Weiner On a Stick, Battered, Deep Fried: A DOG-gone Great Idea

Probably the most perfect rendition of street food ever created in this nation is the humble corn dog. After all, what could be more convenient to someone taking a stroll than a wiener impaled on a stick, dipped into a thick batter, and deep fried?

The origin for this all-American fast food dates back to the early 1900s when the Wagner Manufacturing Company of Sidney, Ohio created a product they called the “Krusty Korn Sausage Pan.” In marketing their new appliance, Wagner advertised that the popular combination of cornbread and sausage could “be baked together as a full ear of crusty cornbread with a sausage inside.” Then in 1929, the Albert Pick-Barth catalog of food equipment and supplies offered a “Krusty Korn Dog” baker, obviously the Wagner product renamed since “Krusty Korn” was one of their trademarks.

Also in 1929, a patent was granted to Stanley S. Jenkins for a machine used to fry battered food on a stick. In his patent application, he described his invention as follows:

“I have discovered that articles of food such, for instance, as wieners…when impaled on sticks and dipped in batter, which includes in its ingredients a self rising flour, and then deep fried in a vegetable oil at a temperature of 390° F., the resultant food product on a stick for a handle is a clean, wholesome and tasty refreshment… As will be observed the sticks (8), on which the food articles (9) coasted with batter (10) are impaled, function both as a means for suspending the coated articles in the cooking medium, and, also, as handles for holding the articles while being eaten…. If the encased article is a wiener or other partly cooked food, it becomes thoroughly cooked with the batter.”

It wasn’t until the 1940s that corn dogs started gaining national popularity. In 1941, George and Vera Boyington began serving Pronto Pups, a plump, tasty hot dog on a stick, dipped in a special batter and deep-fried, at their Portland, Oregon restaurant. That September, they sold over 15,000 Pronto Pups at the Pacific International Livestock Exposition.

By the summer of next year, Carl and Neil Fletcher, who had experienced the hot dog encased in cornmeal and baked in the shape of an ear of corn while traveling the vaudeville circuit, opened their food booth on the Fair Park midway. They sold their “corny dogs” for fifteen-cents and, despite a slow start, made 8,000 dollars that first year.

In June of 1946, following World War II, Ed Waldmire Jr. began selling his version of the hotdog on a stick (he originally called it a “crusty cur”) at his Cozy Dog House in Springfield, Illinois, based on a similar product he came upon in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The business grew quickly and Ed built his third location in as many years, the Cozy Dog Drive In on Route 66.

Today, corn dogs can be found worldwide, albeit by different names. In Canada, they are known as Pogo Sticks, and in Australia as Dagwood Dogs, Pluto Pups or Dippy Dogs. Argentina refers to them as “panchuckers” that are sold mostly around train stations and the inner country cities.

Corn dog variations are as numerous as the places in which they are sold. Some are made with wieners, breakfast sausages, bratwurst, red-hots, and some with no meat at all. Some use wheat flour or potato-based coatings instead of cornmeal based batters.

You don’t have to wait for the fair, circus, or ball park to open before enjoying this tasty treat. You can simply pick up a box of frozen corn dogs from almost any local supermarket or convenience store, pop them into your conventional or microwave oven, heat, and enjoy. Those more adventurous readers who like futzing around in the kitchen are sure to enjoy one of the corn dog recipes listed below.

So whether you live in the North, South, East or West; buy them, heat them, or make them from scratch; slather them in mustard, ketchup, or a secret dipping sauce, these wieners on a stick are certainly the most DOG-gone convenient and delicious street food found anywhere.

