is) this was straight illegal. Vendors are required by law to post a sign with their prices, as a vendor just around the corner from Ahmed was doing – and selling comparable hot dogs for $1. As you can imagine, there were fights breaking out over the prices, which drew attention from local authorities. At first, when a news reporter tried to speak with him on camera, he suddenly declared he spoke no English and tried to sell them a hot dog for $3.

Ahmed’s luck seems to have run out, though, the day that he tried to gouge a local named Ben, from New Jersey. The customer had already taken a bite when he heard the price, and simply set the partially eaten dog on the cart and walked away. The disgruntled and still hungry New Yorker then proceeded to tell news sources about the scam. They finally caught the shyster on video, and he has since been fired. Good times. Good times.

Unity in Diversity

Just visiting? Here’s a breakdown of what to expect when looking for the familiar in strange places:

Northeast / East

New York hot dog

New Yorkers eat more hot dogs than any other group in the country…and they usually come with steamed onions and pale deli mustard.

New Jersey sports several styles, but how about that “Italian Dog”? It’s served in thick pizza bread topped with onions, peppers and deep fried potatoes.

In Boston, dogs are boiled and grilled, served in a New England style bun with mustard and relish, and, you guessed it, sometimes with Boston baked beans.

Philadelphia loves its Philly Cheesesteak, but how about an all-beef hot dog and a fish cake inside the bun? Topped with a sweet vinegary slaw and spicy mustard. This has got to be the weirdest on the list…

Washington, D.C. is the home of the half-smoke: a half pork, half beef sausage (like a hot dog but with more coarsely ground meat and extra spice) usually topped with chili, mustard and onions.

In West Virginia, expect chili, mustard and coleslaw covering the dog on a steamed bun.


Chicago Dog. 'Nuff said.

Chicago Dogs are “dragged through the garden”: layered with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onion, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato slices (and occasionally cucumber slices), topped with a dash of celery salt and served in a poppy seed bun. Many locations are serious about serving only Vienna Beef dogs, and Gold Coast makes quarter-cuts in the ends and chars them for an additional smoky grilled flavor.

Kansas City: sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, sesame seed bun.

Michigan Coney: The pride and joy of Flint and hotly contested with Detroit, there is plenty of competition over the perfect combination of meaty chili sauce, mustard and onion.

Cleveland boasts the Polish Boy: usually a kielbasa, but can be a hot dog, too. Fench fries, southern style barbecue or hot sauce, and coleslaw somehow made their way into the bun. Unwieldy, but filling.

Cincinnati Coneys are definitely going to have that famous chili, and more grated Cheddar cheese than you can shake a stick at.

Way Down South

Texas Chili Dog

Atlanta, etc: Topped with coleslaw and Vidalia onion.

Texas is home to the chili cheese dog with jalepeños. Classic.


Seattle hot dog, complete with cream cheese.

The Sonoran Dog is grilled, bacon-wrapped, and buried in a sturdy bun beneath pinto beans, grilled onions and green peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes, relish, tomatillo jalapeno salsa, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese. Holy cow.

Californians enjoy a variety of options, but in L.A. and San Francisco, you’ll find bacon wrapped dogs with grilled onions and peppers. You’ll dig it the most.

Seattle’s cream cheese, grilled onion, and Sriracha masterpiece deserves another mention. The dog is also split lengthwise and grilled and the bun is toasted, like it should be.

In Alaska, Reindeer hot dogs, actually made from caribou, are served in a steamed bun with grilled onions that are sautéed in (gasp!) Coca-Cola.

Rules is Still Rules

If you are going to indulge, it doesn’t take a lot of fuss to enjoy our national food. But, please, follow a few guidelines. You don’t want to embarrass yourself, especially while eating food of certain shapes.

