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Vienna Beef Factory Store and Café

2501 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL - (773) 435-2277
Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle on 4/23/2010 12:50:00 PM
When we think of Chicago hot dogs we think of Vienna Beef, the Chicago company that produces the snapping-good garlicky franks used all over the city. Wouldn't it be something if you could actually visit the factory and get a Chicago dog right there? Well, it turns out you can!

Vienna Beef operates a workers' cafeteria that's open to the public. The brightly lit space looks very much like a company cafeteria, albeit one done up in bright hot-dog-joint colors, and while many employees do lunch there, more than a few folks wander in from nearby businesses. They also do a steady business with those who come by to pick up 10-pound boxes of dogs (this cafeteria also serves as a factory store, where you can purchase pretty much everything that Vienna Beef makes, like cold cuts, whole corned beefs, and big bags of smoked meat snacks).

The room is decorated with autographed jerseys of Chicago sports stars and Vienna Beef ads (these unsigned). There's a serve-yourself soft drink dispenser and a serve-yourself soup counter, but the real draws are the series of hot food counters, one for hot sandwiches, one for grilled foods like burgers, and one dedicated to dogs. Some of the people manning the counters hawk their wares; the woman at the hot sandwich stand let all passersby know that her corned beef sandwiches were the best in Chicago.

If Chicago dogs are new to you, there's an excellent diagram of their construction on the Vienna Beef website (http://www.viennabeef.com/culture/chicagostyle.asp). The Vienna Beef store's Chicago dogs are notable for the absolute sparkling freshness of the toppings (yellow mustard, chopped onion, green relish, tomato wedges, pickle spear, celery salt, sport peppers, and... no ketchup); everything is in perfect, crisp condition, the poppy seed roll is soft and fresh, and the franks themselves are of course at their best here at the factory. Fries are hot and crisp. And those corned beef sandwiches, piled high with steaming meat, look wonderful.

The factory is located in an area that out-of-town travelers are not likely to find themselves in. You can't take more than ten steps in any direction in Chicago without encountering a Chicago dog, but we think it's surely worth the short drive in order to try a Chicago dog at its best, at its source.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Chicago Style Hot Dog
Chicago Style Double Dog
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Two dogs on one bun, with extra sport peppers.
"Two dogs on one bun, with extra sport peppers."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle





A Chicago dog minus onions, nestled in fries (poppy seed bun, of course).
"A Chicago dog minus onions, nestled in fries (poppy seed bun, of course)."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Kind of like the old Nathans, or Katz's deli in NY; find the counter that's selling what you want to eat, walk up and place your order.
"Kind of like the old Nathans, or Katz's deli in NY; find the counter that's selling what you want to eat, walk up and place your order."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Vienna Beef has thoughtfully provided clocks that tell the time anywhere in Chicago.
"Vienna Beef has thoughtfully provided clocks that tell the time anywhere in Chicago."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Casual in the extreme, you carry your lunch on a tray to the table of your choice.
"Casual in the extreme, you carry your lunch on a tray to the table of your choice."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


There are a couple of outside tables for those who feel that a Chicago dog just has to be consumed al fresco.
"There are a couple of outside tables for those who feel that a Chicago dog just has to be consumed al fresco."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


As the sign says, the public is most definitely welcome at the Vienna Beef cafeteria.
"As the sign says, the public is most definitely welcome at the Vienna Beef cafeteria."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



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