Baltimore has crab cakes, Berger cookies, Utz chips, and even, it turns out, its own style of hot dog. A cult classic among kosher deli fans, Charm City’s frank comes wrapped in a slice of fried bologna.
Those who haven’t tried it may turn up their noses at the thought. Bologna on a hot dog? Isn’t that redundant?
Answer: No. In the words of legendary Baltimore historian Gilbert Sandler, “In this creation, grease from the bologna mixes with the grease from the hot dog, and both find their way into the bread to form an unforgettable aroma, taste and aftertaste — and 200 points on your cholesterol count.”
See for yourself at one of the area’s kosher-style delis like the Essen Room, which opened in Pikesville in 2017, or Attman’s on corned beef row, which dates back to 1915. Almost any frankfurter served at Attman’s comes blanketed in fried bologna, Baltimore-style, as its come to be known.
“It’s one of our most popular items,” said Matt Attman, who is among the fourth generation of his family to run the restaurant, still jammed with customers well after the end of the lunch rush. Attman admits he’d never heard of a bologna-wrapped hot dog until he began working at the business, where it’s billed as an original family recipe. “I have no idea how it became so popular.”
The invention appears to be the work of Baltimore bologna maestro Nathan Ballow. Ukraine-born Ballow opened his first deli in West Baltimore during the Great Depression. The place was known for the “Easterwood Special,” named for a park nearby, a half-loaf of rye bread filled with a heap of bologna. It was cheap, filling, and presumably, very tasty.
In the 1940s, Ballow opened Mandell and Ballow’s in the Hilltop Shopping Center on Reisterstown Road. It was there, his family later told The Baltimore Sun, that his hot-dog-wrapped in bologna became popular. Like all good ideas, it had its copycats. Soon enough, Attman’s and other delis in the city were doing the same thing.
Today, some Attman’s customers like it so much, they’ll buy a package of hot dogs and a pound of bologna to take home and cook themselves.
Customer Ray Bonhs typically orders a Baltimore hot dog as an appetizer to eat along with a corned beef sandwich. Though he sometimes cooks hot dogs himself, he said, “It tastes better here."