One of the best - Bart's Famous Hotdogs from the Magic Grill in Windsor, Connecticut.

One of the best – a Bart’s Famous Hot Dog from the Magic Grill at Bart’s Drive In Restaurant in Windsor, Connecticut.

Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

Long, short, plump, skinny, all-beef or not, hot dogs are an American favorite. So much so that the iconic food has its own day – National Hot Dog Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 23.

Virtually every American community has a special spot where a unique version of the hot dog is served. In Connecticut, one of the best can be found at Bart’s Drive In Restaurant at 55 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, located on the banks of the Farmington River and just a few miles from the capital city of Hartford. Bart’s Famous Hot Dogs are prepared on the Magic Grill that has been pleasing palates in Central Connecticut and beyond for more than sixty-five years.

According to hot dog facts and figures provided by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council USA (www.hot-dog.org) 20 billion hot dogs are expected to be consumed by Americans this year at ballparks alone. Thought to have originated in the 15th Century in Germany and Austria, hot dogs are said to have made their debut in the United States in the late 1800’s, sold in New York in wagons by German immigrants as what were called hot dachshund dogs.

Legend has it, notes the council, that the name “hot dog” may have begun after a cartoonist wrote about the “red hot dachshund dogs” being sold at the New York Polo grounds, but did not know how to spell dachshund so simply called them “hot dogs.” Another theory is that because the sausage vendors often brought along their pet dachshunds, their vending wagons became known as dog wagons eventually leading to the name “hot dog.” No matter how it may have started, hot dogs have become an American staple at family picnics, ballparks and street corner vendors.

In the Northeast, traditionally hot dogs are served with mustard, relish and onions. Sauerkraut or chili & cheese are other typical toppings in this area. However, the beauty of the beloved hot dog is that it can be topped with most anything.003

Regionally reports the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council USA, hot dogs take on their own personalities. The Kansas City hot dog is topped with melted swiss and sauerkraut. In the Southwest one popular hot dog is said to be wrapped in bacon and crowned with pinto beans, grilled onions and peppers, tomato, relish, tomatillo, mustard and shredded cheese. Down South, coleslaw is another common topping. Arguably, best known is the New York deli style hot dog topped with steamed onions and pale yellow mustard.

In what may amount to a contradiction in terms, the council also offers some seemingly ‘tongue in cheek’ tips on hot dog etiquette : “dress the dog not the bun”; wet condiments such as mustard should be placed on first before chunky ones like onions; always eat a hot dog with the hands not utensils; lick all left over condiments from the fingers; and it should take no more than five bites to eat a hot dog unless it is a foot long – than seven bites are acceptable. As well, the council reports that actress Betty White, age 91, eats a hot dog and potato chips for lunch everyday on the set of her television show “Hot in Cleveland,” calling it her “secret to longevity.”

002National Hot Dog Day is an informal holiday – reportedly objected to by some vegetarians and vegans who countered with their own vegetarian hot dog day.

Nonetheless, it is a piece of America’s cultural tapestry. Tomorrow, Sonic will participate offering for $1 the Chili Cheese Coney or the All-American Dog.