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:
- Jamie Loftus’s Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs
- ProPublica’s exposé of the meatpacking industry during Covid revealed awful conditions, and government collusion
- Delight your senses with PBS’s classic A Hot Dog Program
A few of the varieties mentioned in this episode:
- The Texas Tavern (not in Texas)
- Hungarian hot dogs … in Toledo
- The baloney-wrapped hot dogs at Attman’s
- What’ll ya have at the Varsity?
- Ben’s Chili Bowl, where half-smokes and chili dogs reign
- The Sonoran hot dog
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 Crypto.com Arena, or near Union Station in Los Angeles, California
- Texas Tavern in Roanoke, Virginia
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)
Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.