What: Pølse (“pool-seh”) translates to sausage, but what it really signifies here is hot dog. Copenhagen, like New York City, is a great street-dog town: Hot dog stands (pølsevogn) are a common sight in every square, outside metro stations, in the airport. The long, skinny red-dyed, natural-casing pork hot dogs called rødpølser are particularly popular; it’s said they were originally dipped in the dye to make day-old dogs look fresher. The Danes have loved them since about 1910, when they first appeared on the street, and the rest is history. Nowadays more than rødpølser are consumed at street stands annually. It is the Danish fast food of choice.
The typical pølsevogn presents you with a checkerboard display of images: Want a traditional frankfurter, pølsebrød (bun) on the side, with mustard and ketchup? A boiled or grilled (ristet) hot dog, served in the bun, with the usual toppings of mustard, ketchup, remoulade, pickles, and raw and crispy onions? How about a popular Fransk dog, stuffed into a hollowed-out baguette with a creamy herb dressing and/or your choice of condiment on top? Then there’s the medister pølse, more like a bratwurst, and the bacon-wrapped pølse i svob. Some stands also offer bøfsandwiches (hamburgers, with the same toppings as on the ristet dogs) and frikadelle (meatball) sandwiches, and, of course, chocolate milk, the classic drink pairing at a pølsevogn. Whatever your decision, you really can’t go wrong.
Where: You certainly needn’t go far in Copenhagen to try a Danish hot dog, but one of our favorites was the basic rødpølser from Pølsekiosken “Sekskanten” (45-32-53-90-28; Vestgrønningen 4, map), in the historic fishing village of Dragør, about 12 kilometers southeast of central Copenhagen. It’s famous for its quaint, compact Old Town, all labyrinthine cobblestone alleyways of traditional yellow houses with red roofs, many of them centuries old. This place is worth checking out, hot dog or not.
When: Wed-Sun, noon-6pm
Order: Pictured is the regular boiled red hot dog (28 kr) with all the trimmings— mustard, ketchup, remoulade, pickled cucumbers, both raw and crispy-fried onions—which we paired with a velvety-rich Cocio chocolate milk, the local brand of choice, here presented in the preferred glass bottle. There’s not a whole lot of variation as far as street franks go (and we tried a bunch), but this one was just particularly tasty—the hot dog had a nice snap to it, the sauces were sweet and creamy, the pickles crisp and pungent. And the crunchy onions are perhaps the best thing to happen to hot dogs in decades. Also great to try here is the classic Danish bøfsandwich, a messy but satisfying affair that essentially transfers the usual hot dog toppings to a small ground-beef burger, complete with crispy onions.
Alternatively: Most hot dog stands are Steff Houlberg or Tulip stands (which owns Steff Houlberg), and you can’t really go wrong with any of them: They will be your most typical representation of this Danish street “delicacy.” This includes Steff’s Place, in the airport (Kastrup Airport, Terminal 3, map) and elsewhere, where we fell in love with the Fransk dog. As far as non-chains go, decades-old Harry’s Place (Nordre Fasanvej 269, map), on the outskirts of Nørrebro, is a perennial favorite, and a great spot to try the classic hot dog-bøfsandwich-chocolate milk trifecta.
Finally, any hot dog connoisseur here must also make time for the newer wave of fancier dogs, a trend that started with the popular, award-winning DØP mini-chain of organic hot dogs (multiple locations including Købmagergade 52, near the Round Tower, map), made with organic everything and whole-grain bread. DØP offers a few traditional Danish hot dogs (34 kr each), but adds a healthier pølse med rodfrugtmos—your choice of sausage served with mashed root purée—as well as a delicious variety of sausages: classic ristet pølse, seasoned beef, pork, cheese, goat, chicken, and even vegetarian, made with tofu (specialty sausages cost a bit extra). A step up the gourmet ladder from that is Pølse Kompagniet (at the indoor Copenhagen Street Food market on Papirøen (Paper Island), near the opera house, map), where the dogs reach 40 kr each and pair things like merguez and parsley pesto, and chipolata and Caribbean sauce.