3 August 2010

The Wieners Circle, Chicago - Restaurant Review

In my quest to find the perfect Chicago hot dog, I stumbled upon a little gem that has become one of Chi-town's most (in)famous hot dog stands. The Wieners Circle started up in 1983 and, contrary to the sign above the shop proclaiming it's fame for cheddar-burgers, it is mostly known for it's chargrilled hot dogs (char dogs) and it's cheese-smothered French fries.

I came here at lunchtime and the place wasn't too busy and the staff seemed pretty friendly. On weekend nights though the place undergoes a Jekyll & Hyde-like transformation as it opens until 5am and becomes a favourite haunt for the post-bar/club crowd. The Wieners Circle's notoriety stems from the, er, 'fruity' verbal abuse that is encouraged between staff and the often drunk customers on weekend nights. I understand things can get quite heated, even nasty at times, but mostly it's good sport and staff seem to enjoy working here. I have heard though that ordering a "chocolate milkshake" here is not all it seems - it will cost you $20 and is for the brave and/or foolish only! Check out the restaurant's website (link below) for a glimpse of some of the shenanigans that goes on at The Wiener Circle.
The menu here is very simple. Essentially, hot dogs, burgers and fries. I went for a char dog with all the typical Chicago toppings. This included tomatoes, onions, kosher pickles, fiery hot sport peppers, mustard, a lurid green relish (piccalilli), and a dash of celery salt, all served in a poppy seed bun. It was by far the best hot dog I've had to date in Chicago and I'm struggling to see how it can be bettered. The grilled, naturally cased, beef wiener was so much nicer than the usual steamed or boiled versions and gave such pleasing crunch as you bit into it. The char-grilling imparting a wonderful smokey, slightly bitter taste that only cooking over red hot coals can provide. Next time I come here I'm going to also order the cheddar fries, which is basically a basket of french fries that have been obscenely smothered with a molten 'cheese' sauce.
If you're after a sample of one of the best hot dogs that Chicago has to offer then The Wieners Circle has to be one of the main contenders, preferably after a few beers too many in the small hours of the morning.

Food:          8 / 10
Service:       1 or 10 depending on how you like your verbal abuse
Ambiance:   6 / 10

The Wieners Circle
2622 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Tel: +1 773 477 7444

Wiener's Circle on Urbanspoon

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