Here's What's Really On A Cleveland-Style Hot Dog

New York is famous for its Kosher beef hot dogs slathered in piquant sauerkraut and mustard. Chicagoans take their Vienna-style franks and "drag" them through the garden with an array of vegetables that, curiously, includes tomatoes, according to First We Feast.

But in Cleveland, the official hot dog isn't even a hot dog, and that's not the only confounding thing about it. The name itself is also a source of confusion. It's called a "po' boy," which, yes, is exactly what the famous New Orleans sandwich is called. But while Louisiana's "po' boy" contains beef or fried seafood on a crusty loaf of bread, the Cleveland "Polish boy" starts with a kielbasa sausage. Kielbasa, which literally translates to "sausage" in Polish, according to Taste Atlas, is made of cuts of pork and seasoned with salt and pepper and spices like garlic and marjoram. But that's just the beginning. Cleveland po' boys are topped with barbecue sauce and sometimes hot sauce, coleslaw, and french fries (via First We Feast). That's right. We said "topped" with fries and coleslaw (or slaw, then fries and more barbecue sauce), so before digging into this delicious combination of smoky, spicy, and sweet flavors, grab a fork and knife.

Local food lore has various origin stories of Cleveland's po' boy. Some credit a diner called Steve's Lunch (via Thrillist). The legendary dive was its neighborhood's only late-night stop in the 1950s. Other accounts trace it back to a 1942 barbecue joint, Mt. Pleasant Bar-B-Q (via Cleveland Magazine).

They have serious star approval

Cleveland's po' boys have been featured on "No Reservations," where Anthony Bourdain and Clevelander Michael Symon enthusiastically embraced the American South-meets-Eastern European mashup at iconic Cleveland soul food restaurant Hot Sauce Williams (via YouTube). Speaking of Symon, he featured the po' boys from Seti's Food Truck on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," per Food Network. Rachael Ray also loves them, according to This is Cleveland

When Adam Richman visited Hot Sauce Williams for "Man vs. Food" (via YouTube), he discovered the key to a Polish boy lies in finishing the grilled kielbasa in the deep fryer for a few seconds before setting it in the bun and piling on the toppings to give the sausage casing a distinctive "crunch." But wait, there's more. Some Cleveland restaurants offer a "Polish Girl as well, which features a layer of smoked pork shoulder covered in more tangy barbecue sauce on top of the coleslaw (via This is Cleveland). 

Jim Gaffigan, everyone's favorite funny foodie, experienced three versions of the Cleveland po' boy, including Michael Symon's "fancy" po' boy while on tour in early 2020. Watching the comedian struggle with this behemoth is as close to having the real, messy experience as it gets, as shown on YouTube. "It's such a taste explosion," he said. "I wonder what my heart is thinking?" So maybe it's not first-date or everyday eating, but the po' boy is Cleveland's "hot dog."