Use buns with weirdness like sun-dried tomato and basil. I mean, c’mon.
Use cloth napkins, fine china, or utensils. The bun is there for a reason.
Leave bits of bun on the plate. You built it like that, it’s your responsibility.
Over-do the presentation. It’s not going to last that long.
Even consider ketchup if you’re 18+ years old. Grow up.
Drink wine with hot dogs. It’s probably illegal in Austria.

Try the host of options that are available to you. Mustard and relish, again? You can do better.
Grill the inside of the bun. You’ll thank yourself.
Dress the dog, not the bun. Condiments go on top. You yourself may have witnessed the stimulating picnic tableaux vivant of the screaming three year old holding an empty, slippery, ketchup-soaked bun while the puppy chomps the dog lying in the dust.

Selected Sources:

Nine Things to Put in Your Mouth, Right Now

1. Egg, Cheese, and Ham Crepe, Flint Crepe Company

With as many options and fresh, seasonal ingredients as these guys offer, one gem that is hiding in plain sight is one of my favorite things to eat, period. Deceptively simple, the egg, cheese, and ham crepe is as French as the Marseillaise and satisfying without being heavy.

2. Pour-Over Iced Coffee, Wildroot Coffee at Woodside

You haven’t had iced coffee until you’ve had one prepared this way: carefully brewed by hand with a fine filter and a beaker of ice. It takes a couple of minutes to make – just like all good things, your patience will be rewarded. You can even select your own coffee variety for a truly custom brew, made just for you. Slightly sweet, toasty, yet clear and shimmering, this is the only way to go for good coffee in the summer.

3. Bocci Bolognese, Ruggero’s

Renowned for pizza, Ruggero’s on Corunna Road actually offers a much broader menu with authentic Italian recipes that go back generations. Recently I tried this pasta stuffed with prosciutto ham and cheese, and sauced with a shimmering, perfectly mild yet tangy sauce. It’s a thing of beauty, and, unlike pizza, will genuinely make you feel like you’re eating like a grown up.

4. The Slammer, Pesto’s

Another landmark for Italian fare, I am told that their menu is augmented by frequently changing specials that are consistently impressive. But my staple selection? None other than “The Slammer”. I must confess, I’m not really sure about the name – is it an oblique reference to crime, or an indication of how fast I’m going to scarf this thing? Dagwood himself would swoon: It’s a “grinder” style sandwich, stuffed with ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, and a crazy-good green olive dressing. Order the full-size version, and you might have enough to take home for a midnight snack.

5. House Burger, Soggy Bottom

What is that house sauce, and why have I never had anything that delicious on a burger before? Why, Soggy Bottom? WHY? Or maybe it’s the caramelized onions. Yeah, that’s it.

6. Fish & Chips, Blackstone’s

I have it on good authority from an authentic Dubliner gentleman that the only way to properly garnish this dish is with malt vinegar. So ask your waiter.

7. Ham & Cheese Croissant, Crust

I think that every city in the world should be judged first by its ham & cheese croissant. It’s a yardstick of civilization. I’ve had them in Paris and London. I’ve had them in New York, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago. Fenton? You’ve made my shortlist of awesome. The good folks at Crust won’t even ship them to their other locations, because to refrigerate them would ruin them. So if you don’t live or work in Fenton, make the drive, order the ham & cheese croissant, and bask in the glory.

8. Spicy Tuna Bento Box, Chubby Duck

Actually, the spiciest thing included in the box isn’t the tuna roll – it is the spinach soup. Holy chili peppers! The roll is made to order, with a seared tuna, crunchy veg, mild garnish, and perfectly cooked rice.

9. Strawberry Phyllo, Pesto’s

Pesto’s is on this list twice? Yep: they offer a dessert with layers of super-flaky puff pastry with sweet strawberries, mascarpone, and whipped cream. I’m pretty sure this dessert ensures a romantic evening all by itself.

