CLARIFICATION: Wiener’s Circle management contacted Eater after publication to say they haven’t yet received a liquor license approval from the city. Revised story follows.
Wiener’s Circle fans have been a little on edge since New Year’s Eve, which is the last time the Lincoln Park stand served a Chicago-style dog. During the pandemic, the stand tried gimmicks like delivery and curbside abuse — the staff insults may be vulgar but regulars find them part of the restaurant’s charm. But the pandemic kept the bars where Wiener’s Circle sourced many of its customers closed and slowed business to the point that ownership closed the stand on January 1 without revealing why.
Longtime manager Evelyn Morris, who’s worked at the stand for 31 years, has answers: The hot dog stand is going through renovations and she hopes to be back open in June. While the space needed new pipes and windows, the work will be more extensive. The parking lot in back will be transformed for patio seating. And, hopefully — as Morris says — there will be a bar serving alcohol.
While plans are in motion, Wiener’s Circle clarified after initial publication that they haven’t received a formal liquor license from the city.
Meanwhile, the stand’s customers won’t miss the parking lot: “These days, people don’t really drive as much anymore,” Morris adds. “If they’re partying, they’re going to take Ubers and Lyfts.”
The hot dog stand, now owned by a group of investors including Ari Levy, whose father — Larry Levy — is behind Levy Restaurants, has had a storied 38-year history that’s seen it transform from a simple neighborhood haunt into a nationally infamous late-night tourist destination. It was even the star of its own reality TV show. Numerous TV crews have stopped by to capture naive customers attempt to slander staff with insults — including a classic bit from Triumph the Insult Dog. Screaming insults at stuff isn’t the brightest move as it’s not unusual to see a cocky customer sent home with tears after being dealt with a hilarious and cruel response from an employee. But it’s all fun for observers, and the char dogs, cheddar fries, and burgers are tasty and affordable.
The addition of the bar could come as a stunning development for fans. But Morris wants to assure customers that the food and service will remain the same. She’s also advised ownership to leave the integrity of the front facade intact. The iconic sign isn’t going anywhere.
“In Chicago, they’ve taken all the hot dog stands and they’ve made them look all millennial,” Morris says. “I just like the rugged look.”
Morris is itching to return back to work, to oversee her group of workers including mainstay Roberta “Poochie” Jackson. She’s ready for her COVID-19 vaccination so she can properly roast customers to really demonstrate how nature is healing itself.
Wiener’s Circle, 2622 N. Clark Street, planned to reopen in June.