Hot Dog
(Getty Images via JTA)

There are 2,690 pages in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History citing this essential food.

I read about a new exhibit by a Jewish artist at the Museum at Eldridge Street in New York City: “Steve Marcus: Top Dog of Kosher Pop Art.” Its theme is Jewish connections to that all-American food, the hot dog. 

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

I thought that the hot dog seemed liked a fine topic for a “Looking Back.” Kosher hot dogs, of course.

Memorial Day has become the unofficial beginning of summer in Michigan (summer actually begins on June 21). First and foremost, we should not forget that Memorial Day is the time each year when we honor all those men and women who have sacrificed while serving in the American military. May God give them peace. 

Beginning on Memorial Day, however, it is prime time for backyard grills, picnics and BBQs … and hot dogs! Although, one can eat these delicacies at any time during the year, at sports arenas or at home, hot dogs grilled outside are especially tasty.

In fact, beginning in 1920, I found 2,690 pages in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History citing this essential food. The bulk of the mentions are about events held by Jewish organizations and synagogues that served hot dogs as part of their refreshment menus. In addition, how many thousands of Jewish youngsters have roasted a hot dog on a stick (and marshmallows) at Camps Tamarack, Tanuga, Ramah or Willoway? Or, if you really want to “put on the dog” for your backyard gathering, you can rent a New York-Style Hot Dog cart from Uptown Catering.

As you might imagine, there are also hundreds of advertisements from local markets selling hot dogs. In the 1950s, for example, Liberman’s ads urged shoppers to “Visit Our Kosher Kounter,” where you could buy hot dogs, including Hungarian Hot Dogs (April 6, 1956, JN). All the major supermarkets advertised hot dogs at one time or another in the JN. 

From 1941
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

In Detroit, one cannot write about hot dogs without mentioning the famous Coney Island Hot Dog, perhaps the city’s most iconic restaurant food. This means a hot dog with chili, onions and mustard — no ketchup, please! In Metro Detroit, you just say, “I’d like a coney,” and everyone will know precisely what you mean.

Coneys were mentioned in nearly 40 columns from the late JN writer Danny Raskin’s columns. He also answered questions about hot dogs such as those at Costco and Sam’s Club — Sinai Kosher dogs at Costco are steamed; at Sam’s Club, Best’s Kosher are grilled. (May 12, 2005).  

From 2011
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

And don’t forget corn dogs, bagel dogs or local “Floogie Dogs.” And there are the hot dogs mom cut up for you when you were a tyke. The variations are endless. It is an all-purpose food.

From 1990
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Most of all, I love the hot dog success stories in the JN. Rabbi Joseph Krupnik and Tzvi Ungar handled a kosher hot dog cart at Ford Field (Nov. 3, 2011). “Hot Diggity Dog” is about Israeli immigrant Alex and his wife, Debra, opening their hot dog restaurant in Waterford (June 14, 2018). In Ann Arbor, “Kosher Red Hots Hit Campus” at U-M (March 7, 2003).

From 2011
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

A cautionary note. To really celebrate the all-American meal, you will have to wait until July when it is National Hot Dog month. 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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