HOT DOG BUNS VERSUS FRANKFURTER ROLLS

Once upon a time, or so it seems now, a girlfriend sent me out with orders to come back with hot dog buns, which is what I did.

But when I handed her the grocery bag, she cried out, “Oh, no! What are these?”

“They’re hot dog buns,” I replied ever so naively.

“No they’re not!” she insisted.

“But they’re what I’ve always had hot dogs on,” and they were.

She would not believe me, so off we went, together, to the supermarket.

“These,” she said, “are hot dog buns.”

Asked to pick out a hot dog bun, which would you choose -- the ones sliced on the top, at left, or on the side, at right?
Asked to pick out a hot dog bun, which would you choose — the ones sliced on the top, at left, or on the side, at right?

They looked like a flattened loaf of bread cut in fat slices. The side of each “bun,” in fact, was without crust – naked, to my taste.

Pointing to another shelf, I looked at the kind I’d always known – the kind, that in fact, came labeled Hot Dog Buns. Hers, in contrast, were labeled Frankfurter Rolls.

Hmm, we both said without satisfaction.

She had, in truth, grown up in New England and lived nowhere else. And her idea of how to serve a hot dog was unique to the region. Not in something she considered a torpedo roll.

Ah, but the plot thickens. As I bought packages of each this time around, there was no Frankfurter label -- and the Hot Dog tag instead went on what my wife confirms are often called Frankfurter buns or rolls around here. As a further complication, we now have the term Coney Island, which confounds my elder daughter while bringing to my mind something completely different, a miniature hot dog where I grew up, often served covered with "chili." But that's a whole other story.
Ah, but the plot thickens. As I bought packages of each this time around, there was no Frankfurter label — and the Hot Dog tag instead went on what my wife confirms are often called Frankfurter buns or rolls around here. As a further complication, we now have the term Coney Island, which confounds my elder daughter while bringing to my mind something completely different, a miniature hot dog where I grew up, often served covered with “chili.” But that’s a whole other story.

This can, in turn, point to a lot of other regional distinctions. Whether you call a device a watercooler, a water fountain, or a bubbler, as we do here. Or whether you order a soda, a pop, or a cola. Feel free to expand the list. It can go on a long time.

Fast forward, then, to lunchtime at a national conference being held in Rhode Island. I sat down and joined a random group that included a handful of teens. One was from North Carolina. I pointed to the hot dog on his neighbor’s plate. He looked bewildered. “What’s it wrapped in?” he asked.

“Would you call it a hot dog bun?” I prompted.

“No way!”

“Oh yes it is,” said the girl from Connecticut. “It’s what we always use.”

You know where the conversation went from there. Yes it is, no it isn’t.

At least the college cafeteria knew to stock both Hot Dog Buns and Frankfurter Rolls.  As we all discovered.

Hmm. Maybe next time we have a crowd over and we’re grilling hot dogs, I’ll get packages of both – and then see which kind goes first.

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44 thoughts on “HOT DOG BUNS VERSUS FRANKFURTER ROLLS

  1. I find the coney rolls (as they’re now called) hold looser stuff like seafood salad better than those side-split ones — the “hinge” is just too weak. I never saw them before I lived in Connecticut, though. Glad you also brought up the torpedo roll. 🙂

      • And of course “roll” can lead into a whole new set of regional differences, I suppose.
        Me? I prefer a whole lobster, usually served with fresh corn on the cob. Stop by the dealer and then a farm stand both on my way home from a beach in Kittery, Maine. Just for the record. No bun or roll in sight.

  2. Donna also never saw those buns until she came to New England, she loves them and after all of these years still longs for a return to the Great New England Hot Dog Buns!
    We cannot find them anyplace in the south! 😦

  3. A story of epic proportions over such an otherwise inconsequential thing…hot dog buns. Evidence that…it really is the little things in life that are of most importance. At least I think so. Enchanting tale of two…or more…hot dog buns. 🙂

  4. What are sprinkle? These are jimmies! What is a soda? This is tonic! By the way – I agree – that was not a hot dog roll. I did not see those kind until I was an adult. Thank you.

