The Wieners Circle

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Coordinates: 41°55′48″N 87°38′37″W / 41.93°N 87.643611°W / 41.93; -87.643611

The Wieners Circle
Wieners Circle IMG 2083.jpg
Restaurant information
Food type Hot dog stand
City Lincoln Park, Chicago
State Illinois
Country United States

The Wieners Circle is a hot dog stand in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, United States.[1] It is famous for four things: its signature Maxwell Street Char-dogs, hamburgers, cheese fries, and the mutual verbal abuse between the employees and the customers during the late-weekend hours.[2]


the prices in 2013
A Wieners Circle hot dog with "the works"

The establishment is known for its char-grilled food, especially its hot dogs and hamburgers (commonly called char-dogs and char-burgers).[3] A Wiener Circle char dog with "the works" is a grilled Vienna Beef hot dog on a warm poppy seed bun, topped with mustard, onions, relish, dill pickle spears, tomato slices, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt.


The interior of the establishment, covered in graffiti

Sometime in the early 1990s (circa 1992) Larry Gold, one of the proprietors, called a drunk and distracted customer an "a**hole" in order to get his attention. This set off the late-night abuse culture of the restaurant. The atmosphere can range from playful to hostile.[4] The language used by both the staff and customers during these hours is notoriously foul and aggressive, and sometimes racist.[5] As the wait-staff is largely black and the clientele middle-class to wealthy white, the more racist epithets have led to the rare physical altercation. Customers commonly request a "chocolate shake," which is code for asking one of the female employees to shake her breasts.[4][6] Reports have indicated that female employees lift their shirts to shake their naked breasts, in exchange for tips over twenty dollars.[5][7]

On the weekends, the establishment stays open as late as 5:00 am, drawing many drunken customers who have arrived from bars and clubs.[4]

The nightly tips are very high, and people have worked there for ten years or more.[4] One of the more famous employees is Roberta "Poochie" Jackson, who was featured (along with the restaurant) in a 2007 episode of the Showtime television version of the Chicago Public Radio program This American Life,[4] as well as an episode of Extreme Fast Food on the Travel Channel. In Chicago travel guides, The Wieners Circle is often extolled as a source for authentic Chicago-style hot dogs and its uniquely abrasive customer relations.[8] Journalist Catherine Price listed The Wieners Circle in her book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, calling it "a microcosm of segregation in Chicago",[9] and commenting, "If our metric were 'places that make me sad about humanity,' late night at Wiener's Circle would have been at the top."[1]

The location of the hot dog stand is just north of what used to be the Wrightwood Hotel.[10] In 2008, the restaurant was briefly closed by health inspectors for not having hot running water where employees would wash their hands, and other food safety violations.[11]

In media[edit]

The restaurant was featured in an episode of Insomniac with Dave Attell on Comedy Central in 2002.[episode needed]

The restaurant is the setting for a truTV reality game show.[12]

The Wieners Circle was featured in both radio and TV episodes of This American Life.[13]

The restaurant was the setting of a sketch featuring Jack McBrayer and Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog in the June 14, 2012 episode of the late night talk show Conan, which was the last in a week of shows taped in Chicago.[14]

The restaurant was featured in an episode of the Extreme Restaurant specials on the Travel Channel.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Borrelli, Christopher (June 20, 2010), 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, Chicago Tribune (Tribune Company), retrieved June 1, 2011 
  2. ^ Shimo, Alexandra (February 13, 2008), Burgers 'N Bigots, Maclean's (Rogers Communications) 121 (7): 55 
  3. ^ Berg, Eric N. (July 25, 1990), At the Nation's Table, The New York Times (The New York Times Company), retrieved June 1, 2011 
  4. ^ a b c d e This American Life. "Act II, In Wiener Veritas, from Pandora's Box", No. 6, season 1, April 26, 2007.
  5. ^ a b McMurry, Joel F. S. (November 21, 2009), The Wieners Circus, STOCKYARD (Stockyard Media), retrieved June 1, 2011 
  6. ^ Ecko, Marc (August 25, 2010), My Spot: The Wieners Circle in Chicago, IL, Complex (Complex Media), retrieved June 1, 2011 
  7. ^ Lam, Francis (September 28, 2010), The Most Depressing Hot Dog Stand in America, Salon (Salon Media Group), retrieved June 1, 2011 
  8. ^ Blackwell, Elizabeth Canning (2004), Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Chicago (Frommer's): 55, ISBN 0-7645-7304-7 
  9. ^ Price, Catherine (2010), 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, HarperCollins, pp. 137–138, ISBN 0-06-178776-0 
  10. ^ Apel, Melanie Ann (2002), Lincoln Park, Chicago (Arcadia Publishing): 26, ISBN 0-7385-2016-0 
  11. ^ Staff (December 19, 2008), Health Dept. Shuts Down Wiener's Circle, Chicago Breaking News (Tribune Company), retrieved June 20, 2012 
  12. ^ Abernethy, Samantha (March 16, 2012). "This Exists: A Reality Show About Wiener's Circle". Chicagoist.
  13. ^ "A Night at the Wiener Circle". This American Life. August 23, 1996. 
  14. ^ "The Day Lake Michigan Got Renamed What It Should've Been Called in the First Place – Lake Illinois!". Conan. Season 2. Episode 104. June 14, 2012. TBS.
  15. ^ "Extreme Restaurant special on the Travel Channel". 

External links[edit]