While summer is still with us, let’s take a closer look not at how sausages are made, but how they are eaten.
SAUSAGE, PEPPER, AND ONION HOAGIES
A standard treat at any Italian-American festival, be it held in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, or elsewhere is the always-tempting sausage, pepper, and onion hoagie (or submarine, or grinder, or zep). Its simplicity assures that it will never go out of style. Get bread, grill the ingredients; put everything into the bread; eat. Order another.
The sausage roll is a favorite throughout the UK and parts of Europe; the type and quality of sausage, as with every kind of sausage snacksandwich, varies wildly, and you can’t always know what you’re getting until you take the first bite. The US version of this delight most often appears in the form of cocktail snacks, i.e. pigs in a blanket.
BREAKFAST SAUSAGE SANDWICHES
Breakfast sausage in the US generally comes in a standard diameter perfect for fitting onto buns, biscuits, or what have you ((and as with all sausages, can be eaten as is). Cream gravy adds an especially nice touch for those needing not to count their calories or track their cholesterol count, and it can always be eaten on the run. (We must point out, however, that some will always find the Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich preferable.)
THE MAXWELL STREET POLISH
Perhaps first served in 1939 by Macedonian immigrant Jimmy Stefanovic at his hot dog stand at Maxwell and Halstead, this sandwich, a Chicago specialty not as well known as the hot dog (we’re getting there) and theItalian beef, features a Chicago-specific grilled (or fried) Polish sausage somewhat similar to kielbasa, yellow mustard, grilled onions, and (often) pickled green peppers. Jim’s Original and the Express Grill, which serves up the Polish as well, stood next to each other until their original site was razed; at which point they both moved, and again stand side-by-side, continuing their fierce competition.
The Half Smoke is the variety of wiener-in-a-bun preferred in Washington, DC. Sometimes beef, sometimes pork, often half and half and almost always spicy, a Half Smoke is often steamed, and then served up with chili and onions. The Half Smoke served at Ben’s Original is considered top of the line.
WIENERS UP THE ARM
Especially popular in Rhode Island as a feature of the New York System, but also found elsewhere, “wieners up the arm” mean smaller-than-usual hot dogs made of veal and pork, lined up in a row along the counterperson’s forearm (sometimes as far up as the bicep) so that toppings (melted cheese, chili, onions etc.) can be added all at once. A key feature of the experience, of course, is the lagniappe added via the taste of the counterperson’s arm.
Everybody loves the basic Hot Dog! Well, many people do. Accordingly, every part of the US has a different style, when it comes to serving them up.
The dirty water dog, as they are colloquially known, has been a feature of the New York streetscape since the Great Depression and earlier. Boiled and then served plain, with mustard, or with sauerkraut by street vendors, the best hot dogs in the city are found either at Nathan’s, in Coney Island (where the ridiculously enjoyable hot dog eating contest takes place each summer) or, even better, at Papaya King.
LA holds its own with New York and Chicago when it comes to hot dogs. While the beloved Tail O’the Pup remains in storage, having been moved from its previous location in 2005 to make way for luxury condos which have yet to be built, the traditional Los Angeles chili dog can be enjoyed at Pink’s, Tommy’s, and many other places throughout the Southland.
In Detroit, the American Coney Island Hot Dog stand has since 1917 served up the local variant: a natural skin wiener with chili, mustard and sweet chopped onions served in a steamed bun. The depopulation of Detroit notwithstanding, the area still has 150 Coney Island-style hot dog stands, including both the original and, immediately next door, its closest competitor, Lafayette Coney Island.
The Chicago hot dog is often considered, (even by non-Chicagoans) an exemplar of what hot dogs should be; and though Doug Sohn the owner decided to shutter, Hot Doug’s will be until October 4 the place where the longest lines will be found. The basic Chicago Red Hot, available throughout the city with any number of subtle variations, generally employs an all-beef frankfurter, a poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, chopped white onion,glow-in-the-dark green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato, pickled peppers, and celery salt. Ketchup, with good reason, never enters into the picture — other ingredients sometimes do, depending on the inventiveness of the person behind the grill.
Bear in mind that it is nevertheless always possible to go overboard, when it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs.
So while summer’s still here — run, don’t walk to your nearest sausage-on-a-roll purveyor!