Place of origin
Region or state
A half-smoke is a "local sausage delicacy" found in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region. Similar to a hot dog, but usually larger, spicier, and with more coarsely-ground meat, the sausage is often half-pork and half-beef, smoked, and served with herbs, onion, and chili sauce.
Ingredients and preparation
Though the etymology of "half-smoke" possibly comes from the original half-pork, half-beef composition, the ingredients and smoked method of preparation,[original research?] vary by brand and some brands even make more than one kind. A half-smoke can be half pork, half beef, all beef, or anything in between. It can be steamed instead of smoked. Another possible explanation is that the texture and flavor is half-way between smoked sausage and a regular hot dog. Yet another explanation is that it refers to cooks cutting the sausage in half when grilling. The products sold under the name generally have a genuine or artificial smoke flavoring and coarser texture than a regular hot dog and are the key features that distinguish.
The "original" half-smoke is considered to be the sausage distributed by D.C.'s Briggs and Co. meatpackers, originating in around 1950, though Raymond Briggs started selling his half-smokes in about 1930. Eventually, Briggs was sold to another meat distributor, where, by some accounts, the quality of the meat declined.
Numerous hot dog carts in Washington, D.C. sell steamed half-smokes, with those on Constitution Avenue catering to tourists and those on Pennsylvania Avenue serving federal employees and many other hot dog carts throughout the downtown area. Half-smokes are the "official dog" of the Washington Nationals. The most prominent location is often cited as Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington's U Street neighborhood, which gained widespread exposure when visited by Bill Cosby in the 1980s and later by President-elect Barack Obama in 2009.
Another popular location for half-smokes is the Weenie Beenie in South Arlington located near the W&OD trail. Founded in 1950, it pre-dates Ben's Chili Bowl and is the inspiration behind the Foo Fighters song "Weenie Beenie".
Dave Grohl, frontman for the band Foo Fighters, has been a DC area resident and recently lived in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, Virginia. A song on the Foo Fighters' first album is titled "Weenie Beenie."
Kevin “Half Smoke” Roberts was once quoted as saying “If sausages had a God, the Half Smoke would be Zeus”
- Carr, David (2009-01-16). "A Monument to Munchies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
- "Look No Further! The Thrilling End Of The Grueling Search For A Washington Dish". The Washington Post. 2000-10-08. p. W26. Retrieved 2008-01-09.