A summer barbecue isn’t a barbecue without hot dogs on the menu. In fact, according to the Hot Dog Council, in 2018 Los Angeles residents ate 31 million pounds of hot dogs (just ahead of New York and Philadelphia). On the Fourth of July, 150 million hot dogs are eaten. Now that’s a lot of hot dogs! Have you ever wondered how they became so popular in the United States? We did and decided to find out.
History of the Hot Dog in the United States
Turns out there are a few stories about how hot dogs originated. Some say sausage was first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in the 9th Century B.C. Eventually, sausage traveled across Europe and ended up in Germany. Now, two towns claim to be the birthplace of hot dogs.
Frankfurt, Germany claims hot dogs were developed there in 1487. Vienna, Austria claims that they originated the hot dog with their wienerwurst. Hot dogs made their way to America in the 1860s where German immigrants began selling their sausages in New York City.
In 1867, Charles Feltman, a German immigrant and baker, opened Feltman’s Restaurant and Pavillion in Coney Island, NY. He began selling sausage on a bun to Brooklyn workers.
Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant, started working at Feltman’s in 1915. He saved his money and eventually opened his own hot dog stand as a competitor to Feltman’s. This stand would become Nathan’s Famous (home to the yearly hot dog eating contest since 1916).
Antonoine Feuchtwanger began selling hot sausages on the streets of St. Louis in 1880. He would give gloves to people to protect their hands from the hot sausages. That became cost prohibitive and he began to start selling them in a soft roll (or bun) and sold them as red hots.
No one knows exactly when the sausages began to be known as hot dogs, but the first references to them are found in a college magazine from the 1890s. At Yale University, students called the wagons that sold hot sausages “dog wagons.” Quickly, hot sausages began to be called hot dogs.
Since then, hot dogs have only become more and more popular with many cities having their own version.
A Chicago Dog is a beef hot dog steamed with fresh tomato, pickle spear, hot peppers, sweet onion, green relish and yellow mustard on a poppy seed bun.
If you’re in Cincinnati, a Cincinnati Coney with Cheese is a beef hot dog grilled or steamed with Cincinnati chili and grated cheddar cheese.
The Dodger Dog, popular in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, is a 10-inch pork hot dog grilled with mustard and/or relish in a steamed bun.
When visiting New York City, order a New York Style hot dog from a street vendor. You’ll get a beef hot dog steamed with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut in a steamed bun.
We’ve put together a hot dog infographic that will give you the down low on hot dogs across America.
Blue Ribbon Hot Dog Recipes
Amp up your hot dog game this summer with some of these Blue Ribbon recipes.