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Even Vienna Beef, Chicago’s 130-Year-Old Hot Dog Maker, Has Spoofed Wes Anderson

Meet the Royal Tenenbeefs, social media’s latest sensation

A hot dog stand’s patio area in the sun.
Duk’s Red Hots pairs quite nicely with Wes Anderson.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Vienna Beef, Chicago’s ubiquitous sausage maker, is at the center of a video trend sweeping the Internet in which creators mimic the cinematic style of Wes Anderson, the filmmaker known for movies like Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou, and The Royal Tenenbaums.

The trend, in a nutshell, takes mundane tasks — say, a trip to the coffee shop — and turns them into short videos with saturated colors, sans serif text, and music to look and sound like an Anderson film. The results make the everyday look cinematic. Laughlin Constable’s Director of Social Strategy Bryan Wilson says the Vienna Beef clip, posted Monday, May 1, was the highest-performing piece of Instagram video content Vienna Beef has ever had. It also didn’t hurt that May 1 happened to be Anderson’s birthday: “It was the perfect storm,” Wilson says.

If the thought of the 130-year-old hot dog maker posting TikToks is a bit much to process, go ahead and take a moment. Vienna Beef has cornered the market of Chicago’s hot dog stands, with many restaurant owners believing they need the company’s sausage for an authentic experience, complete with the neon signs. Still, Vienna has come a long way since its introduction at the Colombian Exposition in 1893. For one, the encased meats have made it to New York, the land of Sabrett, Nathan’s, and Hebrew National. But beyond the quest for sausage domination along the eastern seaboard, Vienna recently hired a new social media firm, Laughlin Constable, which pieced together a charming film at Duk’s Red Hots, a hot dog stand in West Town.

Once a mini-chain with 16 locations and founded in 1954 under the name Donald Duk’s Red Hots, the West Town stand is all that remains. The Walt Disney Company famously served ownership with a trademark infringement lawsuit. That led Mervyn Dukatte and cousin Donald Marsalle to drop the “Donald” in the restaurant’s original name.

The video, posted on Instagram, came together in 24 hours after Wilson and his colleagues — including account services lead Chelsey Wahlstrom — surveyed social media trends. They landed on Duk’s because the tiny stand showcased the best traits of a Chicago hot dog stand, Wilson says. Duk’s has no special bells and whistles; it represents authentic Chicago, Wilson says. It’s also listed as a member of Vienna’s Hall of Fame, so it was easy for Laughlin Constable to find. Anderson has no real ties to Chicago — save his affection for casting suburban native Bill Murray in roles.

With help from the staff at Duk’s, Wilson, alongside team members like creative director Randall Kentworthy, spent three hours on Friday, April 28, recording the short to ape Anderson’s aesthetic. Wilson says working with Vienna has been a “dream come true.” The video, cheekily titled The Royal Tenenbeefs, zooms in on condiments, classic Chicago hot dogs dragged through the garden, and even the trash can.

Duk’s manager Carol Chavez and Wilson appear in the video, as does Billy Zureikat, the local chef whose pop-ups around town raise money for Muscular Dystrophy. Zureikat is friends with Wilson, who told him to “wear your best Wes Anderson fit.”

“The fact that we took an iconic Chicago hot dog stand that’s not trendy in any way and made it the focus of one of the biggest current social media trends. That’s pretty damn cool,” Zureikat says.