The Philly Combo is a hot dog variation unique to the Philadelphia area. Believed to have originated at Levis Hot Dogs, which was open between 1895 and 1992 on 6th and South Streets, this kosher-inspired concoction consists of an all-beef hot dog and a potato fish cake topped with mustard and onions. Moe's Hot Dogs here in Philly still serves up this classic, and even has Levis Champ Cherry soda to wash it down.
Over the years, variations have evolved including the addition of pepper hash or pepper cabbage, a Pennsylvania Dutch cousin of cole slaw. While likely not an option at Levis' in 1895 this combination can be found at Lenny's Hot Dogs in Feasterville and Johnny's Hots on Delaware Avenue.
The fish-cake combo with pepper hash stands as one of the few remaining culinary monuments to the early days of Philadelphia eating that were heavy on the seafood and influenced by Jewish and Pennsylvania Dutch traditions.
At APJ Texas Weiners in center city Philadelphia, you can also order a combo loaded with "Greek sauce," a smooth meat sauce similar to chili, but without beans or tomato, often flavored with allspice or cinnamon, and popularized by Greek-owned Texas-weiner style hot dog stands beginning in the 1920s.
A few of the older cheesesteak stands including Pat's and Philip's offer the fish cake on a hot dog roll--without the hot dog, but available smothered in onions and Cheez Whiz. Or for a real Italian version, head to Texas Weiners in deep south Philly for a fish cake with broccoli rabe and provolone.
As far as I know, no fine dining chefs have yet attempted a haute cuisine take on this Philadelphia classic. Most importantly, while a hot dog and fish cake smothered in yellow mustard, meat sauce, and pepper hash might sound bizarre, it's actually really delicious.
There's a lot of recipes out there for pepper hash but my favorite is still this very simple recipe from my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother. Here's the pepper hash recipe »
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/.
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