What started as an April Fool’s joke has taken on a life of its own. Call the alliance Chicago’s version of the Avengers in an assembly of three of the food brands many natives most associate with the city — Wiener’s Circle, J.P. Graziano Grocery, and Jeppson’s Malört. This morning, the trio teased fans that they were merging into a new company: J.P. Wienerlort.
Don’t bother to search SEC filings, this is just a bit of fun that’s led engineered by the three civic institutions. They’re selling merchandise celebrating the merger featuring a new logo that features Graziano’s typeface under a revamped Malört coat of arms centered by a Chicago-style hot dog.
Jim Graziano says he and Wiener’s Circle Ari Levy began scheming three months ago. They considered a bevy of ideas: “Ari and I were trying to figure out how do we make all these things work,” Graziano says.
They hatched a plan to announce a merger combining the three companies. But Graziano says they didn’t want to just pull off a cheap April Fool’s joke. As Graziano says, “they wanted to back it up.” So on Friday, April 8, Wieners Circle — in its newly remodeled space that features a bar, an 800-square-foot patio, and a 250-square-foot space for podcasts — will host a party to celebrate the alliance. They’ll sell T-shirts, Koozies, and other keepsakes.
During the pandemic, the Wiener’s Circle began production of hilarious video shorts and that practice continued with J.P. Wienerlort. Graziano and the Wiener’s Circle Poochie Jackson switch places, with Jackson delivering insults while pontificating on the fashion choices of West Loop customers. Meanwhile, Graziano attempts to insult customers in Lincoln Park without success. Graziano also downs Malört in the clip.
But the highlight may be a special Bloody Mary featuring the flavor of all three members of this terrific (or terrible, depending on the perspective) trio. The Realist Chicago Bloody Mary combines Malört and sport-pepper infused CH Distillery vodka in a glass rimmed with Graziano’s giardiniera flakes — plus a mini char dog. Pickle fans task note: a Bloody Mary bar will include spears and sports peppers infused with Malört. Graziano didn’t want to speak for the Wiener’s Circle, which gave Chicagoans the gift of curbside abuse during the height of the pandemic when social distancing was the norm. Perhaps some of the special items will stick around beyond April, depending on how they’re received.
Graziano’s is the 84-year-old Italian grocer and deli, the last real independent along Randolph Restaurant Row. Forty-one-year-old Jim Graziano is a fourth-generation owner and has created a new company, Taste Real Chicago, to ship giardiniera and other goods, as covered in this meaty Block Club Chicago profile.
Wiener’s Circle is a hot dog stop in Lincoln Park where unruly customers show up late at night to receive some much-needed justice in the form of insults hurled by staff. It’s been around since 1983. A reborn stand debuted on Halloween weekend, but owners are ready for a full spring and summer to fully utilize the former parking lot in the back that’s been converted to a patio. This April Fool’s party serves as a kickoff with programming like trivia, comedy, karaoke, and drag bingo planned daily. It’s a good bet that Donald Trump and Aaron Rogers won’t be invited.
Jeppson’s Malört is the celebrated bitter liquor favored by two-fisted Chicago drinkers that’s seen a renaissance in popularity in recent years. CH Distillery in West Loop bought the brand in 2018, and the feared drink is now available to be shipped nationally.
Wiener’s Circle, 2622 N. Clark Street, J.P. Wienerlort launch party, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., April 8