Try Em: State Fair Corn Dogs, Foster Farms, Eckrich Corn Dogs, Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs

Find Em: Sonic Drive In, nationwide; Wienerschnitzel, nationwide; Cozy Dog Drive In, Springfield, Illinois; State Fairs Everywhere

Make Em: Corn Dogs, Corn Puppies, Disneyland Corn Dogs

America’s Favorite Sandwich: The Hamburger

Exactly when and by whom the hamburger was invented seems to depend on who is telling the story. Well known historian Frank Tolbert attributed the honors to Fletcher Davis of Henderson County, Texas. It seems “Old Dave,” as he was known to most folks, owned a lunch counter in Athens where he served grilled beef patties topped with a slice of onion between two thick pieces of toasted bread as far back as the late 1880s. Tolbert also credits Davis with being the “unknown” vendor who sold hamburgers at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Other claimants of the honor include “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen of Seymoor, Wisconsin; the Menches brothers, Frank and Charles, of Akron, Ohio, in 1885; and Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1895.

Weber’s Root Beer Restaurant

There is significant evidence to suggest that it was Oscar Weber Bilby who, on July 4, 1891, at his farm in central Oklahoma, served some ground beef patties on his wife Fanny’s home-made sourdough buns (the bun is an essential part of the hamburger) to friends and family. This annual cook-out celebration became a popular Bilby tradition that continued until 1933 when Oscar and his son Leo opened a burger and root beer stand in Tulsa. While no one, however, can explain why it took the family so many years to open their business, Weber’s Root Beer Stand remains in operation today.

No matter which of these stories you choose to believe, the fact is the hamburger has become the country’s favorite sandwich (40% of all sandwiches sold), with more than 13 billion sold each year. And if those numbers are not impressive enough, burgers consume over three-quarters of all beef served by America’s food establishments.

Original White Castle’s

Honors for the oldest hamburger chain in America goes to Walter Anderson and Edgar Ingram who in 1921 founded White Castle in Wichita, Kansas. Their dinner roll-sized burger, with its patented five-hole patty, originally sold for a nickel each. Today, White Castle remains a family business run by Ingram’s grandson. Although only 420 outlets strong (all located within the continental United States) the White Castle operation enjoys the second highest per store sales in the fast food industry.

The Original Bob’s Big Boy and Modern Day Logo

The 1930s were eventful years for the hamburger. In 1934, the original Wimpy Burger chain was founded; however all 1,500 stores were closed in 1978 upon the death of its founder, as was his wish. In 1935 the name “cheeseburger” was trademarked to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-in in Denver, Colorado. Late in the decade, Bob’s Big Boy introduced the first double meat burger. It was also in the ’30s that the “drive-in” restaurant was created, allowing patrons to dine in their cars. This innovation was the forerunner to the drive-thru service that remains a mainstay of today’s fast food industry.

One of the First McDonald Drive-In’s

McDonald’s opened their first restaurant in 1948, although it wouldn’t be until 1954 when Ray Kroc would take the helm and create the empire that not only revolutionized fast food and the way we eat, but the burger itself. Today, McDonald’s operates 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries around the world.

Some other fast-food restaurants that owe their success to hamburger sales include Burger King, A&W, Whataburger, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger, Five Guys (currently America’s fastest growing franchise), Fatburger, and Sonic.

There are also several “restaurant-style” hamburger chains such as BJ’s, Chili’s, Red Robin, and Fuddruckers that specialize in more upscale burgers.

In fact, hamburgers are sold in just about every restaurant, in every style and size imaginable – meat and bun only; all-the-way or you-name-the-way; secret sauce or no secret sauce; kid-size, regular-size or super-size. There is Kobe beef, regular beef, or no beef. Whatever your choice, you can find it somewhere in this great country.

Regardless of how you choose to personalize this emblematic American culinary creation, there is but one rule which must be followed – a hamburger must be made with beef. Ground chicken, turkey, tuna, and other meats may provide a tasty sandwich filling, but they do not a hamburger make.

So let’s all do something patriotic this week. Have an all-American hamburger. Have it your way, and don’t forget the fries.

Make Em: In-N-Out Double Double Burger, Sonic No.1 Burger, Browning Heights Hamburger