Ode to Der Wienerschnitzel

Bank record indicate I eat fast food about eight times a year. My kids eat fast food about four times a year. That seems okay, but I have to admit, if they had Wienerschnitzel here in Georgia my numbers would be much higher.

If you live in the eastern half of the US you may not be familiar with Wienerschnitzel, which used to be called Der Wienerschnitzel.

For most of my childhood I was a “two mustard dogs” kid. That was my order. I suppose I should point out that Wienerschnitzel is a Pepsi joint and all my life my family was a Pepsi family. I cannot remember any time ever seeing Coke in my family refrigerator. So the order was actually, two mustard dogs, small fries, and a Pepsi.

You know, life can be good but it can rarely be better than a hot dog with mustard and a Pepsi.

At some point I switched to the Polish Sandwich for a time. Though I have tried over the years I have failed to duplicate this delicacy. A Polish sausage is split in two, a pickle spear is placed between the halves, and a slice of Swiss cheese melted over it and the whole thing sits between slices of rye bread. For a long time my order was a Polish sandwich and a mustard dog (Pepsi and fries is understood).

I would eat the crust off first. Weirdo.

Years later, when I was selling men’s shoes for the Nordstrom family and broke, I became a chili dog guy. I would get two chili dogs and a Pepsi for lunch and it cost me something like 4 cents. Whatever it was, it was affordable for someone who was sleeping on couches and shaving inside the Nordstrom restrooms. I took it as a point of pride that I could clock out, get to my car, drive to Wienerschnitzel, get two chili dogs, eat those chili dogs while driving and not get any chili on my tie or shirt, clock back in, and be back on the sales floor all in the space of 30 minutes. Also, drain the Pepsi.

Eventually, I went back to two mustard dogs, except it was three mustard dogs. Even now, if you drop me anywhere inside Orange County California or south LA County and tell me to go from point A to point B, it doesn’t matter what point A and B are I can figure out a route that will take me past a Wienerschnitzel. For a time I was driving once or twice a week between Long Beach and La Mirada in California and, of course, I avoided the freeway at all cost. I loved stopping at the Wienerschnitzel on Bellflower Blvd in Lakewood. I have some history in the neighborhood so there was the nostalgia, but also this Wienerschnitzel is the classic A-frame building, has no drive through and no inside seating. There is something about ordering through a window where you have to speak up to be heard over the traffic behind you that I like. The outside tables are concrete and nobody lingers. People eat and leave. In fact, I’ll bet most people stand up and toss their bag while they’re still chewing their last bite.

There is something about the efficiency of this, and hot dogs in general, that appeals to me. I’m not saying hot dogs are good food. I’m not saying chili dogs are not peppered with regret. I’m not saying the Play-Doh-like buns they use are real bread. I’m not saying the yellow mustard doesn’t glow in the dark. I’m not saying you should go to your local Wienerschnitzel tonight or tomorrow (if you have such a thing), but if you do, let me know how it goes.


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