Chili half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl
Course Main course
Place of origin United States
Region or state Washington, D.C.
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Pork, beef
Cookbook: Half-smoke  Media: Half-smoke

A half-smoke is a "local sausage delicacy"[1] found in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding region. Similar to a hot dog, but usually larger, spicier, and with more coarsely-ground meat, the sausage is often half-pork and half-beef, smoked, and served with herbs, onion, and chili sauce.

Ingredients and preparation

The etymology of "half-smoke" possibly comes from the original half-pork, half-beef composition, the ingredients and smoked method of preparation. Another possible explanation is that the texture and flavor is halfway between smoked sausage and a regular hot dog. Yet another explanation is that it refers to cooks cutting the sausage in half when grilling.[2] Composition of the sausages varies by brand and some brands even make more than one kind. A half-smoke can be half pork, half beef, all beef, or anything in between. It can be steamed instead of smoked. The company thought to be the originator of the sausage, Briggs & Company, was sold by its owner, Raymond Briggs, in 1950 without clarifying the origin of the name.[2] The products sold under the name generally have a genuine or artificial smoke flavoring and coarser texture than a regular hot dog and are the key features that distinguish.[3]


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 in about 1930. Eventually, Briggs was sold to another meat distributor, where, by some accounts, the quality of the meat declined.[2]


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 and many other hot dog carts throughout the downtown area serving federal employees . Half-smokes are the "official dog" of the Washington Nationals.[4] The most prominent location is often cited as Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington's U Street neighborhood, which gained widespread exposure when visited by Bill Cosby in the 1980s and later by President-elect Barack Obama in 2009.[1]

Another popular location for half-smokes is the Weenie Beenie in South Arlington, Virginia, located near the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park trail. Founded in 1950, it pre-dates Ben's Chili Bowl. Among newer purveyors is Meats & Foods, on Florida Avenue just east of Ben's Chili Bowl, which makes its own handmade version of the sausage.[5]

See also


  1. 1 2 Carr, David (2009-01-16). "A Monument to Munchies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  2. 1 2 3 Erica Brosnan (3 July 2016), "Half-smokes inspire wholehearted love in D.C.", The Washington Times, archived from the original on 10 July 2016, retrieved 30 August 2016
  3. "The New Nationals Dog: Washington D.C.'s Half Smoke". seriouseats.com. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  4. Oh, Brian (December 2, 2015). "Don't Leave Washington DC Without Trying its Signature Half-smoke". seriouseats.com.
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