Evelyn Morris has missed her customers at Wiener’s Circle during the pandemic. She’s spent nearly four decades working at the Lincoln Park landmark, quite possibly the most famous hot dog stand in Chicago. They’re known for taking a special approach to hospitality by yelling at customers. They call them names and make fun of their clothes, looks, and how they speak.
It’s pure theater for folks visiting for the first time. But for regulars, this is a long-observed ritual. The African-American women behind the counter have stood strong in Lincoln Park. And despite their outwardly abrasive demeanors, these workers are beloved. For these workers, the exchanges come from a loving place, Morris says. The adventures have been well documented, and have even begotten a television show.
We’ve been serving up justice for 37 years. And now with Facetime & Curbside Abuse, you can get your ass charred from a safe distance & relish your free speech (while it lasts). All sales now support both Chicago Black Owned Restaurant Relief @blackpeopleats + Chicago C19 Fund. pic.twitter.com/TNcLbnotpb— The Wieners Circle (@TheWienerCircle) June 8, 2020
Early on during stay at home, Wiener’s Circle unveiled a YouTube video that mocked Trump advisor Jared Kushner. The ownership is not fan of the Trump administration, as demonstrated by the political commentary on the ever-changing marquee. The hot dog stand had been closed since mid-March.
In May, it reopened for takeout and delivery. For these orders customers can select “curbside abuse” in which Morris or another worker will bring out food and berate a customer. Customers could select abuse in four complementary varieties: “middle finger,” “mama jokes,” “YUPPIES,” or “millennials.”
When targeting customers, the insults comes naturally. Staff never uses a script to keep the banter fresh and improvisational. Though Morris is ecstatic to be back managing the restaurant, it’s not the same.
“I can talk crap, but i can’t talk too much crap behind a mask,” she says.
Through the years, Wiener’s Circle has been a late-night destination for bar customers needing food before they go home and crash. With bars closed due to the novel coronavirus, the hot dog stand has focused on daytime business, closing at 8 p.m. A trip to Wiener’s Circle is special because guests never know what they’re going to see. One of Morris’s pet peeves is when clueless customers walk into the hot dog stand asking them what they should order.
“The fuck you mean? You’ve eaten at a hot dog stand before,” Morris says of naive customers. “Do what you want on your fucking hot dog.”
All joking aside, coming back to work has been a welcome distraction for Morris. Her older sister, Adrienne, was hospitalized. She has underlying conditions that have Morris worried. With that on her mind, it’s no surprise what Morris says is the dumbest thing a customer has asked her since they’ve reopened: Why are you wearing a mask?
“What the fuck have you been looking at? Haven’t you been watching TV?” Morris says. “You don’t know what the fuck is going on?”
“If you won’t put on your mask, I’m not serving your ass.”