First, Some History
According to theHotDog.org, hot dogs are a kind of sausage, which may date back to the 7th century BCE, when Homer mentioned a sausage in his epic poem The Odyssey. Centuries later, around 64 CE, Emperor Nero’s cook Gaius starred in a sausage legend of his own, when it is said that he “discovered” them.
As time rolled on, Europeans embraced sausages in their cuisine, particularly across Germany. The Germans created hundreds of versions of sausages to pair with kraut and beer. Two different European towns now claim to be the birthplace of the hot dog: Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
Frankfurt (officially Frankfurt am Main) claims that the hot dog was invented there in 1487, pointing to the word frankfurter as proof of the hot dog’s roots in the city.
Rather than dating the hot dog to five years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, however, the city of Vienna claims that the hot dog began there in the late 19th century. According to Vienna (Wien in German, hence the name wiener or wienerwurst), Austro-Hungarians Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany lived there when they invented the hot dog. The pair then went on to sell their creation at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Even if Reichel and Ladany were not the first to invent the hot dog, they probably were the first to invent the Chicago-style hot dog, with its signature toppings of bright green relish, dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled peppers, and celery salt. Reichel and Ladany are the cofounders of Vienna Beef, the Chicago-based hot dog manufacturer that remains at the heart of the city’s cuisine even today, over a century since it began. (See recipe below.)
How did hot dogs arrive in America?
As Europeans came to the United States throughout the late 19th century, sausage vending became a relatively inexpensive startup business for upwardly mobile immigrants. Sausage carts were a fixture of urban life. Street peddlers provided much of the everyday food the less affluent public consumed at the turn of the century. Their wares were not only convenient and inexpensive, but they may also have been a wise choice. Hawkers, after all, got their food straight from the wholesale markets and had no means to store it overnight.
We have more history and trivia below, but let’s jump to the hot dogs and recipes first!
Regional Hot Dog Interpretations
Regional hot dog styles are an intriguing lot, often drawing on local traditions and reflecting the population and history of each area. Did you know that a Seattle area hot dog will often be prepared with cream cheese as one of the condiments? Or that it is practically illegal to add ketchup to a hot dog in Chicago? Each style has a passionate following, but at the end of the day, what is most important is that each one is delicious in its own way.
We decided to explore some classics this week and add one less common German-inspired option to our collection.
As mentioned above, this is one of the true American originals. This Windy City classic is a big favorite with sports fans. The frank must be all-beef, the bun must be poppy seed, and the ingredients must be piled onto the bun in the order specified. And whatever you do, don’t spoil the splendor of this Chicago dog with ketchup!
New York Hot Dog
The smell of sautéed onions and sauerkraut near every New York City pushcart draws you in and you can’t resist trying one. Unlike your typical hot dog topped with ketchup and mustard, the New York Hot Dog is topped with sauerkraut, onion sauce, and spicy brown mustard. To say it’s packed full of flavor is an understatement!
Detroit-Style Coney Dog
North of Chicago and its signature style, Detroit knows and loves their own spin on the hot dog. Topped with chili, mustard, and raw onion, your taste buds will thank you for this tasty frank.
Currywurst or Curry-Style Dog
Our final interpretation of the hot dog comes to us from Germany. Currywurst is a fast food dish of German origin consisting of steamed, fried sausage, usually pork, typically cut into bite-sized chunks and seasoned with curry ketchup, a sauce based on spiced ketchup or tomato paste topped with curry powder, or a ready-made ketchup seasoned with curry and other spices. The dish is often served with french fries.
Per Wikipedia, the invention of Currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer in Berlin in 1949, after she obtained ketchup, or possibly Worcestershire sauce, and curry powder from British soldiers in Germany. She mixed these ingredients with other spices and poured it over grilled pork.
Today, Currywurst is often sold as a take-out food or as a street food and served with fries or a roll. It is popular all over Germany, but especially in the Berlin, Hamburg, and the Ruhr Area.
Our recipe takes the flavors of Currywurst and brings them to a classic hot dog for a delicious interpretation of this dish.
For the Kids!
If all of these spicy, exotic hot dog creations sound like more than some people in your life might want to tackle, we have you covered! How about this take on Pigs in a Blanket, or this Mac and Cheese Dog Casserole, or maybe this Hot Dog Spaghetti? Bring on the tasty fun and more ways to celebrate the simple wonder of the frankfurter!
More Hot Dog Trivia
What is the difference between sausages and hot dogs?
Sausage is a broad term that can describe any ground meat encased with herbs and spices. Casings may be either natural or synthetic. Hot dogs are a type of sausage. The meat in a hot dog is more finely ground than the meat in a sausage, giving the hot dog a smoother texture. The spice mix in a hot dog is generally milder than in a sausage.
Who introduced the hot dog bun?
The bun is an essential part of most hot dog consumption, as we know, and it has its own history. On this topic, too, there is controversy. Because street-meat vendors walked every city block in the late 1800s, it’s hard to know who did what first.
According to one myth, the hot dog roll was introduced around 1880, when German peddler Antoine Feuchtwanger sold hot sausages on the streets of St. Louis, Missouri. Allegedly, Feuchtwanger’s wife suggested putting the sausages on a split bun to avoid greasy fingers, calling on her brother (a baker), to improvise a long, soft roll to cradle the hot sausages. As the story goes, the concessionaire then went on to sell them at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and voilà! The hot dog bun was born. Unfortunately, the timing of this myth does not stand up against other known bun sightings.
A stronger theory is that buns originated in Coney Island.
Around 1867, Charles Feltman opened what may have been the first hot dog cart on Coney Island. Originally from Hannover, Germany, Feltman owned a pie-wagon that delivered to Coney Island inns and saloons. Customers hoped the baker would add hot sandwiches to his offerings, but the wagon was too small to accommodate the variety of ingredients. Feltman thought something simple like a sausage on a roll could serve as a hot lunch option.
Feltman consulted with the wheel-wright who had built the original pie-wagon. The wheel-wright modified the wagon to keep the rolls fresh and allow boiling sausages. According to great-grandson Charles Robert Feltman, Feltman’s bakery sold 3,684 pork sausages on a bun in its first year. But there is little actual evidence that this happened!
Meanwhile, another Coney Island baker likely played a key role in inventing the hot dog bun. Ignatz Frischman arrived in New York from Austria before 1850. According to his 1904 New York Times obituary, Frischman “observed that the crowds [at Coney Island]… displayed a fondness for frankfurter sandwiches. In those days the frankfurter was served to the hungry pleasure seekers between two slices of bread. It occurred to Mr. Frishman that it would be more delectable tucked in the depths of a Vienna roll of special size.”
The pioneering baker “sold to the frankfurter men in small quantities for a while, and at a small profit, until they became the only means by which the frankfurter could be sold,” wrote the Iola Daily Record. The Brooklyn Daily Times said, “when Frischman opened his modest little bakery and started the manufacture of a certain oblong roll that the frankfurter men needed in their business, ‘Coney’ sprang into the limelight… Visitors to Coney Island did not feel as though they had ‘done’ the resort thoroughly without devouring a hot ‘frankfurter and….’
So, with all of this newfound knowledge and appreciation for its complex history, we hope you will join us in celebrating the “Hot Dog” days of summer with a trip to Oliver’s. Grab your favorite dogs and all the tasty accompaniments, fire up the grill, and sink your teeth into one – or more — of these delicious creations!