By Kent Whitaker

The Great American Grilled hotdog is all grown up! In fact, the classic weenie is not really all that American! Hot dogs, and other sausage style items eaten on a fluffy bun, have international roots! And, hot dogs vary as you travel across the country!

Consumers have demanded specialized “dogs” for regional tastes. There’s the famous Chicago Dog, the Fenway Frank and even versions for West Virginia, Tennessee and more. Granted, a good amount of the difference is what toppings you put on your dog but don’t forget… you can have bratwursts, sausages, Chorizo’s and many other varieties.

The options are endless as differences in consumer tastes change as you travel from the East coast to the South, the Midwest, Southwest on out to California. Even professional sports venues, such as tracks in NASCAR, baseball and football stadiums cater to their local cliental. Chefs and menu planners at these venues are always looking for ways to impress their customers with new takes on hot dogs, bratwursts, and sausages.

Martinsville Speedway caused a stir in the world of NASCAR when news spread about a change in suppliers for their famous “Martinsville Hot Dog.” Fenway Park, a baseball stadium in Major League Baseball, has long been known for their “Fenway Frank.” Don’t forget the menu options when you start including food trucks, specialized restaurants, and of course on back yard grills.

Some Dog Gone History!

Before I start naming regional versions of links served up on a bun I think some information about the history of the hot dog is in order. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDASC) the history of the term “hot dog” is not clear. Legends about the name are far ranging. Here’s the official explanation from the pros!

The name “hot dog” is often attributed to cartoonist who observed the carts selling “red hot dachshund dogs” on the New York Polo grounds and was unable to spell dachshund, so he printed “hot dogs” instead. However, this cartoon has not been found, prompting many historians to question the legend’s accuracy. The immigrant vendors of the time also brought their dachshund dogs, prompting their carts to be called dog wagons. Possessing good humor, these vendors were known to tease that their sausages were made from their dachshunds. Certainly, this was nothing more than a friendly joke, but this may be where the term “hot dog” was coined.  – Source: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council

That’s fine for figuring out where the name came from but here’s the fun part. According to the NHDASC, modern hot dogs trace their origin in the United states to the 1800’s as talked about above. But, the tasty treats date as far back as the 15th century!

People living in Germany and Austria were becoming skilled at making all kinds of link style sausages. Hence the names Frankfurt, Franks and even Vienna sausages. The List is impressive. But, other forgotten foodies in other parts of the world were getting into the game as well.

Worldly Options for your Taste Buds

  • Andouille Sausage –Cajun and Creole cooking with roots in French cooking.
  • Bangers – My niece in Ireland introduced our family to the Banger! Think sausage in various forms with mild spices and cereal type fillers.
  • Bologna – Roots in Italy and Germany – Cured beef and pork that is ground and with seasonings.
  • Chorizo – Thank you Spain! Now a Tex-Mex favorite! Made from smoked meat with spices.
  • Hotdogs – An American style hot dog is a cooked sausage style link which can be made from a variety of meats and fillers with or without a skin. They can also be made using vegetables for a vegetarian diet. Hotdogs are also known by the names; Dogs, Franks, Wieners, Weenies, Frankfurters, Frankfurts, franks, and more including the term “tube steak.”
  • Bratwurst – German roots – A sausage made from minced pork and beef with spices. They are
  • Knackwurst – You can call it a Knackwurst or a Knockwurst! Regardless, they are mostly made with beef, or smoked beef, and spices including garlic. They are most often shorter and fatter than other link type sausages. Also, often not as spicy as a bratwurst.
  • Smoked Sausage – Just about any link sausage can become a smoked sausage in the true sense of the word. A smoked sausage is any linked sausage that has been cured with the use of wood smoke. Some are fully cooked, and some are just smoked.
  • Kielbasa – A Kielbasa is a linked sausage with roots in Poland and is also commonly called a Polish Sausage. Ground pork and beef seasoned with garlic and other spices.
  • Vienna Sausage –The Vienna sausage is a version of short, fine textured, sausages from countries such as Austria. Made from minced meat with mild spices.

A Few Regional Favorites

  • Fenway Frank – Fenway Stadium, Boston. Mustard, sauerkraut are the basics.
  • Chicago Dog – Chicago, Illinois: Includes mustard, tomato, pickle slice, sport pepper and more on a Poppy seed bun.
  • Martinsville Dog – Martinsville Speedway Virginia. “Fully-loaded” dog comes with chili, slaw, mustard and onions on a steamed bun.
  • Tennessee Dog – Beef or Pork hot dog – or smoked sausage. Topped with barbecue pulled pork, slaw and barbecue sauce.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers Dog – Dodgers Stadium California. Said to be as “Long as your fore arm!” A footlong hot dog one a steamed bun topped with yellow mustard and relish.

 Those are only a few, if you have a favorite hot dog, or any link served up on a bun, that’s popular in your area be sure to let us know in the comments!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called ‘the Deck Chef,’ is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. Look for him, and his “Deck Chef” approved recipes, online!

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