A Hot Dog Is Not a Sandwich and We Don’t Care What Anyone Says

Let's finally settle the topic once and for all. And no, a hot dog is not a sandwich.


Jul. 19 2018, Updated 3:36 p.m. ET

Source: istock

My favorite part of BBQs has always been the hot dogs. Sure, drinking outside is nice, and sharing conversation with friends is always pleasant, but what's better than links of encased meat topped with mustard, sauerkraut and, if you're lucky, some red onion sauce. Don't even get me started on the philistines who insist on putting ketchup on their weiners. Ew!

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A polarizing debate broke out among friends at the last BBQ I went to, when someone made the audacious and IMHO annoying-for-the-sake-of-being-annoying claim that a hot dog was their favorite type of sandwich. 

Now, hot dogs are my favorite food, so I'm all for ranking it super high up on the chain, but is a hot dog a sandwich? Really?! That they would condescend to classify it as a one was, to me, extremely upsetting. And you don't want to upset a hot dog fan.

I know it seems petty to jeopardize a perfectly amicable relationship with a friend of many years over a hot dog, but it was the kind of offensive statement that truly made me question whether the two of us even had anything in common anymore. 

What's the next insane topic this guy's going to want to debate? Whether a taco is a sandwich? Is a ravioli a dumpling? If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound? 

Scroll down for very convincing reasons why a hot dog is not a sandwich. 

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KetchupHotDog ClintEastwood
Source: Warner Bros

1. Anthony Bourdain Says It's Not

When everyone's favorite late food critic did a Reddit AMA a couple of years ago, the Internet asked for his take on this heated topic.

“I’ve noticed this question coming up again and again,” he told Reddit. “No. I don’t think it’s a sandwich. I don’t think a hamburger is a sandwich either. The fact that it’s in between bread–the bread is a delivery system, a ballistic delivery system. It is not a classic sandwich, in my view.”

“I mean,” he went on, “if you were to talk into any vendor of fine hot dogs, and ask for a hot dog sandwich, they would probably report you to the FBI. As they should.”

Take it from a New Yorker, it's true.

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Source: Netflix

2. Sandwiches Require Two Separate Pieces of Bread

BLT? Definitely a sandwich, as its three main ingredients (four, if you count the mayo) are lovingly housed between two slices of bread. Same goes for a Reuben, a club, and panini. A hot dog's bun is ONE unit that is generously cut for the comfort of hugging a frank. By this test, I'm sorry but it's not a sandwich.

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3. Sandwiches Need to Be Oriented Vertically

Sandwiches need to sit flush with the plate, not perpendicularly to it, The Atlantic states quite compellingly. I'll call Oreos sandwiches, burgers sandwiches (don't @ me), and chicken sandwiches, well, sandwiches. Another untenable reason a hot dog is definitely not one of these.

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Source: iStock

4. If a Sandwich Contains Meat, the Meat Needs to Be Flat

I'm no vegetarian-phobe so I can concede that a sandwich need not obligatorily contain meat. But we can all agree that just like you wouldn't stick a block of brie between bread and call it a grilled cheese, you would also have to be some kind of brute not to slice your deli meats before stacking them in your sando. 

And let's not even with the abomination below.

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5. Ruth Bader Ginsberg Doesn't Really Think They're Sandwiches

Sometimes you have to count on American leaders who deal with tough world issues to weigh in on important debates. After all, the question of whether or not a burrito is a sandwich made it all the way to Pennsylvania court.

When Stephen Colbert asked RBG to settle the argument, she quickly deflected the matter. Classic lawyer move. 

"You tell me what a sandwich is, and I'll tell you whether a hot dog is a sandwich" was her retort. Colbert clearly had an agenda, and said it was two pieces of bread with almost any type of filling, as long as the filling wasn't more bread. 

She mulls the definition for a bit, presumably biting her tongue because she doesn't agree with this manipulative setup, then says, in that very calculated lawyerly fashion, "On your definition," (emphasis mine), "yes it is."

But I'm not buying it. By his definition, is a quesadilla a sandwich, too? I'll have to phrase the question differently next time she stops by for a BBQ.

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Source: iStock

6. The History of the Hot Dog Is Different from the History of the Sandwich

A bro and a philosopher walk into a bar—just kidding. But a bro and a philosopher did sit down to discuss some really important issues, not least the contested question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich. The philosopher unsurprisingly had some very interesting tidbits to share on the topic, and how the verdict might boil down to the origins of the two:

...The history of the hot dog is different than the history of sandwiches as a whole. They almost exist on different temporal planes. When history’s first Frankfurter was made in Central Europe and stuck in a roll of bread, it was done outside the modern concept of a sandwich. So, yes, they likely are sandwiches, but only in the same sense that benches are also chairs.


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Source: Nathan's


The philosopher went on to cite the only part I remember of my undergraduate degree in linguistics: Gricean maxims. These are the basic everyday rules for effective conversation, which you adhere to all the time, even if you don't know you're doing it.

The UCLA professor conclusively states: 

Part of the problem is what Paul Grice would have called issues of implicature. So here’s the thing: A convention of language is that you don’t say something less specific if a more specific thing to say is available and is appropriate. That’s an issue that comes up here because some things that people might call sandwiches have more specific names.

So, even in some demented world where you think a hot dog has the qualities of a sandwich, you would never (ever) refer to it as such, "because it has a more specific—and therefore more meaningful—name."

And, as the spokesman of Nathan's, the all-time best brand for anything hot-dog related notes, "The hot dog is not the sum of its components. It is simply a hot dog — a fundamental entity that represents America and the joy of summer."

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Source: Getty

So there you have it. The hot dog is absolutely not a sandwich, but it is the most delicious food. And as much as I love English, I don't care what Merriem-Webster says.

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