The Wienery (Minneapolis, MN)

Another former haunt of mine of Minneapolis that I wanted to visit was a little restaurant over on the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood: The Wienery. Originally opened in the early 1980s in the location of the former “Edna’s Diner”, sitting in the shadow of the large Riverside Plaza apartment complex (those not from Minneapolis may recognize them from the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Wienery continues to serve up a variety of hot dog. Started by a pair of transplanted Chicagoans who wanted to offer up Chicago-style hot dogs to the locals, The Wienery has had several changes of owners over the years (I know it changed hands at least twice while I lived in Minneapolis, and at least once since then), but even as the neighborhood has slowly changed from the 1960s hippie neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota’s West Bank, to the current mix of “Little Mogadishu” and slightly seedy bars, the Wienery is basically unchanged.

The Wienery isn’t a large joint: it’s basically just a lunch counter with a few side tables, next to a modest open kitchen with a large grill and a deep-fat fryer, and all sorts of shelves holding random bric-a-brac (when I first started coming here in the mid-1990s, the owner at the time mostly liked vintage cameras and had the shelves full of them, the selection is more random now). But they don’t really need a huge menu, since when it comes down to it, the menu is basically just two items: hot dogs and french fries. The trick is that they’ve got quite a few variations on the hot dog them. First of all, they’ve got the classic Chicago-style hot dog, and they do it 100% authentic, using the right hot dog (Vienna-brand Beef), the right hot peppers (again, Vienna-brand “Sport” peppers), the right buns (poppy-seed), and the other proper condiments (bright-green relish, onion, tomato, and a dash of celery salt). But they’ve also got the other classic Chicago-area sausage combination, the “Maxwell Street” Polish sausage with peppers and onions. Add in a few other well-recognized hot dog varieties, like the Mexicali (classic Sonoran-style with beans, bacon, peppers, and mayo), and a classic chili dog. They’ve also got about a dozen house styles, some of them interesting like “The Briny” with Giardinera, pickle, and kraut, or the Upsetter with eggs. Add in a couple of options for brats, Italian sausages, and vegetarian dogs, and there’s basically an option for everyone.

I opted to go classic this visit, getting a mismatched pair: a Chicago-style Dog, and a Maxwell-Street Polish sausage. Both met my expectations: the Chicago-style dog is a perfect rendition of the Chicago classic, with no shortcuts: every bite is a nice combination of beef hot dog, poopy seed bun, and a nice mix of relish, mustard, onion, tomato, and pepper (“dragged through the garden”). The Maxwell Street was quite good as well, while Vienna isn’t my favorite for a smoked Polish sausage, the dog was decently executed with some nice grilled hot peppers and onions.

Overall, I’m glad to see that the Wienery is still thriving in the neighborhood. It’s a bit gritty, and more than a bit of a holdback from a former era of the neighborhood, but the service has always been great, and they’ve always been a solid hot dog.

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