I'm already tired of those three little words - in this economy. I'm tired of hearing them, saying them, thinking them. With a recession in full force, this phrase is bandied about more often than the F word at my office.
However, I am willing to throw those three little words out there one more time because in this economy, you can't beat The Wienery for an awesomely cheap meal. The Wienery is a little hole in the wall on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota nestled next to a little Thai restaurant and near the 400 Bar. It seats maybe ten folks at the counter and there are three small tables. It isn't the cleanest establishment you'll ever visit, but it isn't scary, either. It just is. One dude, the owner I presume, presided over just a regular home stove (no fancy restaurant cook top here) to feed the full house of hot dog lovers. Jude and Gord and I got lucky and nabbed one of the tables and perused the menu while sitting underneath a mounted deer head that was wearing a necktie and a trucker cap that was printed with the words Jesus is My Homeboy. I loved the place for that alone. I knew I wanted a hot dog for lunch, after all the place isn't called The Hamburgery, it's The Wienery. That said, I have heard that the burgers are pretty great, so there is definitely one in my future. But for my first visit only a wiener would do (that's what she said).
Amongst the possibilities that included all sorts of toppings (chili, onions, chilies, vegetables, bacon, cheese, etc.) as well as dog options, beef and pork and vegetarian choices, I chose the Drive Inn Dog. That's a Vienna beef hot dog with chili, cheese and cole slaw on top. Word on the street is that the owner makes everything from scratch, almost at the very time he is preparing your order. Still, it was remarkably fast. When you order French fries, you order them by the number of potatoes you want. One potato costs $1.25 to fry and each additional potato for your order is 75 cents. I told the owner we wanted to share some fries and he said, "So you just want a huge pile?" and I could not refuse.
My dog arrived piping hot, with a layer of chili and cheese on top and a glop of tasty cole slaw thrown in the center. Now, some people may have been disappointed with the amount of toppings on the dog, so accustomed to out-of-control restaurant portions that try to make us all believe we're getting more for our dollar. Even I expected something more along the line of a Coney Island at the Gopher Bar in St. Paul, smothered in toppings so much so that you can't tell where the hot dog is. I'm not saying I don't enjoy that, but I can also appreciate a certain amount of restraint in topping my hot dogs so that every flavor can be appreciated. For me, this dog had the perfect amount of toppings, no fork required when it was all over. The French fries were hot out of the fryer, skin on and lightly salty. It was indeed a huge pile and we finished every last one of them. I don't think this was the best hot dog I'll ever eat in my life and I'm not urging Chicagoans to make a beeline for The Wienery, but it was a darn good dog and I'll gladly return anytime.
As we gathered to leave, since there's no point in hanging out at this place because it's pretty small, the owner caught my eye and said, "Make it ten bucks." Ten dollars for lunch for three?! I could not have been happier. Even with a generous tip we got out of there with hardly a dent in the wallet. Three stomachs happily full for around ten bucks in this economy? I'll be back.