Hot Dog Days of Summer

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Los Angeles, maybe surprisingly, is perched at the top of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s list of top-consuming cities. In 2016, we chowed down on more than 36 million pounds of hot dogs to edge out New York as the hot dog capital of the world. The assist goes to Dodger fans, who led the major leagues in hot dog consumption by downing 2.6 million Dodger Dogs at the stadium and another million at home. 

Dodger Dogs are ten inches of all pork, made by the Farmer John brand. But the most-consumed beef hot dog in the United States, Ball Park Franks, got its start in the late 1950s when the Detroit Tigers decided they wanted their own stadium hot dogs. 

In 2016, Americans consumed 20 billion hot dogs. Mostly with mustard. No surprise that more than one-third—7 billion—are consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day. July is National Hot Dog month, with two prime dog days: the Fourth of July and National Hot Dog Day, July 18. 

Hot dogs are America’s national sausage—our street food—fast and fun from the beginning. The first hot dog eating contest was in 1916, at Nathan’s Famous on the beach at Coney Island in New York. Now, hot dogs are ubiquitous across the country in convenience stores, like 7-Eleven’s signature roller-grilled Big Bite. Oscar Mayer makes the special blend, all beef dogs. But hot dog variations are ferociously local, and the toppings are very personal. In the 1990s, when Dodger chefs started steaming the dogs, fans called foul. Grilled for the win!

It was 1939 when Paul Pink started selling dogs from a pushcart in Hollywood. Maybe he was inspired by the famous picnic that President Roosevelt hosted at his home in Hyde Park, New York, for King George VI (Queen Elizabeth II’s father and predecessor) that same year. Paul Pink was certainly following a long line of street vendors in Los Angeles, going back to the nineteenth century, when the first laws were passed limiting the amount of time mobile vendors could remain in one place to three minutes. 

After World War II, in 1946, Pink’s erected the stand near the corner of La Brea and Melrose that they still occupy today. That same year, a 33-year-old man from Missouri, Dave Barham, opened his own hot dog stand on a Santa Monica beach. He dipped a dog into his mother’s cornbread batter, deep fried it, and gave it a handle: Hot Dog on a Stick, now spotted in malls all over the country. The company recently added Korea to its dozens of U.S. franchises. Pink’s only opened its second location about a decade ago and has continued to expand with new locations over the years, including Hawaii and the Philippines. 

At Pink’s original stand in our multiethnic city, there are dogs to soothe the homesick from Chicago, Brooklyn, Guadalajara, and more, not to mention the dogs named after celebrities—Ozzy Osbourne and Martha Stewart come to mind—and classic movies. Locals and tourists alike will wait in a line that often stretches around the block for these all beef dogs, custom-made by Hoffy in Los Angeles.

In March 2018, the Los Angeles City Council honored the hot dog business that started in a pushcart, grew to a brick and mortar, went global, and became a legend: they unanimously approved a motion to name the intersection of Melrose and La Brea ‘Pink’s Square.’ At Pink’s expense, the crosswalks will be painted pink. 

So, this summer, throw another hot dog on the grill and keep this American tradition going at home. As you reach for the mustard, don’t forget to grab some sunscreen for yourself.


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