Know your red hot trivia
By Leah A. Zeldes July 19, 2012 5:04PM
Mark Shainwald, manager of Romanian Kosher Sausage Co., 7200 N. Clark, shows off the company’s signature kosher hot dogs. National Hot Dog Day is July 23. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times File
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:04AM
Chicagoans celebrate hot dogs every day, but Monday is National Hot Dog Day, so wieners deserve special attention. Here are 10 red-hot facts about America’s favorite franks:
1. Big business: Americans bought more than 700 million packages of hot dogs last year, spending $1.7 billion, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
2. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we’ll consume 7 billion franks — or 818 every second. On July 4 alone, the council estimates, we gobbled about 150 million wieners, enough to stretch from coast to coast more than five times.
3. Hot dogs go with baseball. Major league fans bought some 21.3 million hot dogs at ballparks last season. Some 984,000 hot dogs are expected to be consumed at Wrigley Field in 2012, according to concessionaires Levy Restaurants.
4. Frank politics: Vice President Nelson Rockefeller once said, “No candidate for any office can hope to get elected in this country without being photographed eating a hot dog.” In 1860, Chicago’s David Berg hot dogs featured at the Republican National Convention held here, which nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. President Franklin Roosevelt served franks and beer to the visiting King George VI of England in 1939. Two years ago, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin arranged for Mike Payne, owner of Byron’s Hot Dogs, to make Chicago-style hot dogs for the annual congressional picnic at the White House.
5. Beef is big: 60 percent of consumers, especially older Americans, said they preferred all-beef hot dogs in the Hot Dog Council’s 2011 survey of hot dog and sausage consumption. Younger consumers are more likely to enjoy pork and chicken wieners.
6. Know your wiener: Most hot dogs are “skinless,” made by extruding the meat into cellulose or plastic wrappers that are removed after cooking, a process invented by Chicagoan Erwin O. Freund in 1925. Connoisseurs, however, prefer snappier dogs stuffed into natural casings — usually sheep gut.
7. Bigger dogs: Foot-long hot dogs were invented in the 1930s by George Schmidt, proprietor of Riverview Park, an amusement park at 3300 N. Western Ave. But franks got bigger still. World’s longest wiener: 1,996 feet long, created by Downers Grove-based Sara Lee (now Hillshire Brands Co.) for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Biggest Chicago dog: 6 feet long and 681 pounds in a 100-pound poppyseed bun slathered with 2 gallons of mustard, produced by David Berg in 1978. (Needless to say, it wasn’t natural-casing.)
Largest frank on the market: The Big Hot Dog sold by Chicago’s Gorilla Tango
Novelty Meats (www.bighotdog.com). It weighs 7 pounds, measures 16 inches long and 4 inches around, serves 40 and costs $70.
8. Flying franks: Travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport eat some 725,000 hot dogs a year, six times more than Los Angeles International Airport and LaGuardia Airport combined.
9. Indie wieners: There is no national hot dog restaurant chain. Red hots are regional. Chicago and its suburbs boast about 1,800 hot dog stands, according to Mark Reitman, founder and chief instructor of Hot Dog University at Vienna Beef, more than all the local McDonald’s and Burger King outlets put together.
10. Diverse dogs: We all know the dragged-through-the-garden Chicago-style, which piles on yellow mustard, chopped onion, neon-green relish, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt, all tucked into a poppyseed bun. No ketchup. Even the president agrees. “You shouldn’t put ketchup on your hot dog,” Barack Obama said while lunching with the mayor of Toledo, Ohio, last year.
Local freelance writer Leah A. Zeldes has visited more than 200 area hot dog stands.