A half-smoke is a type of sausage found in Washington, D.C., United States and the surrounding region. A half-smoke is slightly larger than than a regular hot dog, spicier and with more coarsely ground meat; it is usually grilled but can be found steamed. It is commonly made of beef, pork or a combination of the two, and is served on a hot dog bun. In 2000, "The Washington Post" Magazine named the half-smoke as the regional food in the Washington Dish Contest. Due to their size, they are often mistaken for the Polish sausage kielbasa.


The etymology of "half-smoke" is unclear as the sausage is not smoked." [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A29121-2000Oct7&notFound=true Look No Further! The Thrilling End Of The Grueling Search For A Washington Dish] ", "Washington Post", 8 October 2000] One possible explanation is that many places cut the sausage in half when grilling, or that many half-smokes are 50/50 beef and pork (though 100% beef half-smokes are common). In the January 26, 2007 edition of the "Washington City Paper", reporter Dave Jamieson examined the origins of the half-smoke.

The "original" half smoke is considered to be the sausage distributed by D.C.'s Briggs and Co. meatpackers, originating in around 1950, though Raymond Briggs started selling his half-smokes circa 1930. Eventually Briggs was sold to another meat distributor, where the quality of the meat allegedly was eroded. Today, the general consensus of the finest half-smoke is the Weenie Beenie in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, or Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington." [http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=561&navCenterTopImg The Missing Link] ", "Washington City Paper", 26 January 2007]


Numerous hot dog carts in Washington, D.C. sell steamed half-smokes, with those on Constitution Avenue catering to tourists and those on Pennsylvania Avenue serving federal employees, and formerly a long row of vendors serving half-smokes to baseball fans on East Capitol Street outside RFK Stadium. Restaurants such as Ben's Chili Bowl often grill their half-smokes. [cite web|url=http://www.roadfood.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2485|title= Half-smokes in the DC area forum discussion|work=roadfood.com|accessdate=27 January|accessyear=2004] Ben's half-smokes, which are all beef, are arguably the most renowned in the city and, once grilled, are split enough to run a line of mustard down the middle before topping with chili con carne and chopped onions. Comedian Bill Cosby is known to eat three half-smokes in one sitting during his occasional visits to Ben's Chili Bowl. Former mayor Anthony A. Williams often went to Ben's in an effort to improve his home-town credentials; he even went so far as to mention it in his inaugural address.

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