The Wieners Circle
|The Wieners Circle|
|Food type||Hot dog stand|
|City||Lincoln Park, Chicago|
The Wieners Circle is a hot dog stand in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is famous for four things: its signature Maxwell Street Char-dogs, hamburgers and cheese fries, and the mutual verbal abuse between the employees and the customers during the late-weekend hours.
The establishment is known for its char-grilled food, especially its hot dogs and hamburgers (commonly called char-dogs and char-burgers). 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.
Sometime in the early 1990s (circa 1992) Larry Gold, one of the proprietors, called a drunk and distracted customer an "asshole" 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. The language used by both the staff and customers during these hours is notoriously foul and aggressive, and sometimes racist. 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. Reports have indicated that female employees lift their shirts to shake their naked breasts, in exchange for tips over twenty dollars.
On the weekends, the establishment stays open as late as 5:00 am, drawing many drunken customers who have arrived from bars and clubs.
The nightly tips are very high, and people have worked there for ten years or more. 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, 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. 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", 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."
The location of the hot dog stand is just north of what used to be the Wrightwood Hotel. 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.
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.
The restaurant was featured in an episode of the Extreme Restaurant specials on the Travel Channel.
- Borrelli, Christopher (June 20, 2010), "101 Places Not to See Before You Die", Chicago Tribune (Tribune Company), retrieved June 1, 2011
- Shimo, Alexandra (February 13, 2008), "Burgers 'N Bigots", Maclean's (Rogers Communications) 121 (7): 55
- Berg, Eric N. (July 25, 1990), "At the Nation's Table", The New York Times (The New York Times Company), retrieved June 1, 2011
- This American Life. "Act II, In Wiener Veritas, from Pandora's Box", No. 6, season 1, April 26, 2007.
- McMurry, Joel F. S. (November 21, 2009), "The Wieners Circus", STOCKYARD (Stockyard Media), retrieved June 1, 2011
- Ecko, Marc (August 25, 2010), "My Spot: The Wieners Circle in Chicago, IL", Complex (Complex Media), retrieved June 1, 2011
- Lam, Francis (September 28, 2010), "The Most Depressing Hot Dog Stand in America", Salon (Salon Media Group), retrieved June 1, 2011
- Blackwell, Elizabeth Canning (2004), Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Chicago (Frommer's): 55, ISBN 0-7645-7304-7
- Price, Catherine (2010), 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, HarperCollins, pp. 137–138, ISBN 0-06-178776-0
- Apel, Melanie Ann (2002), Lincoln Park, Chicago (Arcadia Publishing): 26, ISBN 0-7385-2016-0
- Staff (December 19, 2008), "Health Dept. Shuts Down Wiener's Circle", Chicago Breaking News (Tribune Company), retrieved June 20, 2012
- Abernethy, Samantha (March 16, 2012). "This Exists: A Reality Show About Wiener's Circle". Chicagoist.
- "A Night at the Wiener Circle". This American Life. August 23, 1996.
- "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.
- "Extreme Restaurant special on the Travel Channel".