Why Bright Red Hot Dogs Are So Popular In North Carolina

American cuisine is a patchwork of regional dishes, some of which locals feel extremely passionate about. From Irish potato candy (it's a Philly thing!) to chili with cinnamon rolls in the Midwest, many states, regions, and even towns have their very own culinary claim to fame. If you've spent time driving down the I-95 in North Carolina, then you've probably seen the state's regional specialty: neon-red hot dogs. Not to be confused with the widely available hot link sausages, Carolina Packer's "Bright Leaf hot dogs" are the classic American hot dog with a cherry red twist. 

Produced in Smithfield, North Carolina, since 1941, Bright Leaf hot dogs are a "southern tradition" according to the official Carolina Packers website. They're named after Brightleaf Boulevard, a nickname for US Highway 301. The boulevard itself is named in reference to several tobacco warehouses that handled the area's signature crop around the middle of the century (via The Takeout.)

Red hot dogs are a staple of the region

But what makes these unusually colored hot dogs so popular? Well, nostalgia is a powerful force. With Bright Leaf's presence in the region for 80 years, generations of North Carolinians have grown up with them. Our State gets to the bottom of this, saying, "Hot dog fans throughout the region swear by Bright Leafs with a vigor that's akin to the way many North Carolinians pledge allegiance to college basketball teams. The franks are associated with everything from church revivals to first dates." Red hot dogs run deep in this community, and the tradition is kept alive through the generations, making the signature neon dogs just as popular today. 

Our State even interviewed Mayor Jeff holt of Pine Level, a city neighboring Smithfield. He said, "Eating red hot dogs goes so far back here that I don't remember ever not eating them, It's a source of pride and identity. We were nursed on 'em." And if you have the craving but aren't headed down the I-95 anytime soon, you can snag a 5-pound package of the regional favorite on the Carolina Packers website.