-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day
Summertime Chi. It's what we deal with winter each year for. Today's post has been a longtime coming. It could of been the first post ever here on the site and that would of been alright. Because today we head on over to one of the most annoying corners for traffic in the city but we don't care, that doesn't keep us away from the greats. Located on Damen just off Fullerton and Elston is the holy grail of Chicago Hot Dogs, the home to Chicago's hot dog - Vienna Beef. Anyone who's driven by the three corners has surely seen the empty hatchback from the truck that sits at Fullerton and Damen. This is the factory where it all begins for each Vienna Beef sponsored hot dog stand in Chicagoland and beyond.
The Vienna Beef Factory located at Fullerton and Damen
Vienna Beef started sometime around 1893 when a couple of Austrian-Hungarian immigrants brought their Vienna beef style hot dog to the Chicago's Worlds Fair. It was the following year they would open their first store on the 400 block of south Halsted. By 1900 Vienna started to market its product and sell it to other stores. Then as Chicago started to rapidly expand so did Vienna Beef. It was there to help the people eat cheap during the Great Depression. By the 1960's Vienna Beef was being distributed not just in it's hometown of Chicago but around the country as well. Then in 1972 they took up residence on the Northside where they still sit today.
When you ask people whats "Pure Chicago" to them? I'm betting many would say Vienna Beef. It's a locally owned company who gives back to the city (jobs, opportunity) and they're always here for us when were hungry and need something cheap and quick but not the fast food shit that floods America. I still have never taken the tour and considered asking them if they would show me around for this but time crept up and before I knew it summer was here.
Inside the factory, briskets getting cut up (Pic from LTHforum)
We take our hot dogs seriously in Chicago because that's what Vienna Beef does. Vienna uses 100% beef in their dogs and not the scraps and pieces and parts nobody else wants. They cut their meat from brisket as seen above and turn it into some top notch tubes of wieners and sausage. Whether you want to make your own and get them in the grocery store or you're at a baseball game on the north or south side or you just want to visit one of 1000's of stands that serve them in Chicagoland, VB is always there and ready when you need them. These days you can find their hot dogs all over the globe. However there's just something special about eating them at the place they're made and that's what were going to do today.
Vienna Beef, I believe, has workers working around the clock at their factory. Hey they gotta make sure everyone is good to go. I don't know on average how many hot dogs they produce a day but just imagine how many are consumed in Chicagoland every 24 hours? ALOT. The VB Cafeteria is open Monday-Saturday, check hours before going, and well worth the visit no matter where you're coming in from. It's not just sausages but of course theres those too. Vienna Beef also makes corned beef and supplies restaurants with both ready to be eaten batches and the ones where the place cooks it on their own. They serve a very respectable Reuben at the cafe.
Reuben Sandwich from the Vienna Beef Cafeteria
They make some fun things with their hot dogs too like the mac & cheese seen up above. But lets be real, this is the Vienna Beef Cafeteria located at the factory where their famous hot dogs are made. What do you think the best thing on their menu is? When you want as authentic of a Chicago style hot dog as you can find, you'll find it here. Just take a look at this beauty below made with one of their larger natural casing wieners. She is something isn't she? Centerfold material, the playdog of the millennium. This my friends is why Chicago is the center of the hot dog universe. Look at her.
Chicago Style Hot Dog Perfection
The reason it's well worth the drive even if you're coming in from the suburbs is the fact that not only is this their factory where they have a cafeteria open to the public but they also sell most everything they make inside at the little store within the Cafe. This is where I go to get my grilling needs when it comes to hot dogs and Polish sausage. In fact my favorite type of sausage from anywhere is Vienna Beef's natural casing Polish which they sell by the tube at the deli counter inside. The trick is to cut slits into each end making both the first and last bite the best. These are a staple on Bears gameday.
The Bill Swerski Polish Sausage
Chicago-Green Bay Truce Dog: Char Grilled w/ Merkt's cheese & Sport Peppers
In fact with the 4th of July coming up it's no coincidence I chose to post about Vienna Beef and their factory store and cafe on this day. They have large outdoor tent sales throughout summer and one of them is going on now. Thru July 3rd if you head over there you'll find some great deals on tubed meats and the condiments they also make. Vienna Beef owns Chipico (Chicago Pickle Company) which makes those juicy pickles and other condiments that make a dog real deal Chicago style. If you love the minimalist style of dogs we feature a round up of on here like I do, they sell their natural casing wieners at the store too and they're so easy to replicate at home. The fries on top part is tough though. Oh well, the double dog with mustard, onions, relish and sport peppers always hits the spot.
Classic minimalist Chicago style hot dog at home ala Gene and Jude's
The grilling season is in full swing and I'm always up for trying new things and seeking out the best small town butchers the Midwest has to offer. But I'm also never going to not have the old timers and tradition that is Vienna Beef Hot Dogs at my cookouts. Why is it they're always the first ones to go? Because they're the Kings of Wienerland. Happy Grilling Season.
Get in me belly!
Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe
2501 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647