New York has Coney Island dogs, Hawaii is the home of puka dogs, and the Windy City is famous for Chicago dogs. The District has its own specialty sausage: the half-smoke. For more than half a century, these kielbasa-sized wieners have been D.C.’s favorite street food.
Like many regional favorites, there is a long-standing debate over what constitutes a classic half-smoke, but there are some generally agreed upon elements.
First of all, there should be a snap when you bite through the casing. The meat mixture inside is oftentimes half pork and half beef, possessing both slightly spicy and smoky notes. Either grilled whole or split down the middle, these quarter pounders are then popped into fresh steamed or griddled buns. Toppings vary, but almost always include chili with some spots adding a combination of shredded cheddar, a squirt of mustard, freshly diced onions and relish.
Photo of Firefly’s half-smoke topped with bacon chili and pickled ramp mustard courtesy of Firefly.