Vienna Beef Sausage Factory Cafeteria
What's the deal with the Vienna Beef Sausage factory's cafeteria? The factory is on Damen just North of Elston. I've never been but friends keep talking the place up. It's open to the public for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. I plan a visit Saturday.
Will report back soon!!
It's pretty well accepted that Vienna Beef makes the definitive Chicago hot dog. Almost every place that serves a respectable dog uses their product, usually the 8 to a pound natural casing ones.
A while back I went to the source, The Vienna Factory and Deli, to see how they do it. The factory is right on the river just north of the Fullerton-Damen intersection. Not too long ago this was mostly an industrial area, now with the unceasing expansion of Yupsville it is quickly changing. If you really want to visit the factory you may be wise to do it soon, as they're clearing land all around for condos. Soon this land will probably be too valuable for sausage making. A few blocks north there was a pretty good sign on one of the older houses: Attention Condo Buyers--Loud White Trash Lives Here.
Okay, back to hot dogs. A buck ninety five gets you a dog with fries, chips, or a mini potato pancake. For an extra buck you can "experience twice the pleasure with TWO pure Vienna Beef hot dogs topped with your choice of condiments." Tough to resist.
They do a good job but the result is simply not the best. The dogs themselves are about as good as they get, perfectly steamed with a real good taut casing that snaps when you bite it. No flaccid dogs these. Clearly a natural casing and most even had a little umbilicus attached. One big problem was the roll. It wasn't properly steamed and lacked poppy seeds. I guess the seeds have always been optional (I always liked them) but I thought the steamed bun is absolutely required (isn't it?).
The condiments were fine except they skimped on the pickle and especially on the tomato. Those Chipico pickles (owned by Vienna, I believe) are really quite good. It's too bad they shave 'em so thin. You should get a slender wedge on a proper Chicago dog. And the tomato was just a single thin half-round. Since it wasn't a very good tomato to begin with maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
This is the employees' cafeteria and has more than a bit of that ambiance. Lots of people in hairnets and hardhats. I couldnt help noticing that few employees were eating the cafeteria food. There are some interesting old photos on the walls (Vienna is a much older company than I realized). There are a few picnic tables outside so you can dine in the parking lot if you like.
I'd give them a solid B plus. Definitely room for improvement but they sure know how to cook the dogs.
They also serve various sandwiches, soups, salads, and breakfasts. For $4.95 you can get a corned beef (or other meat) sandwich with a little tub of slaw and a pickle wedge. Again, it's good not great. For an extra 2 bucks at Manny's you can get a much superior corned beef sandwich in both quantity and quality. Its interesting to note that Mannys serves Vienna corned beef. When I asked Gino, the Corned Beef Guy he explained that Mannys CB was special order and besides Vienna doesnt know how to handle their own product.
There's a take out deli counter where you can get fresh-sliced meats by the pound. For example corned beef or roast beef is $6.79 and natural casing franks or Polish are $3.69. They also have a freezer case with a limited selection of seconds and discontinued products. Of special note, you can also purchase the official fluorescent green relish there. I think a gallon is something like $8 (smaller jars also available).
It's a fairly interesting place to visit particularly if you're a student of the Chicago Hot Dog and would like to make a pilgrimage to The Source. If you're after the very best hot dog or corned beef sandwich in Chicago there are certainly other places to try first.
Vienna Beef Factory Store and Deli
2501 N Damen Av
Retail deli 9-445 M-F, 9-3 St
Before it's too late (the repercussions would be drastic), let's be careful to make a distinction between vienna sausages and Vienna Beef. vienna sausages (lower case) are a type of mass produced meat based snack food, available in many different forms, and made by many different multi-national meat packing companies. In my experience, vienna sausage is bad. Vienna Beef (upper case), on the other hand is a local (it's not also national is it?) supplier of pretty high quality hot dogs, italian sausage, polish and other stuff for hot dog stands around the city. In my experience Vienna Beef is good. Now, Vienna Beef may or may not make their own vienna sausages (a glance at the product line on the home page suggests they don't).
Whether they do or don't, I wouldn't expect to see an an all vienna sausage menu at the Vienna Beef headquarters cafeteria. Which is a relief, because, frankly, the thought of an all vienna sausage menu anywhere is enough to put me off my feed for at least a couple of hours.
Finally, I too have been endlessly fascinated by the factory, and it's promise of a cafeteria. I'll check it out--this thread may have given me the impetus to follow up on my prior urges. I hope it'll help me shake this image i have of an army of vienna sausages prepared in a variety of ways marching inexorably toward, forcing me to eat them.
See also http://www.findagrave.com/vienna.html