The Mysterious Origins Of The Chili Dog

The hot dog has long been considered an American staple, a quick bite available anywhere from ball games and county fairs to food trucks and barbeques. The origins of the hot dog itself have roots in Germany, with reports claiming that the first hot dogs were sold in the United States somewhere in New York City's Bowery during the 1860s, or possibly in Coney Island in 1871 (via the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council). But no matter who sold it first, the frankfurter has become a nationwide staple, with different states adopting different ways to have fun on a bun.

In the Windy City, you can get yourself a Chicago-style dog, which is a hot dog in a steamed poppy seed bun, slathered with mustard, relish, peppers, onions, tomatoes, a pickle wedge, and celery salt (via Taste of Chicago). If you're in Washington State, you can get a hot dog with cream cheese and sauteed onions from street vendors, known as a Seattle-style dog. If you're in Detroit, you can snag a Coney Dog, covered in chili, raw onions, and mustard (via Eater). The Coney Dog is an especially notable type, as no one can seem to pinpoint just where it came from, or who came up with the idea of pouring hearty chili on a hot dog.

Three plausible theories of who invented the chili dog

When you read the name "Coney Dog," you probably thought of Coney Island and assumed that the chili dog originated in the popular New York town. But, that's not the case. You see, no one seems to have any idea who invented the chili dog or the location of where it came. However, those who might have an inkling of its creation credit either Michigan or Los Angeles as the birthplace.

Frugal Glutton lists three possible origins for the chili hot dog. One theory credits Detroit brothers Bill and Gust Keros for inventing the hot dog in their diner in 1910. Another lists George Todoroff as the inventor, in Jackson, Michigan in 1914. As Todoroff Foods claims, George invented the chili dog after creating his "famous Coney Island chili sauce" at his Jackson Coney Island restaurant.  The third theory says it was Art Elkind in Los Angeles in 1929, with the claim that Art "invented" the dog by pouring chili on top of caseless hot dogs — a claim that helped make Art's restaurant a staple of Los Angeles hot dogs for 80 years (via LA Eater).

While it's hard to say just who was the inventor of the chili-slathered hot dog, or where it came from, one thing is for certain among all chili and hot dog lovers: It's a tasty combination. If you're craving one after reading this, try Duff Goldman's chili dog recipe.