Entry in progress—B.P.
A half-smoke is a type of sausage found in the United States capital of Washington, D.C., and the surrounding region. A half-smoke is similar to a regular hot dog, but slightly larger, spicier and with more coarsely ground meat; it is usually grilled but can be found steamed.
Ingredients and preparation
A half-smoke is commonly made of beef, pork or a combination of the two, and is served on a hot dog bun. Due to their size, they are often mistaken for the Polish sausage kielbasa.
The etymology of “half-smoke” is unclear as the sausage is not always smoked. One possible explanation is that many places cut the sausage in half when grilling, or that many half-smokes are 50/50 beef and pork (though 100% beef half-smokes are common).
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 circa 1930. Eventually Briggs was sold to another meat distributor, where the quality of the meat eroded.
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 formerly a long row of vendors serving half-smokes to baseball fans on East Capitol Street outside RFK Stadium.
(Dictionary of American Regional English)
half-smoke n Also half-smoker chiefly sNJ
1968 DARE (Qu.H40, A small sausage that is put into a long roll or bun to make a sandwich) Infs NJ15, 18, 21, 32, 40, 53, PA 88, Half-smoke; NJ21, Half-smoker, just enough [smoke] to flavor.
1987 DARE File DC, A half-smoke is larger and spicier than a hot dog, but it’s also served in a long bun. There are carts on the street corners in Washington, and also in Philadelphia, where they are sold.
8 March 1862, Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 2 ad:
Best quality Sugar cured Smoked Hams and Smoked Shoulders, prime kettle rendered Leaf Lard, Extra Mess Pork, Bacon, Smoked Beef, Bologna Sausages, half smokes, &c.
(Union Pork House—ed.)
18 February 1889, St. Paul (MN) Daily Globe, pg. 1, col. 3:
ATE POISONED SAUSAGE.
Half-Smoked Sausage Kills Two Children.
PHILADELPHIA, Fe. 17.—Last Tuesday evening one of the children of Auggust Pemmson was sent to a neighboring butcher shop for some meat and was given a piece of Vienna or half-smoked sausage, of which she and two of her sisters ate qite heartily.
Dauphin County reports, Volume 1
By Dauphin County Bar Association
Half smoked sausages are composed of beef, pork and veal, and are smoked and boiled for a shorter period than bologna sausage. Fresh sausages are made of ...
6 September 1899, Printers’ Ink, pg. 16, col. 2:
BILLY, THE DOG MAN.
A correspondent writes: “Billy, the Dog Man,” is one of the best advertised men in New Haven, Conn. Billy is the pioneer of the lunch-wagon business in the college city. Billy’s sobriquet is the appreciation by Yale men of the fact that there are other kinds of meat used in weinerwursts besides beef. Billy has met the humorous college element more than half way by inscribing on his numerous wagons the following sign:
YALE KENNEL CLUB
Billy’s wagons are gorgeously painted affairs, the foundation color being Yale blue. Upon it are panels bordered in red and green and yellow, representing all manner of dogs. Stained glass windows ornament the front ends, with dogs’ heads asthe chief decorative subject. As if to further advertise his “half-smokes,” Billy’s largest wagon has attached a sleek and obese black dog. This dog is always in evidence about the “kennel.” Billy’s dog wagons are the best advertised business places in New Haven, and all by his goood-natured adaptation of alleged Yale humor.
FRANK A. HEYWOOD.
17 April 1900, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 10, col. 3 classified ad:
GENERAL MAN around meat and grocery store, experienced making bologna and half smokes.
6 March 1903, Chester (PA) Times, pg. 2, col. 1 ad:
Vienna Half Smokes, 10c lb.
(Geo. N. Dunlap, grocer—ed.)
12 September 1905, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 3:
VINELAND, N. J., Sept. 11.—(...) Hams, half smokes and bologna sausages were scattered over the fields and roads.
30 June 1910, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 7, col. 4 ad:
All sorts of Smoked Meats, Thinly Sliced Half Smokes, Bologna, etc.
(Childs & Co.—ed.)
21 October 1910, Bucks County Gazette (Bristol, PA), pg. 2, col. 6 ad:
Best Half Smokes, lb. 12c
16 June 1913, Chester (PA) Times, pg. 3, col. 1 ad:
Try Vogt’s, you will want them always
(Columbian Meat Market—ed.)
Mrs. Scott’s North American seasonal cook book: spring, summer, autumn and winter guide to economy and ease in good food
By Anna B. Storck Scott
Philadelphia, PA: J. C. Winston
LIMA BEANS WITH “HALF-SMOKES”
1 pound lima beans.
1.2 pound half-smoked sausages.
1 teaspoon salt.
1/8 teaspoon pepper.
1 tablespoon molasses.
20 July 1924, New York (NY) Times, pg. XX2:
(Second article, below the Everest one--ed.)
