What is a Half Smoke?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
It may be wise to bring an antacid along when eating a half smoke.
It may be wise to bring an antacid along when eating a half smoke.

A half smoke is a unique kind of sausage that is served in the United States capital of Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas such as Maryland and Virginia. Because they are specific to such a small area, they are unknown to many people, even Americans. President Barack Obama is said to have been unaware of half smokes until after he was elected. These sausages, like hot dogs, are often served on buns with condiments such as onions, mustard, and chili, and may be accompanied by potato chips.

Half smokes are spicy and might include red pepper flakes.
Half smokes are spicy and might include red pepper flakes.

Half smokes are made of beef, pork, or a combination of these two kinds of meat. Although the actual origin of the name is debated, some say that term half smoke comes from an original recipe that calls for equal parts of pork and beef. The sausages are usually prepared on a grill but they can also be steamed. Half smokes are sometimes confused with other kinds of sausages, such as Polish kielbasas, because of their large size and appearance.

Washington, D.C., is known for the half smoke, and has many street carts loaded with the sausage.
Washington, D.C., is known for the half smoke, and has many street carts loaded with the sausage.

The key differences between a half smoke and a hot dog are the size and the spice. Half smokes are generally twice as thick as hot dogs, and are much spicier. In fact, some half smokes are made with red pepper flakes rolled into the meat. It is also common for half smokes to have much more texture than hot dogs, as the meat is less finely ground than is standard in frankfurters.

While many large cities have hot dog stands on many street corners, Washington is dotted with carts full of half smokes and buns. Because of the convenient locations of the carts, they are a common lunch food in the capital. In addition to the carts that sell half smokes, there are also few restaurants that serve them.

If someone should happen to find himself in the Washington, D.C. area and is looking for a decadent but inexpensive treat, a half smoke is recommended. It may be wise to have a drink on hand to give the taste buds occasional relief from the spice. One also may want to bring along an antacid, especially if he decides to go for broke and get the chili topping.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for , Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for , Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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    • It may be wise to bring an antacid along when eating a half smoke.
      By: Gresei
      It may be wise to bring an antacid along when eating a half smoke.
    • Half smokes are spicy and might include red pepper flakes.
      By: Brent Hofacker
      Half smokes are spicy and might include red pepper flakes.
    • Washington, D.C., is known for the half smoke, and has many street carts loaded with the sausage.
      By: rabbit75_fot
      Washington, D.C., is known for the half smoke, and has many street carts loaded with the sausage.