Better Ideas for Email Scammers

Maybe you check the spam folder now and then, and maybe, just maybe you really have a soft spot for unfortunate third-world royalty. But no matter how your heart bleeds for those unfortunate developing world princes with nowhere to hoard their millions of dollars, you have to admit these scams have been pretty well dismantled by now.

Well, we feel for those Nigerian scammers, and a little truth shouldn’t stop an innovative entrepreneur from stealing a page from Niccolo Machiavelli’s playbook and one-upping these failed attempts at wheedling unsuspecting email checkers out of their hard-earned cash. We’ve decided to provide the industrious scammer with a few suggestions. Call them variations on a theme, or new twists on old favorites.

1. Bill Gates needs your dollar

Bill Gates? Seems legit.

He must be convincing, because his name is annexed by a couple of big scams claiming to be from Disney and AOL. Basically, they involve passing along a chain e-mail or sharing the above picture on Facebook. Here’s a sample:

Subject: PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!! it was on the news!

To all of my friends, I do not usually forward messages, But this is from my good friend Pearlas Sandborn and she really is an attorney. If she says that this will work – It will work…

Bill Gates sharing his fortune. If you ignore this, You will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it ( If you are a Microsoft Windows user).

For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check.

Um, yeah. You can do better than that. Though AOL is pretty generous – single-handedly supporting the screen printed shrinkwrapped CD mailer industry for about 10 years – I’ve never received ANYTHING for free from Microsoft. Not even a cool logo decal in a product box.

So how about: a personal note from Bill apologizing for the relentlessly sh*tty Microsoft Word, and offering a Bill-approved 3rd party patch to improve its functionality? For a small fee, of course.

2. Mark “Robin Hood” Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg? He knows technology.

An innocent-looking Facebook message claiming Mark Zuckerberg is giving away millions? Yep, that’s worth a share. Like the Bill Gates scam, for a mere copy and repost, you could be one of 1000 recipients of 4.5 million dollars.

Pretty transparent, right? But what about rolling in another little-understood yet ubiquitous technology phenomenon?

How about: Mark Zuckerberg is convinced that Bitcoin is going down the tubes! Facebook CEO balks at offer to buy Bitcoin. Don’t miss your opportunity to sell now before it tanks. I mean, it’s gotta go belly up some time, right? We’re offering 30 cents on the bitcoin dollar value. Don’t miss out!

3. Boycott! Boycott!

This one’s interesting, appearing under the email subject “Don’t Pump Gas on May 15.” An e-mail hoax pleaded with American drivers, “Don’t pump gas on May 15!” The hope was that large oil companies would suffer great financial losses if millions of people refused to fuel up on one single day.

We’re not sure what they were trying to prove, but how about: Buy Nothing Day , which is surely more effective. And this one is legit!

Live Music Flint, Michigan May 24–28, 2017

Flint, Michigan band Avalon Black publicity photo

EP Release! AVALON BLACK at Churchill’s this Friday 5/24/17

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

Scooter’s: Group Therapy
Hitch ‘N’ Post: Whisky Brothers Open Jam
Local 432: Shaun Martin, Mama Sol, Tha Nuts 7pm

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Corunna Road Bar: Mercy Beach, Ez Duhzit, Mad Anthony
Churchill’s: Avalon Black, The Haberdasher, Birdhouse 8pm
MD’s Sports Tavern: Jamie Marvin
Hitch ’N’ Post: Thrown to the Wolf
Tenacity Brewing: Soirée
Dryden Bar & Grill: Davis Green
Totem Books Pat Parker 5pm, Open Mic Night 7pm

SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017

Table & Tap: Isaac Ryder 12 noon
Corunna Road Bar: Heather Metal SFO, Amica Mea
Churchill’s: DJ Michael A’s, The Black Jacks 9pm
MD’s Sports Tavern: Ryan Page
Hitch ’N’ Post: Whisky Brothers
Tenacity Brewing: Heather Wisda
Calvelli’s: John & Melanie Hagerman 8pm