|The Wieners Circle|
|Food type||Hot dog stand|
|City||Lincoln Park, Chicago|
The Wieners Circle is a hot dog stand on Clark Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is known for its Maxwell Street Polish, Char-dogs, hamburgers, 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.
The Wieners Circle opened for business in 1983, replacing a Chicago-style hot dog restaurant in the same location called Harry-O's. 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. While the atmosphere during business hours in the daytime is normal, the language used by both the staff and customers during the late hours is notoriously foul and aggressive. 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. 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 establishment has a history of political satire in its signage and advertising. In March 2016, the restaurant offered 3-inch "Trump footlong" hot dogs. In June 2017, they advertised "Paris Accord compliant covfefe". In March 2020, signage mocked the commuting of the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. In 2021, the establishment announced that it intends to serve alcohol when it reopens.
One of the more famous employees is Roberta "Poochie" Jackson, who was featured (along with the restaurant) in a 2007 episode of Showtime's 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 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.
In the "Going Deep" episode of The Great Indoors Jack takes Eddie there to cheer him up after his divorce, only to have staffer Valerie (played by Poochie Jackson herself) unwittingly razz Eddie about his divorce. Jack later sends Clark and Emma there as a prank, as they don't understand that the insults are part of the experience.
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- "When Wiener's Circle Reopens, the Infamous Hot Dog Stand Will Add a Bar". March 15, 2021.
- "Travel Channel Wins Lawsuit Over Filming at Racy Hot Dog Stand". The Hollywood Reporter. February 20, 2012.
- Janssen, Kim (May 16, 2016). "Woman Hurt at Wieners Circle Can Sue over Unruly Atmosphere, Court Rules", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
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- The Wieners Circle, February 1, 2012, retrieved March 12, 2016
- "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.
- "The Great Indoors Video - Going Deep". CBS. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
- Selvam, Ashok (April 13, 2020). "Wiener's Circle Unveils YouTube Mock News Series Ripping on Jared Kushner". Eater Chicago. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
- "The Wieners Circle News Channel - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.