Smarty Pants Podcast

What Could Be Wurst?

Jamie Loftus on the wild American world of hot dogs

By Stephanie Bastek | June 16, 2023
Thomas Hawk/Flickr
Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Summer cometh: the grills get scraped clean, the buns are split, and hungry Americans get set to boil or broil their wursts, wieners, and sausages. In the summer of 2021, Jamie Loftus drove from coast to coast, tasting the vast array of hot dogs that America has to offer, consuming as many as four a day—and in one notable (or regrettable) instance, five. Chicago-style and the Coney Island special; drive-through and deli; chili and chile: Loftus devoured them all. Her ensuing book, Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, brings the glory and the gory. It may be the first to detail not only the different genders of pickle jars one can buy at a gas station, but also the horrific treatment of animals and workers at slaughterhouses, conditions that got distinctly worse during the pandemic. Loftus—stand-up comedian, TV writer, and creator of such illustrious one-season podcasts as “My Year in Mensa” and “Ghost Church”—joins us to talk about the wild world of that iconic American food.

Go beyond the episode:

A few of the varieties mentioned in this episode:

But Loftus’s top five are:

  • Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey
  • Hot Dog Ruiz Los Chipilones in Tucson, Arizona
  • King Jong Grillin in Portland, Oregon
  • The hot dog carts across the street from the Arena, or near Union Station in Los Angeles, California
  • Texas Tavern in Roanoke, Virginia

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