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Chili half smoke Bens.jpg
Chili half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl
Course Main course
Place of origin United States
Region or state Washington, D.C.
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Pork, beef
Cookbook: Half-smoke  Media: Half-smoke

A half-smoke is a "local sausage delicacy"[1] 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[edit]

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.[2] Another possible explanation is that the texture and flavor is halfway 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.[3]


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.[3]


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 and many other hot dog carts throughout the downtown area serving federal employees . Half-smokes are the "official dog" of the Washington Nationals.[4] 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.[1]

Another popular location for half-smokes is the Weenie Beenie in South Arlington, Virginia, located near the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park trail. Founded in 1950, it pre-dates Ben's Chili Bowl.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carr, David (2009-01-16). "A Monument to Munchies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  2. ^ "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. [dead link]
  3. ^ "The New Nationals Dog: Washington D.C.'s Half Smoke". seriouseats.com. Retrieved 26 July 2015.