Hot Dog Is Having Its Day:
World’s Most Popular Lunch
The one-time “Coney Island” that the small town boy knew only as one of the delights of circuses, carnivals and fairs, has taken an all-the-year-round shanty on Main Street.
In the variety of local names applied to the same product a national term often proves useful. The trade has already learned to respond to the names, “Coney Island chicken,” “shore dinner,” “half smokes,” “weinies” and so on. To one manufacturer came an order for reed birds. He replied that he was not in the poultry business. “Send hot-dogs,” the customer wrote back; and the manufacturer understood.
4 February 1933, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 9 ad:
HALF SMOKED SAUSAGE lb. 25c
7 May 1935, New York (NY) Times, “‘Hot Dogs’ Top the List Of Sausages Eaten Here,” pg. 15:
“Hot dogs,” known also as wieners, Coney Islands, half smokes, red hots and, on occasion, frankfurters, are New York City’s favorite sausages. This information was released to the public yesterday by George A. Schmidt, chairman of the governing committee of the National Organization of Sausage Manufacturers.
Alfred I. DuPont: the family rebel
By Marquis James
Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill Co.
Another delicious tidbit was half-smokes, a sausage about the size of a hot dog. A butcher sold them from a cart.
16 January 1942, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 7 ad:
25 March 1976, Washington (DC) Post, “Two Men Hoping for a Hot Dog Empire” by Douglas C. Lyons, pg. DC1, col. 5:
Their hot dogs sell for 55 cents and their half smokes for 70 cents.
Washington (DC) City Paper
The Missing Link
We like to think the half-smoke is D.C.’s indigenous street food. So why don’t we know anything about it?
By Dave Jamieson
Posted: February 6, 2007
If anyone knows how the half-smoke took root on our streets, there’s an outside chance he would have once worked at Weenie Beenie, that resilient grill opened in 1954 in the Shirlington section of Arlington by one-pocket billiards champion and trick-shot legend Bill Staton, four years before Ben Ali opened his now-famous Chili Bowl in the District. Weenie Beenie remains one of just a few local eateries that have been grilling the item since an apparent half-smoke heyday in the 1950s.
The grillmen at Weenie Beenie serve the half-smoke the same way they did back then: split down the middle so that it’s hinged, grilled face-down and then flopped onto its back, and dressed with house-made chili sauce, mustard, onions, and relish—“all the way,” as the cooks call it. (The owners subscribe to the theory that the name “half-smoke” derives from its being cooked in this split fashion.) And they still serve their unique breakfast-style half-smoke sandwich conceived decades ago: a split sausage laid atop a fried egg and blanketed with American cheese—a cheap, relentless attack of sodium and protein that does a fine job of sustaining the day laborers who wait for work each day in a nearby parking lot and who account for much of Weenie Beenie’s business nowadays.
The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com
January 10, 2009, 5:01 pm
‘Where’s My Cheese?’
By Marian Burros AND Ashley Southall
President-elect Barack Obama unexpectedly dropped by a Washington institution — not the museum or monument kind — on Saturday for a smoke and a drink.
That would be a half-smoke, actually, and an iced tea, and the institution was a longtime U Street establishment, Ben’s Chili Bowl, where a visit from the Obama family has been anticipated.
What’s a Half-Smoke?
Posted by Erin Zimmer, January 12, 2009 at 9:25 AM
On Saturday, President-elect Barack Obama asked, “What’s a half-smoke?” at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.
To answer your question, Mr. President-elect, a half-smoke is basically a processed meat tube that’s a lot plumper than your average hot dog (about twice the girth) with more of a spicy kick (look for the red pepper flakes inside).
Where does the “half” come from? A few theories exist, as explored in a comprehensive article from the Washington City Paper in 2007. It’s only smoked halfway. It’s cut in half when on the grill. It’s often made from equal portions of beef and pork.
New York (NY) Times
Ben Ali, Founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC, Dies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 8, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP)—Ben Ali, the founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl diner, a landmark in Washington’s black business and entertainment district and a frequent stop for politicians and celebrities, has died. He was 82.
Ali died of congestive heart failure Wednesday night at his home, his daughter-in-law Sonya Ali said Thursday. Ben Ali was born in 1927 and opened the restaurant with his wife, Virginia, in an old movie house in 1958, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and integrating public schools.
It became a longtime fixture in the black business community, serving up bowls of chili and its trademark chili-covered half-smokes. The smothered sausages became Washington’s answer to the Philly Cheese Steak when rivalries flared between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
Word Mark HALF SMOKED
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 029. US 046. G & S: SAUSAGE. FIRST USE: 19811101. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19811101
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73502041
Filing Date October 2, 1984
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) MASH, NATHAN INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES 3709 BRETON WAY BALTIMORE MARYLAND 21208
Attorney of Record WILLIAM D. HALL
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date July 2, 1985