This toothy debate started in Coney Island — and it’s going to end there: Is the hot dog a sandwich?
Michael Quinn — frankfurter expert and owner of the recently revived hot dog eatery Feltman’s — has launched a poll on his Coney Island Blog to settle the seemingly never-ending (and mouthwatering) national conversation.
Quinn relishes a good debate — but he’s clear about his own position on this meaty matter: “I’d say yes, it’s a sandwich, if I had to vote,” he told the Daily News. “A sandwich is meat that’s portable in some type of bread or bun.”
On the other side of the bun is Quinn’s main competitor in Coney Island — Nathan’s Famous, which revolutionized the hot dog at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Aves. more than 100 years ago.
“The hot dog is not the sum of its components,” Nathan’s spokesman George Shea told The News. “It is simply a hot dog — a fundamental entity that represents America and the joy of summer.”
Shea’s expertise on the matter is weightier than the 72 hot dogs and buns consumed by Joey Chestnut on the Fourth of July. After all, he’s the emcee of the annual contest and has literally watched tens of thousands of hot dogs be consumed.
“The hot dog stands above form and matter and cannot even be subjected to the question,” Shea added. “You might as well ask the weight of the color blue — it makes no sense. A hot dog is not a sandwich because a hot dog is a hot dog.”
Clearly, there’s a lot to sink one’s teeth into.
First, what is a hot dog?
The definition has been unclear since the late 1860s when German baker Charles Feltman began placing sausages from his native country — known as frankfurters — inside the bread he was selling on Coney Island.
He called them Coney Island Red Hots — and sold so many they quickly became an American staple.
Second, is it a sandwich?
Whoa, that’s a lot to chew on. Amid a national debate in 2015, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council proclaimed that a hot dog is not a sandwich because the meaty treat is “truly a category unto its own.”
As a result, the Louisville Courier-Journal used this year’s “National Hot Dog Day” earlier this month to issue 10 corrections — including one dating back to 1887 — for each of the times that the newspaper referred to a hot dog as a sandwich.
A correction to that correction may be in order, however. After all, Merriam-Webster, the nation’s leading dictionary provider, defines a hot dog as a sandwich — prompting many hot dog lovers to throw up.
“When that ubiquitous sausage known as the hot dog is placed in its traditional split roll, the resulting also-ubiquitous food item (also called a hot dog) does indeed qualify as a sandwich, as our definition of the word sandwich makes clear: ‘two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between,’” associate editor Emily Brewster told The News.
And no less an authority than the state of New York considers hot dogs a sandwich — albeit for tax purposes. An official list on the state Department of Taxation and Finance website groups hot dogs together with other “sandwiches,” including club sandwiches, cold-cut sandwiches, croissant sandwiches, gyros, wraps and even burritos.
The taxman’s bell tolls for thee:
“Sandwiches are generally subject to sales tax,” the website declares.
Such a decree adds a few cents to your hot dog purchase, but etymologist Bruce Kraig agreed it’s legit.
“Old timey hot dog men in the business (the makers, salesmen, and operators) talked about them as ‘hot dog sandwiches,’” the word sleuth said. “Anything between two sides of bread, conjoined or otherwise, is a sandwich.”
A Daily News survey of hot dog vendors and customers — conducted during several recent lunchtimes — revealed that hot dog lovers generally believe they are eating a sandwich.
“It’s a sandwich because it’s between the buns,” said Meemo Elaraby, a vendor at a Nathan’s cart in Lower Manhattan, summarizing the pro-sandwich position.
Some, of course, disagree.
“Nah, a hot dog’s in its own class,” said Eric Sablan of San Jose. “When I say, ‘Let me get a sandwich,’ that’s like meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato — definitely not a hot dog.”
Clearly, the debate rages — and will until Jan. 1, 2018, when Quinn’s blog reveals its results.
Right now, the survey shows that 75% of respondents believe that the hot dog is its own thing, not a sandwich.
Time for the pro-sandwich crowd to bite back.