  5. Well here in Blighty (UK) we are naive to all things ‘hotdog’ related and I am very sorry to inform you but we only have the one kind of hotdog roll and that is the side splitters – the middle splitters just look crazed from this isle…

    • Do you use them for other kinds of sausages, too? In Iowa, for instance, brauts — or brautwurst — is often used instead of traditional hot dogs, for good reason, I recall.

    • Hello! The New England style was widely available at a Tesco I used to shop at in NW London. That was in the early to mid-1990s.

      Unfortunately, since then, I have only been able to find the other kind (right hand side of Mr Hodson’s photograph).

      The New England style is far superior. Not only does it hold the filling much better but it is also less bready, giving a perfect equilibrium between bread and filling. I do miss them!

  6. I had no idea that people used side-opening buns for hotdogs! I’ve been to cookouts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and visited Fenway Park — all had top opening. The other ones we call “sub rolls.” Great story.

  7. While I love living in New England they are a bit strange when it comes to food. Fish in milk, make it hot and call it chowder…. good grief

  8. Thanks for the “Visiting the Big E” like. I read with interest your hot dog vs frankfurter buns post. It was only recently that I learned the bun type shown on the left in your top pic is considered New England style. I’m a lifelong New Englander – but who knew?

  9. This is so funny, I still talk about those yummy hot dog buns you can only get in New England where I grew up. You butter them, grill them and they’re great with or without a hot dog. I have lived or traveled in 48 states and have never seen them anywhere else. I now live in Florida and miss those buns. Now what do they call the other rolls? I don’t know I actually never thought about it or even looked, I just know they sure don’t taste as good.

    I also say soda, but my grandmother from Worcester [Massachusetts] called it tonic, which is only used in that area.

    I have family in eastern GA and I love the hash they serve on rice with BBQ, But you can’t find it anywhere else outside eastern GA/western NC.

    Here’s another fun fact. We New Englanders love our coffee; coffee candy, iced coffee and ice cream. Coffee ice cream is so popular you can get it sugar free, fat free even in generic brands. I have to make my own. Every once in a while you can find it but in expensive brands. I’m so grateful for Dunkin’ Donuts, even in Florida I can get a great iced coffee.

    Differences in pizza and BBQ vary greatly across this nation. I prefer Chicago pizza and the dry BBQ with Carolina Gold sauce found only in SC.

    This little differences between regions is fascinating and makes life interesting. This was a fun post and I enjoyed remembering all the differences here in the US.

  10. Jnana – I tried to post a photo here and my comment zapped somewhere else on your list. Repeated here. I may post a hot dog picture on my site just for you.

    Thanks for your recent visit to Shift Key. BTW, Growing up, the bun with no sides was the standard at Howard Johnson’s; but the gold standard was and is the dogs from Rutt’s Hut in Clifton NJ. Haven’t been back in a dog’s age, but that is what I’d go back for; no “bun” intended. (Sorry, I just had to say that.)

  11. South Jersey here. Soda, hot dog rolls (side-sliced buns), hoagies/submarines(subs), Philly cheesesteaks, Philly soft pretzels…I could go on and on. I love the variations in food (people) identities this country embraces! (And thank you for following my blog.)

  12. Jnana, Thank you for visiting my blog! anewenglandflowerbed.wordpress.com. It’s nice to know it’s being seen.
    Regarding the hotdog roll debate…..I lifetime New Englander so you already know the answer…..top split and they are wonderful toasted on both sides…..Back in the 50’s and 60’s when I was a mere youth, soda was tonic in this neck of the woods.
    Genealogy is one of my favorite past times, as well. It’s been fun solving family “mysteries”.

  13. Oh the great bun debate… As a New Englander I have occasionally had to suffer the indignation of serving my beloved hot dogs on the wrong roll. A tip: if you are stuck with New Englanders in your midst and do not have the correct bun just trim the top crust and the bottom crust off and rotate 90º – Ta Dah! – New England style!
    Speaking of regionalisms – I recall the look confusion my son got on his first day at college from his upstate NY roommate when he asked where the “bublah” was…

    BTW – Hot dogs are a passion – https://m2smith.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/hot-dogs-–-a-link-to-my-past/

  14. Ah…smart man to say, “that’s what I’ve always had them on” instead of “yes, they are.”
    You’re no weiner…
    and you know your buns – always slit on the side then turned and stuffed – a full frontal bun that’s the way to do a proper dawg.
    Thanks for the read and the like on my poem.

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