The History of Hot Dogs: A Journey from Street Food to American Icon

The History of Hot Dogs: A Journey from Street Food to American Icon
Posted on May 2nd, 2023

Hot dogs have become an iconic American food, enjoyed at ball games, cookouts, and family gatherings across the nation. But where did this delicious street food originate, and how did it become such a beloved staple in American cuisine? In this blog post, we'll explore the history of hot dogs and their journey from humble street food to a true American icon. 

As you learn about the evolution of this classic snack, we invite you to experience the delectable taste of Charlie's Hot Dogs in Yonkers, New York, where we specialize in hot dogs, chili dogs, and All-American Sabrett dogs.

The European Roots

The captivating history of the hot dog has its roots firmly planted in European culinary traditions, where sausages have been held in high esteem for centuries. Many food historians argue that the hot dog's most direct ancestor, the frankfurter, can be traced back to the city of Frankfurt, Germany, as early as the 13th century. These succulent sausages were expertly crafted from a well-balanced blend of pork and beef and were often served with bread to create a filling and portable meal.

Meanwhile, the gastronomic scene in Vienna, Austria, saw the birth of a similar sausage known as the "wiener." The Viennese iteration featured a delectable combination of pork and beef or veal, offering a nuanced flavor profile that distinguished it from its German cousin. Both frankfurters and wieners were traditionally smoked and prepared using natural casings, which contributed to their distinct taste and texture.

These European sausage varieties soon gained immense popularity as they spread throughout the continent, becoming integral components of various regional cuisines. In Germany and Austria, they were typically enjoyed at local pubs and beer gardens, where they were served with a side of mustard and accompanied by a refreshing pint of beer.

The Arrival in America

As European immigrants came to the United States in the 19th century, they brought their sausage-making traditions with them. German immigrants, in particular, played a significant role in popularizing sausages in America. They began selling their sausages from street carts, often accompanied by a bun, making them an easy and affordable meal for busy workers in urban areas.

One of the earliest recorded instances of sausages being sold in buns dates back to the 1860s, when a German immigrant named Charles Feltman began selling them on Coney Island. Feltman's sausages became so popular that he eventually opened a restaurant, where he continued to serve his famous frankfurters in a bun.

The name "Hot Dog"

The exact origin of the term "hot dog" is a subject of debate among food historians. One popular theory suggests that the name was coined by a cartoonist named T.A. Dorgan in 1901. Dorgan attended a baseball game at the New York Polo Grounds, where sausages in buns were being sold as "dachshund sandwiches." Inspired by the sausage's resemblance to the long, slender dog breed, Dorgan drew a cartoon depicting a dachshund nestled in a bun with the caption "Get your hot dogs!"

The Hot Dog's Rise to Fame

By the early 20th century, hot dogs had become a staple at baseball games, amusement parks, and fairs across the United States. Their popularity grew even further during World War I, when they were served to American soldiers overseas as a taste of home. Hot dogs soon became associated with American culture and patriotism, and their consumption soared.

During the Great Depression, hot dogs were an affordable meal option for many struggling Americans. In the 1930s, the famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest was established on Coney Island, further cementing the hot dog's status as an American icon. Today, this annual event draws competitors from around the world and is broadcast on national television.

The modern hot dog

Over the years, the hot dog has evolved to accommodate regional tastes and preferences. In Chicago, for example, hot dogs are traditionally served with a variety of toppings, including yellow mustard, chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. Meanwhile, in the South, the chili dog—a hot dog topped with chili, cheese, and onions—has become a popular variation.

The All-American Sabrett Dog

The All-American Sabrett Dog, which we proudly serve at Charlie's Hot Dogs, is another beloved variation. Sabrett, a New York-based company, is known for its high-quality, all-beef franks, which boast a distinct flavor and natural casing that provides a satisfying snap with every bite. A Sabrett dog is often topped with onions in a sweet tomato sauce, yellow mustard, and sauerkraut, giving it a true taste of New York.

The Hot Dog's Cultural Impact

The hot dog's widespread popularity has led to its presence in various aspects of American culture. It has been featured in countless movies, television shows, and songs, further solidifying its status as an American icon. Hot dog stands and food trucks, like Charlie's Hot Dogs in Yonkers, have become gathering spots for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy this beloved food.

In addition, the hot dog has inspired a range of culinary creations, from gourmet versions featuring unique toppings and artisanal buns to vegetarian and vegan alternatives. Chefs and food enthusiasts have found countless ways to put their spin on this classic dish, ensuring that its popularity endures.


The history of the hot dog is a fascinating journey, revealing how this humble street food has become an unmistakable symbol of American culture. From its European roots to its rise as an American icon, the hot dog's story is a testament to the power of food to bring people together and create lasting memories.

At Charlie's Hot Dogs in Yonkers, New York, we celebrate the rich history of the hot dog by offering delicious, high-quality hot dogs, chili dogs, and All-American Sabrett dogs. We invite you to join us in savoring the incredible taste of these iconic foods as you become a part of the hot dog's enduring story.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please don't hesitate to reach out at (914) 319-1535. We look forward to serving you the best hot dogs in town and sharing our passion for this beloved American classic with you.

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