Hot Dog of the Week: A Tour of Philadelphia Deli Dogs
I've been fascinated with obscure varieties of Jewish Deli hot dogs for quite a while now, ever since my mother talked about eating salami-wrapped hot dogs in Northeast Philly back in the 1950s. According to her, it was a kosher alternative to the Texas Tommy, a hot dog-bacon-cheese concoction that was (and still is) popular in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
There's not too much information out there on the history of this so-called "Kosher Tommy" which appears in some form or another on almost every Jewish deli menu in Philadelphia and even in Baltimore, where they wrap all beef dogs with with bologna at Attman's Deli.
So I embarked on a mini investigation last week to see what these things are all about.
Many delis have resigned them to the bottom corner of the menu, and they come in all shapes and sizes, some called "kosher" or "kosher style," some with cheese and some without. Some so huge, greasy, salty and intense I couldn't imagine anyone eating more than a few bites, while others were surprisingly restrained and delicious.
Unfortunately I didn't have the time or stomach space to hit every deli in the Philadelphia area. Hymie's Merion Deli in Lower Merion and Schlesinger's in the city are sister restaurants that both serve the cleverly named Tel-Aviv Tommy—a half-pound Frankwurst wrapped in pastrami. Or try the Old F-7: two kosher hot dogs on a hoagie roll with grilled salami and cheese.
Katz's Deli Kitchen in Bryn Mawr also does a Texas Tommy with bacon as well as a double-pastrami dog hoagie with provolone.
Steven Starr's Square Burger stand has the Philly Dog, which is sort of a cross between a Kosher Tommy and a Chicago Dog, with kosher salami, onions, tomatoes, cherry peppers and mustard. And the newer Delicatessen offers a definitely non-kosher Texas Tamy: a foot-long Hebrew National frank wrapped in applewood smoked bacon and covered in American cheese and mustard.
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.