If you’ve ever driven down Damen and Fullerton, chances are that you’ve passed by the Vienna Beef Factory Outlet Store. Situated not too far from bridges on both Fullerton and Damen, you’ll find a chain linked fence surrounding the giant parking lot leading your way to meat heaven. Picnic tables and umbrellas line the sidewalk leading into the factory outlet store and a man driving into the lot asked me if it was possible to stop in and get food in there. While I hadn’t ever set foot into the factory outlet store, my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
Who hasn’t had a Vienna Beef hot dog in Chicago? It’s practically the ISO9000 seal of quality control letting you know that this is some of Chicago’s finest meat – fit for a king! Vienna Beef is as ubiquitous as Kronos Gyros or the lesser known Il Taco Pizza Puff. Vienna Beef hot dogs have been manufactured in Chicago since the 1890’s and the tradition continues on today. There’s something about biting into a Vienna Beef hot dog that just lets you know this is no Oscar Mayer or Sara Lee’s Ball Park Franks.
Stepping inside, I escaped the heat and marveled at all of the refrigerated cases all over the place. There were some boxes scattered about, but people were busy loading up the refrigerators for all of the hungry people yet to come. I went to snap a picture of the meat, but a worker quickly yelled, “No pictures! No pictures!” I wanted to take more pictures of the shop and factory, but I had to content myself with taking it all in.
There were plenty of workers in hairnets ordering food from the counter. The menu included, hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, burgers, deli sandwiches, and other treats. Being at the Vienna Beef Factory Outlet Store, I ordered two Vienna Beef hot dogs with the fixings and decided to take it outside. Saying goodbye to all of the deli meat, dogs, sausages, burgers, and Italian beef kits, I sat outside at one of the picnic tables to check out my dogs and verify their authenticity.
The Chicago-style hot dog has its roots in our city’s meat packing districts and factories. Workers would come out to lunch and wouldn’t have much money – so they’d order an inexpensive hot dog and load it up with all the fixings. The extra toppings gave the hot dog more volume and whetted the appetites of thousands of workers daily. On my lighter version of the Chicago-style hot dog, I loaded mine up up with relish, onions, yellow mustard, and a pickle – this hot dog would do the trick! Missing were the hot peppers and tomato slices, but I don’t really like them.
There you have it – a trip to an obscure landmark in the background. Most people probably see the Vienna Beef Factory Store Outlet in the background and assume it’s just for workers. Now you know you can stop here not only for lunch, but to grab supplies for your next barbecue. Check out the Vienna Beef Factory Store and get your meat fix right here!