Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes

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Michael Hoffman
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2009/04/23 15:07:10 (permalink)

Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes

I'd really appreciate it of someone could please explain what a half-smoke might be. I've read about half-smokes at that place in D.C., (Somebody's Chili Bowl?) and now this -- and I've never seen an explanation.
 
Thanks in advance.
#1

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    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 15:36:42 (permalink)
    Michael, I've never seen a definitive explanation either.  Yes, it's a fat, spicy hot dog, and it goes by the name half-smoke only in and around D.C.  What I wonder is this: is half-smoke just the D.C. name for something that is served all over the country?  I wish I could remember where I read this, but I thought I once read somewhere (somewhere with enough authority that I was convinced) that half-smokes are the exact same sausage as the things sold from NYC street carts as "hot sausage."

    So is that correct, or is it really a unique local sausage?  Or is it really the preparation style that makes it a half-smoke?  And where did the name half-smoke come from?  What's needed is a D.C. version of John Fox to get the real story.
    #2
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 15:49:43 (permalink)
    Is the world ready for any other version of a John Fox?
    #3
    DLnWPBrown
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 15:56:14 (permalink)
     According to wikipedia it is a spicier larger version of a hot dog served in the DC area.


    Dennis in Cary
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    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 15:56:58 (permalink)
    Every city should have a John Fox.  Maybe he should look into franchising.
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    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 16:02:30 (permalink)
    If he franchised, would he still be allowed to post here, or would his comments be relegated to the fast-food section?
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    MiamiDon
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 17:06:59 (permalink)
    Some excerpts from the Wiki footnote links:

    Virginia Ali [of Ben's Chili Bowl] confirms that the Briggs half-smoke was the half-smoke she and Ben knew when they opened their doors in 1958. A sign heralding Briggs hot dogs and half-smokes hung in their window.
     
    This “original” half-smoke was no emulsified dirty-water dog. It was a high-quality sausage made up of coarsely ground pork and beef—the kind of heterogeneous texture that assured you your frank came from actual animals rather than a technologically enhanced paste. Augmented with precious few additives, it came smoked and enclosed in a natural casing that snapped on the first bite. It was meant to be grilled.


    ... Ben’s [Chili Bowl] half-smoke remains unimpeachable. It doesn’t come cheap—$4.55 on its own, with or without chili, which is costlier than even the hamburger—but when it comes to sausage, you get what you pay for. Ben’s version has everything a good half-smoke requires: the snap that comes with a bite, courtesy of a natural hog casing (“that pop,” as Virginia Ali likes to say); the coarsely ground pork and beef insides, bound just tightly enough to hang together but not so tightly as to make the link stiff; and, finally, just enough kick to remind you where you are and exactly what you’re eating.
    post edited by MiamiDon - 2009/04/24 08:10:41
    #7
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 17:50:37 (permalink)
    Bruce Bilmes and Sue Boyle

    Every city should have a John Fox.  Maybe he should look into franchising.



    #8
    Greymo
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 18:45:42 (permalink)
    I have had the half smokes and they are not a type of hot sausage.  They are a very delicious hot dog type sausage.  I understand that the ones served at Ben's  in DC  are made just for him.
     
    I just read that he plans on offering them for sale  online  so here is everyone's chance to try them.
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    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 19:02:25 (permalink)
    Just to be clear, for those not familiar with NYC hot dog carts, the thing that's called "hot sausage" at those carts is also a hot-dog-type sausage, fatter than a hot dog and spicier.

    Ben's may really have them made special for him, but the John Fox twist is this: a lot of places in NYC famous for their hot dogs claim that they too have their dogs made specially for them, and John Fox's sleuthing has shown that to be untrue in, I think, every case (the papaya places, Katz's, ...).
    #10
    Greymo
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/23 22:08:36 (permalink)
    Thank  you for that information.  I have never had  a "hot sausage" from a cart in NYC.  I only know of the term being used for Italian sausage.

    #11
    John Fox
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/24 06:49:16 (permalink)
    I've never had a half smoke from Ben's in DC. Two people from Maryland who have been to Ben's and attended one of the New Jersey Hot Dog Tours also described them as a hot dog type sausage. As Bruce and Sue posted, they are fatter than a hot dog and spicier.
     
    Best Provisions in Newark, N.J. and Sabrett make these. I've had one from Best and didn't like it. It was much too spicy for me. If you like real spicy, you might like these. People who frequent Ben's do. Ben's also serves a regular hot dog. From what I've heard from my friends in Maryland, the chili at Ben's is very spicy as well. Much more so than what we have in Jersey.
     
    The great majority of people who claim that their dogs are made special for them are lying. Sorry, but there is no other way to say it. In some cases I have first hand knowledge. But there are places who DO get special recipe dogs. And I am familiar with some of these places. One such place, the Galloping Hill Inn, which is a popular hot dog joint about a mile down the street from me sells over 1000 hot dogs a day. Years ago they got their franks from a butcher shop. When the shop was sold, they took the recipe and looked for a commercial meat producer to make it for them. Since the place goes through so many dogs, there were more than a few companies trying to get the contract. They were all willing to make the special recipe. The owners of the Galloping Hill Inn eventually settled on Grote & Weigel from Bloomfield Conn.

    Sometimes I hear from someone where a particular place gets their hot dogs from. It may or may not be true and unless I can confirm it, I'll only mention what I heard and not state it as fact. What I posted about the New York places is absolute fact.

    As for Ben's, someone told me a few years ago that their half smokes were from Sabrett. I mentioned this on a forum (maybe here?) and someone else pointed me to a link where there was an article about Ben's. One of the owners mentioned a place in Maryland that provides Ben's with their half smokes. I can't remember all the details, but I think the owner claimed that their original supplier either went out of business or stopped making the half smokes, so they had to switch suppliers. He also claimed that they are made specially for him. It may or may not be true. I don't know. But from what I've read, my guess would be that they do get their sausages and franks from a local company rather than Sabrett. I'll try to find the article.
    #12
    Michael Stern
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/24 06:58:47 (permalink)
    Excerpt from forthcoming 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: "No one can say for sure whether its name comes from the fact that it is only lightly smoked (halfway) or because it is a half-and-half mix of beef and pork or because, in some hash houses, it is split in half before getting griddled." The only place I know that splits them is Weenie Beenie in Arlington, VA.
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    douginvirginia
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/24 07:10:30 (permalink)
    Here is a link to the definitive half smoke story.

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=561


    I am a DC area native - now exile - who has eaten hundreds of these. Ben's is the only place still serving the real thing. Weenie Beanie, which was owned by my friend's dad and uncle, still offers something close but it's not the same.

    The dirty water cart things, which I believe are Sabretts, are nowhere near the same sausage.  
    #14
    John Fox
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/04/24 15:17:41 (permalink)
    Thanks for the link. I think that's the article I read sometime back. I remember hearing about Briggs and Weenie Beanie.
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    Tailor
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    Re:Today's Restaurant -- Half-Smokes 2009/05/13 17:59:41 (permalink)
    Michael Stern

    Excerpt from forthcoming 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: "No one can say for sure whether its name comes from the fact that it is only lightly smoked (halfway) or because it is a half-and-half mix of beef and pork or because, in some hash houses, it is split in half before getting griddled." The only place I know that splits them is Weenie Beenie in Arlington, VA.


      Bens is happy to split and grill em for you  all you have to do is ask for it to be "well done"  it is my preferred way to eat them there    not exactly sure   what it is  but a half smoke sure is tasty just the right amount of spice  and snap.  when  well done properly there the inside gets  nice and crisp and adds another flavor dimension.
     
    #16
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