LONDON STREET FOOD, 1 METER LONG HOT DOG IN CAMDEN TOWN MARKET, LONDON STREET FOOD, A hot dog (also spelled hotdog), also known as a frankfurter (sometimes shortened to frank) or wiener, is a cooked sausage, traditionally grilled or steamed and served in a partially sliced bun. Typical garnishes include mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish, coleslaw, cheese, chili, olives, and sauerkraut. Hot dog variants include the corn dog and pig in a blanket. The hot dog’s cultural traditions include the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
This type of sausage was culturally imported from Germany and popularized in the United States, where it became a working-class street food sold at hot dog stands and carts. The hot dog became closely associated with baseball and American culture. Hot dog preparation and condiments vary regionally in the US. Although particularly connected with New York City and New York City cuisine, the hot dog became ubiquitous throughout the US during the 20th century, and emerged as an important part of some regional cuisines (notably Chicago street cuisine). Claims about hot dog invention are difficult to assess, as stories assert the creation of the sausage, the placing of the sausage (or another kind of sausage) on bread or a bun as finger food, the popularization of the existing dish, or the application of the name “hot dog” to a sausage and bun combination most commonly used with ketchup or mustard and sometimes relish.
The word “frankfurter” comes from Frankfurt, Germany, where pork sausages similar to hot dogs originated. These sausages, Frankfurter Würstchen, were known since the 13th century and given to the people on the event of imperial coronations, starting with the coronation of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor as King. “Wiener” refers to Vienna, Austria, whose German name is “Wien”, home to a sausage made of a mixture of pork and beef. Johann Georg Lahner, an 18th/19th century butcher from the Franconian city of Coburg, is said to have brought the Frankfurter Würstchen to Vienna, where he added beef to the mixture and simply called it Frankfurter. Nowadays, in German-speaking countries, except Austria, hot dog sausages are called Wiener or Wiener Würstchen (Würstchen means “little sausage”), in differentiation to the original pork-only mixture from Frankfurt. In Swiss German, it is called Wienerli, while in Austria the terms Frankfurter or Frankfurter Würstel are used.
Carts selling frankfurters in New York City, circa 1906. The price is listed as “3 cents each or 2 for 5 cents”.
Others are credited with first serving hot dogs on rolls. A German immigrant named Feuchtwanger, from Frankfurt, in Hesse, allegedly pioneered the practice in the American midwest; there are several versions of the story with varying details. According to one account, Feuchtwanger’s wife proposed the use of a bun in 1880: Feuchtwanger sold hot dogs on the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, and provided gloves to his customers so that they could handle the sausages without burning their hands. Losing money when customers did not return the gloves, Feuchtwanger’s wife suggested serving the sausages in a roll instead. In another version, Antoine Feuchtwanger, or Anton Ludwig Feuchtwanger, served sausages in rolls at the World’s Fair – either at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, or, earlier, at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, in Chicago – again, allegedly because the white gloves provided to customers to protect their hands were being kept as souvenirs.
Another possible origin for serving the sausages in rolls is the pieman Charles Feltman, at Coney Island in New York City. In 1867 he had a cart made with a stove on which to boil sausages, and a compartment to keep buns fresh in which they were served. In 1871 he leased land to build a permanent restaurant, and the business grew, selling far more than just the ‘Coney Island Red Hots’ as they were known.
In 1916, a Polish American employee of Feltman’s named Nathan Handwerker was encouraged by Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante, both working as waiters/musicians, to go into business in competition with his former employer. Handwerker undercut Feltman’s by charging five cents for a hot dog when his former employer was charging ten.
At an earlier time in food regulation, when the hot dog was suspect, Handwerker made sure that men wearing surgeon’s smocks were seen eating at Nathan’s Famous to reassure potential customers.