When I wrote my article on the Treasure Island Hot Dog and not understanding how hot dogs had any association with San Francisco it triggered a response from Uncle Frank of the Schwarz Sausage Factory. While the name sounded familiar I wasn’t aware that they had started in San Francisco. Here’s the letter I received from Uncle Frank yesterday morning:
I read your post about San Francisco having no hot dog connection.
I also notice you quote Herb Caen, a serious hot dog guy.
Actually, San Francisco has a proud, although not well known, hot dog heritage. Up until a few years ago, The City was home to Schwarz Sausage Company, a multi generation family business who have been at it longer than Nathan’s of New York.
And they provide Berkeley’s spectacular Top Dog with some of the finest hot dogs on the planet.
How do I know all of this?
We’re The Hot Dog Hall Of Fame (Mr. Caen was a supporter) and we’ve tasted hot dogs all across the country, easily a thousand places in the 35 years we’ve been doing this.
There’s more to it than that but I thought we should introduce ourselves.
A few of our blogs and web sites:
Our web site: www.TheHotDogHallOfFame.com
Our blog: http://FrankfurterChronicles.blogspot.com
About the collection: http://TheHotDogHallOfFame.blogspot.com
How we got into the weenie trade: http://TheGreatAmericanHotDogMachine.blogspot.com
The Presidential Wiener: http://PresidentialWiener.blogspot.com
I thought I knew a lot about Herb Caen, but I didn’t know he was a hot dog fan, but that makes sense. Hot dogs were always what you got at a baseball game and it was probably one from Schwarz Sausage Factory that I used to get as a kid. While they’ve been sold and are now in Fairfield [like so many other companies that grew too big for San Francisco] You can see their current website at the Engelhart Gourmet Foods site.
Thanks for the info Uncle Frank.
I’ve had to do some research on this one because San Francisco isn’t known for it’s hot dogs like New York, but I remember growing up my Mom always used to buy Treasure Island Hot Dogs at the butcher shop [she was a bit too snooty for Oscar Meyer]. All I can remember about them was they were about a foot long when you rarely found a hot dog that long. I don’t remember anything about the taste being special, but I do remember the name so as I said, it was time to do some research.
The first thing I discovered was that we, San Francisco, don’t have the only Treasure Island. Apparently there is also one in Florida that also has a lot of hot dog stands. I don’t know where it is, but I certainly don’t associate Florida with hot dogs. The closest association with Treasure Island and the Hot Dog goes back to the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco held on Treasure Island. The interesting part about this story is that the hot dog and hamburger held a rather interesting place there. Because you could buy one and walk away and not have to sit down restaurant style they were not subject to taxation because they weren’t considered meals, but snacks.
That would answer the question why the hot dogs were a foot long. It was just a big snack that you could dump relish, onions, mustard and or ketchup on [these are the typical condiments for hot dogs in San Francisco, no sauerkraut.] So the people who originally came up with the Treasure Island hot dog were kind of trying to make a run around having to pay taxes. Now THAT sounds like old time San Francisco to me. There are apparently hot dog stands on Treasure Island, but I don’t know if they even serve the supposed Treasure Island Hot Dog.
All in all to me a hot dog is a hot dog. It’s a tubular meat delivery device that is more flavored by what you put on in that by itself. If you want to find Treasure Island Hot Dogs for sale you’ll have to go to some old school or high end butcher shops in San Francisco. When I’ve gone into one that has them and asked them why they’re called a Treasure Island Hot Dog no one can tell me. If one of you out there has some more info to share on this let me know. I get a bit OCD at times when I can’t get the answer to my questions.
I stopped working downtown too soon. It wasn’t my choice, but I missed the first rush of the new sensation that’s sweeping San Francisco and everyone’s smartphone — food trucks. I’m not talking the old beat up taco trucks that you used to see in Oakland, but these are upscale trucks serving upscale food and the best way to find out about where they are in on you smartphone.
Here’s how it works. You pull out your mobile phone and download a Twitter app. Then you find and follow all the trucks around San Francisco. They really are more SF and the peninsula than just SF, but they seem to be focused around San Francisco at least a couple of days a week.
If you want to be an über-cool techie hipster geek you’ll get Eat Street which gives you a map that’s based on their GPS so you can see where they are when you want to get food. I use both because I like to talk back to the people to try and get them out to the Sunset and Richmond on sunny weekends [WHICH WE DO HAVE!!!!]
You can find more than just tacos and burritos now. We’ve got BBQ places that are cooking up some smoky goodness. Curry Up Now that does burritos with an Indian twist [aweeesome!], Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches left and right. Pretty much if you can think of a food there’s someone out there in a truck that will sell it to you.
One of the best places to try and fill your food truck craving is Off The Grid that’s held in many places around San Francisco, but Fort Mason [5pm-10pm Fridays] seems to be what everyone is talking about because that hosts the most trucks [up to 30] and tents. I was down at Fort Mason one night and happened to see a huge amount of trucks out there with an even huger amount of people wandering around. The smell of all the different trucks wafting up through the open window just pulled me towards the trucks during a break. I think I ended up spending a little over $20 getting the small sampler plates as I call them from several of the trucks.
This was definitely some good food and I wish that we could get more of them to try coming out to Ocean Beach because on a sunny day there isn’t anything going on there to feed people. The biggest problem is that we usually know about a sunny day out here with about 15 minutes in advance. Most of the trucks have websites where you can check where they’re going to be that week if you don’t have a smartphone.
Food trucks are gaining more ground in San Francisco now that the city has made it easier for them to do business. Because they don’t have to pay rent it’s cheaper for them to operate which is bad for brick and mortar businesses, but good for you and me because they can produce the food cheaper. Check them out NOW!
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