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A Real Minneapolis Hot Dog? Hoodwinked!

By Lavender July 31, 2008

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The goal: Seek out the best wieners in town, while increasing our riding endurance. I’ve had a fondness for wieners from an early age: boiled, fried, battered, deep-fried, and grilled; short ones, long ones, and stuffed. Partner Chad, friend/neighbor Mona, and I hopped on our bicycles for our noble quest to find the perfect wiener.

(Clockwise from upper left) Fearless Frank, Chris & Rob’s, Hairy Brain, Town Talk Dinner. Photo by Chad A. Olson

10:45 AM: Our bicycles zoomed through Highland Village and Minnehaha Park, and along the bike path next to the Light Rail. At East 42nd Street and Hiawatha, we turned left.

Our first stop was Chris & Rob’s Chicago’s Taste Authority. We looked over the menu. I introduced myself to owner Rob Dubnecay. With a friendly smile, he suggested trying the Original “Chicago Style” Hot Dog—Chicago’s famous “Vienna” brand. It had everything—including mustard, “nuclear” relish, onions, sliced tomatoes, kosher pickle, and sport peppers—seasoned with celery salt, on a poppy seed bun ($2.99). Another option: the Polish Sausage, topped like the Original ($3.39). Because we rode our bicycles, our sodas were free with our purchase. We planted ourselves in the spacious outdoor patio. Our cooked wieners were delivered, and the eating began. The dogs were respectable, and it was an enjoyable eat. I noticed that at 11:20 AM, the joint was filling up for the lunch rush.

Back on our bikes, we pulled up to Town Talk Diner on Lake Street, where we sat on the patio. We ordered the Fearless Frank, a wiener wrapped in bacon, and topped with cheese, chili, and grilled onions, served with fries ($8.25). To wash it down, Chad and Mona ordered Vino Verde, and I had an Almond Spritzer. Owner Tor Westgard came over to our table to welcome us. He explained that the Fearless Frank is a wiener tightly wrapped in bacon; next wrapped in plastic and poached; and then frozen and deep-fried before serving. We all agreed it was not only fearless, but also delightful.

We peddled to Downtown Minneapolis to try a couple of wieneries in the skyways.

First was Franks A Million, above Kieran’s Irish Pub. The menu was exactly the same as Chris and Rob’s, offering the same Vienna beef wiener: Original “Chicago Style” Hot Dog. We ordered one to sample, and it tasted the same, except Chris and Rob’s ambience was fun and welcoming.

Next, we hopped over to the North Star building. We walked through the lobby of the Crown Plaza, and right into Walkin’ Dog. It’s a friendly counter shop with popcorn, malts, and Vienna beef Original “Chicago Style” Hot Dogs. Purchasing one, we found it was the same as at the other places. The three of us were starting to see a wiener conspiracy.

Greeted like a bad relative at the counter of Rubylicious Chicago Style Hot Dogs, in the walkway adjacent to Macy’s next to Candyland, we nevertheless scanned the menu. It featured the same Vienna beef Original “Chicago Style” Hot Dogs, but at least had a couple different dogs with a Caribbean flair. Good!

Our last destination: The Wienery, at 414 Cedar Avenue South, next door to the Cedar Cultural Center. As I locked my bike, Chad rode by, shaking his head no, and warning, “They have dead animals on the walls.” I wanted in. Walking in, we starred at the chairs, whose vinyl seats had holes worn to the boards. Still, there was something that I liked: its greasy charm.

Owner, Pat Starr greeted us. The menu contained the same Vienna “Chicago” etc., etc., but had many unique items. One was the Hairy Brain with mayonnaise, raw onions, cheese, and sauerkraut ($2.50). We ordered the Upsetter, with thick bacon, eggs (any way you want them—we tried scrambled), and cheese ($3.50); and the Picnic-Dog, with baked beans, cheese, and coleslaw ($2.50). The price was right.

Starr brought our dogs over, and we all shared. Mona and I enjoyed the Picnic-Dog. Chad was a little piggy. He almost ate the entire Upsetter Dog—and he doesn’t care for hot dogs. Both dogs were fantastic, and I mean really good. We were in hot dog heaven—finally! I asked Starr if Vienna had a special kit or what. Pointing to a large box, she said, “It’s a special kit. They fly everything in from Chicago.”

The Wienery is going to be featured shortly on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, with Guy Fieri. It’s listed as…a Minneapolis dog and burger dive.

5:15 PM: Our goal reached. We found the perfect wiener in the Twin Cities, but with a shocker—and we improved our stamina. Chicago has a stranglehold on the dog. I say, stay away from my wiener, Chicago—I like mine hefty, uniquely adorned, and not from a kit.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives
“Burgers and Dogs”

Food Network
Episode DV0404
Aug 3, 2 PM
Aug 8, 8 PM
Aug 8, 10 PM

Chris & Rob’s Chicago’s Taste Authority
3101 E. 42nd St., Mpls.
(612) 729-5507
<www.chrisandrobs.com>

Franks A Million
330 2nd Ave. S., Ste. 218, Mpls.
(612) 338-0877

Rubylicious Chicago Style Hot Dogs
27 S. 7th St., Mpls.
(612) 332-7829

Town Talk Diner
2707 E. Lake St., Mpls.
(612) 722-1312
<www.towntalkdiner.com>

Walkin’ Dog
618 2nd Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 436-0055
<www.walkindog.com>

The Wienery
414 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 333-5798
John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private events, and culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. Visit <www.GardenCounty.info>. Check out his “Word of Mouth” Blog under Extras at <lavendermagazi.wpengine.com>.

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