About 20 billion hot dogs are consumed by Americans every year. As such, our hot dog recipes have evolved into food stuff that is pretty exciting. We’ve organized hot dog toppings by region, from the pickle-soaked Chicago-style hot dog to the peppery Sonoran to the gooey Seattle dog to the sweet and satisfying Papaya dog found on the mean streets of New York City. From sea to shining sea, we have our regional hot dogs, each with ingredients which might shock and horrify those in other parts of the country. Go in with an open mind and an open mouth, try a different style, and you might have a culinary experience that will make you cry out “hot diggity dog!”
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Man Bites Dog: The Contested History of the American Hot Dog
So, when did the traditional, all-American hot dog start to hit grills? Sausages have been eaten and loved for centuries; even Romans enjoyed the luxury food items. When did they earn their current name?
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), “The origin of the word “hot dog” stirs as much debate as the existence of UFOs.” The numerous conflicting reports of the origin of the dog have puzzled historians for years. One myth is that a cartoonist named Tad Dorgan drew a picture of a dachshund on a roll to resemble frankfurters, but he didn’t know how to spell “dachshund” so he wrote “hot dog” instead. For all we can tell, it’s untrue.
When Hot Dog Met Chili
German immigrants have been thought to be the most likely culprits in the dissemination of regional hot dogs. Those, like Charles Feltman, who sold his out of a wagon, and served them on milk rolls in the late 1860s, were incredibly influential in the food scene of the day. Feltman’s essentially New-York-style hot dog sold in Coney Island, but they didn’t have the tell-tale chili sauce, mustard, or chopped onions we know and love today. That world-famous Coney Island hot dog recipe was created and spread by way of Greek and Macedonian immigrants in Michigan, confusingly.
Today, lots of these regional hot dogs feature homemade hot dog chili recipes; note that many of the original restaurants producing these classic meat-slathered treats like the scrambled dog, Coney Island dog, and New York System Wiener won’t give up their house chili sauce secrets. However, some are darker than others, and guessing can be a lot of fun!
Regional Hot Dog Toppings: A Face-Off
So the dog originated around the mid-1800s and was topped by chili sometime around the 1910s. It got the spicy pickles with the birth of the Vienna hot dogs in Chicago during the Great Depression. The Chicago version is one of the more popular hot dog styles to this day.
But, wait! When did the hot dog don a poblano pepper and mayo, as with the Californian Danger Dog, cream cheese, as with Seattle’s favorite, pinto beans, as with the Sonoran hot dog, or potatoes, as with New Jersey’s Italian hot dog? It’s clear that hot dog recipes diversified quite a bit in the decades following the Great Depression; often based on the changing local tastes, cultures, and immigrant populations.
South (and North) Pacific Dogs
While it’s true that Los Angeles consumes more of this American meal than any other city, this classic treat isn’t specific to the continental United States. Hot dog recipes are frequent in Alaska and Hawaii, where they tend to get a bit more exciting. Alaskans, for instance, mix theirs with caribou meat.
Known the world over for being fans of Spam, Hawaiians often create sweet recipes with hot dogs, pairing them with sweet rolls and fruity sauces. The waffle dog is a much-beloved favorite of locals, and definitely worth a try.
One Topping to Rule Them All
According to a survey done by the NHDSC, there’s one topping that 71 percent of all Americans who eat hot dogs use: mustard. Perhaps surprisingly, ketchup is only used by a little more than half (52 percent) the American hot-dog-consuming population. Onions, chili, and relish fall closely behind. Perhaps their popularity is because those ingredients are included in so many of the classic, regional hot dog toppings of several cities and sections of the U.S.
There is a National Hot Dog Day every year when the North American Meat Institute hosts its celebration on Capitol Hill. This year, branch out and explore the regional hot dog styles across the U.S. and get creative!