East Sacramento’s Best Hole in the Wall
With great food, tasty drinks and a big city feel, the new restaurants and bars that are popping up in Sacramento have just about everything you can ask for. With that being said, all of the new establishments—many of which I frequent and enjoy—lack a couple of things that can surely be acquired over time: history and tradition. I’m not talking about the history of the building itself, or the tradition of a classic cocktail, but the history of a worn countertop and the tradition of bringing your child to a restaurant where your father once brought you. This is something you’ll find in East Sacramento’s hot dog staple, The Wienery.
The warm feeling you get when walking into The Wienery can only be earned with decades of hard work and a willingness to curate what has already been established. Owners Hector Meza and Carolyn Canas kept this in mind when purchasing the business more than five years ago.
Canas explained, “When we bought The Wienery we just gave it a little facelift. This place has been here for at least 45 years. We wanted to update it a little bit without making our loyal customers feel uncomfortable. We didn’t want them to think it was too different or too new. At the same time, we wanted to make it someplace that will be inviting for new customers, too. When people come here they’re looking for an experience that makes them feel cozy and like they are home away from home.”
This is evident in the framed photographs that hang above the tables. “We wanted to add a tribute to East Sacramento on our wall,” said Canas. “The wall was filled with photos of our customers, but over time many of the photos faded away so we had to take those down, but we enlarged and framed some of the best pictures and put them back up.”
Once inside I grabbed a stool and bellied up to the counter. One of the first things I noticed when looking around was the diversity of the patrons. I sat next to a gentleman in his 80s finishing up a mustard dog, and next to him sat a couple in their 20s who ordered two veggie dogs.
Taking a look at the menu I realized that the tradition in The Wienery’s atmosphere seamlessly carries over to their menu which offers timeless hot dogs, sausages and soups. I wanted to try the whole menu after seeing all of the enticing ways the links can be prepared. But obviously that would be absurd, so I made the rational decision to only order a mere half of what they offered.
I started the first phase of my epic lunch with the B.L.T. Dog, Italian Summer Dog and a root beer float. I quickly learned that when the hot dog’s description starts with “open face,” you are in store for an overly generous mound of toppings, which you’ll never hear me complain about. This was the case for the B.L.T. Dog. The ends of the hot dog peaked out of the bun while liberal amounts of lettuce, cheese and tomatoes made a mound for the huge meaty chunks of crumbled bacon to cascade down. The hot dog was cooked perfectly and had that snap that any traditional hot dog should.
After enjoying the balanced and flavorful B.L.T. Dog, I turned to the ice cold, frothy root beer float as a palate cleanser before I focused my attention on the Italian Summer Dog. The butterflied Italian sausage was served grilled on a sesame seed bun with mayonnaise, mustard and a house-made roasted red pepper relish. The Italian Summer Dog is a great option if you’re craving something a little different. And after taking my first bite, which was filled with relish, it was clear that The Wienery’s attention to the little things is what sets them apart from other hot dog joints.
After a bit of a breather—and more consumption of my root beer float—I decided to order round two. This consisted of a Chili Dog, a Bacon Wrapped Dog and a cup of their Famous Navy Bean Soup. The Chili Dog was served open faced with a heaping amount of homemade chili, cheese and onions. I opted for the traditional chili, which is vegetarian, but they also offer it “Con Carne” style with ground beef. Their hearty, bean-filled chili is comfort food at its finest; I’m sure you will find me at The Wienery many times this winter snuggled up to a large bowl.
The last dog to arrive at the counter was the Bacon Wrapped Dog. This hot dog was grilled to order and topped with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, tomatoes, sautéed onions and house-made jalapeño relish. Bacon wrapped hot dogs are by far my favorite, and I am very particular about how they are made. A good bacon wrapped dog has to pack a wallop of heat, and this one did not disappoint thanks to the jalapeño which flawlessly complemented the dog. Biting into this link instantly reminded me of the bacon wrapped dogs found on the streets of the Mission District in San Francisco.
At this point I was overly stuffed and extremely satisfied. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw the Famous Navy Bean Soup. Even though I’d already eaten a Kobayashi-amount of hot dogs, I pulled the soup over and took my first bite. It was thick and creamy, yet the beans still held up. I have never been one to order soup at a restaurant, but the Famous Navy Bean Soup at The Wienery has changed my mind.
When talking to Canas about The Wienery, you can tell that she and her husband Hector care about every single person who walks into their restaurant, “Our customers are friends with us and friends with each other,” she said. “We’re just an old school hole-in-the-wall but we keep the food good.”
Many restaurants overlook the art of a well-prepared hot dog or simple bowl of soup. Clearly The Wienery takes pride in their food and it shows. The hot dogs are cooked to perfection and their made-from-scratch soups and relishes are full of flavors that will bring you back again and again.
The Wienery is located at 715 56th Street, Sacramento, in the Elvas Plaza. Check out Thewienerysacramento.com or call (916) 455-0497 for more information.