Wienery originally uploaded by Dave Glad
Two weekends ago we were watching TV and on came Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (YouTube). They were in Minneapolis visiting The Wienery and took their viewers on a wild ride through a variety of menu items which including everything from Chicago dogs up through super spicy hot dogs and burgers with homemade fries. Without a hot dog joint in Apple Valley any longer, and being a big Chicago dog fan, The Wife noted she wanted to try it and soon.
We made two trips on back to back days, mostly because my pictures from the first night didn’t turn out and honestly because we had so much fun that I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke. With this ridiculous time change nonsense the street was dark but the inside of the restaurant was darker. On both days there were either no others or only a few others besides us and the two working the counter and the kitchen. We took over one of the few tables running against one wall and parallel to the red stools spinning at the counter. I pulled out a chair for myself and laughed out loud. Not only was the backrest broken and the chair lopsided but the majority of the chair itself looked as if it had made it through tours in Vietnam, both Gulf Wars, and a couple of tours dealing with roadside bombs in Afghanistan for good measure (it was Veteran’s Day, sorry, I had to get the joke in there). It wasn’t only my chair however, each and every chair in the place was on its last legs, literally.
It wasn’t only the chairs though. Every last little bit of The Wienery is broken and/or severely beaten down in some way, shape, or form. The stools lining the counter wobble ever so greatly when your son spins them for fun. The stereo perched precariously atop shelving and teetering with every nudge of the dial to change the playing tunes, was missing a tape deck door and had another permanently ajar. It looked like a salvage unit from a local thrift store. The all original kitsch behind the counter and lining the shelving was dusty, slightly blackened with grease, and more or less filthy. The Wienery doesn’t appear to be child friendly at all when you first walk through the squeaky front door, however they may just surprise you with a pile of dingy children’s books, a box of dinosaurs and Matchbox cars, and some other random kids toys which were clearly rejects from Goodwill and definitely should not have been in my child’s mouth but found themselves there, several times, anyway. On both nights the restaurant was absolutely packed with children including Saturday when another family of three wandered in from the street with their kids in tow and the father smiling widely while he wife sat nervously looking around at the sight before her.
We took hold of the scuzzy menus and looked over the items described by MSPD as the King’s Place of hot dogs. On Friday The Wife went with her beloved Chicago dog. I ordered a Tasmanian Devil dog (spicy!) with a spicy Italian sausage and a 1/3 pound, hand-formed, Selamu Burger (hot as you want it with hot peppers and garlic inside). We got a plain dog for The Rooster and a plate of their Picnic Fries (coleslaw, baked beans, and cheese). While the online menu prices don’t match up to reality, everything was still very inexpensive. Think $3.25 for a 1/3 lb hamburger–probably why he can’t afford new chairs however I’d be fine with standing with my shoulder against the wall if I had to if it means cheap and good eats! On Saturday we had another Chicago dog, another plain dog for The Roo, a Picnic Dog, a Philly Cheesesteak, and another order of Picnic Fries.
Just about everything is made to order. That includes chopping onions, garlic, potatoes and peppers for your meal (seriously if you haven’t watched the YouTube clip of the DDD episode linked at the top of the post, do so now, I’ll wait). While the episode made it seem like they make coleslaw to order too, they weren’t willing to make some on our first visit which was the only disappointment of the evening. Both The Wife’s fries and my burger were supposed to come with it and neither did and that put a bit of a damper on both items but not even close to enough for me to care all that much. On our second visit I asked in advance if they had coleslaw and they did, yay!
The Chicago dog was good says The Wife. If she had let me take a look at it before she devoured it I might have been able to tell you if it had everything it was supposed to have. Her fries, topped with tons of cheese and baked beans, looked a little sad without the creamy coleslaw we hoped for. However they were homemade, fresh from the large vat of oil bubbling on the stove, and were incredibly good. Coming from someone who finds little value in fries, you should take this as your cue to run to The Wienery if you’re a fry fan.
My Tasmanian Devil dog was deep fried and then grilled. While a little more cooked than I would normally like, it didn’t bother me in the slightest as I bit into the spicy brat. All by its lonesome it was already hot but coupled with the pile of freshly chopped habaneros topping the dog, this was definitely hot enough to make me whistle through my teeth and gain the surprised look of Joey’s wife who seemed genuinely impressed that it was hot enough for me. My burger was similarly yummy. While no award winners here, it was flavorful and spicy but would have been absolutely to die for with the missing coleslaw. Next time I’ll double the patty just for the heck of it. Mmm mmm good.
The Picnic Fries and Picnic Dog with the coleslaw were perfect. The slaw is soupy, creamy, and sweet. When coupled with the salty goodness of the fresh fries and Vienna dogs, the sweetness really helps to balance it all out perfectly. While I’ve had coleslaw on top of fries and hot dogs before, The Wienery is in a class all by its lonesome. I generally dislike coleslaw when I eat out but this stuff had me clamoring for more.
When I finally had a chance to look up and wipe away the tears running down my cheeks from the habaneros, I noticed that we had been dining under a large and delightfully bright photo of two grasshoppers mating. Coupled with the gigantic sailfish (said to have paid for two Philly cheesesteaks) hanging above it and the deer head mounted beside it wearing a hot dog between its antlers and a pin covered tie around its neck (also used in trade), we were dining in some pretty fine company. However they were nothing compared to the trucker hat behind the counter spitting out the phrase, “Jesus is my homeboy!” and the hundreds of armbands from what appeared to be the Hennepin County Jail. Apparently The Wienery is the first place jailbirds head after being released. Joey hit it on the head when he said we finally found a place with lower decorator standards than the Windmill Cafe.
When it was all said and done we paid about $18 and $23 for our meals before tip (tax is included in all prices on the menu but please note that they are cash only) and I must admit that while I love fine dining and will go to great lengths to enjoy it, I don’t think I have had as much fun at a restaurant as I did Friday and Saturday evenings when I stepped into the Wienery with The Wife, The Rooster, Joey, MSPD and their families. I cannot wait to go back again and again and not only do I suggest you get over there yourself, I demand it!
Have you ever eaten at The Wienery in Minneapolis? If so what did you think about it? What did you order and what do you plan on ordering in the future? Do dives scare you or do you seek them out and revel in them like I do? What other places around town do you know could pass for a junkyard but serve great food? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
414 Cedar Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55454-1033
Monday to Friday: 8 AM to 8 PM
Saturday and Sunday: 9 AM to 8 PM
See all the pictures from The Winery on Flickr here.