EVERETT — Apparently, Der Wienerschnitzel was the Chick-fil-A of 1969 — the new fast-food place that everybody had to try.
Back then, my mom, who had no use whatsoever for McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken, used to drag us kids to the new take-out joint in the A-frame building on U.S. 99, just down the road from one of her favorite stores: a discount retailer called House of Values.
I’m sure a big draw was that kids love hot dogs, and they’re cheap — just the thing for when the checking account hits two-days-before-payday levels.
And maybe that’s why Wienerschnitzel (the “Der” was shed long ago) endures 50 years later. Something on the order of 200 million vehicles have whizzed by on six-lane Evergreen Way over the years, and the kitschy little A-frame still kicks out the chili cheese dogs, kraut dogs and more. They’re still cheap, and kids still love ‘em.
Co-worker Sara Bruestle and I dropped by for lunch the other day, after a press release about National Wiener Schnitzel Day (Sept. 9) popped up in our inboxes.
(Side note: The holiday refers to the Austrian dish, not the hot dog chain, and Wienerschnitzel doesn’t sell wiener schnitzel — which is probably a good thing, since the delicacy is made with baby cow meat, and PETA would not be amused. Company founder John Galardi picked the name after it was suggested by the wife of Taco Bell founder Glenn Bell.)
Wienerschnitzel may not serve veal, but it will be giving out free chili dogs on Wiener Schnitzel Day. Go to their website for a coupon.
Sara had never before set foot in a Wienerschnitzel — Everett is the 340-store chain’s only location in the Northwest — and my last visit was probably on the day in 1971 when Mom purchased a Colonial end table at House of Values. So we spent some time studying the colorful overhead menu.
(Another side note: The Wienerschnitzel logo was designed by Saul Bass, who created the supercool credit sequences in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and “Psycho.”)
Wienerschnitzel hot dogs come in eight varieties, smothered with toppings ranging from mustard and sauerkraut to chili and grilled onions. The cost ranges from $1.59 to $2.79. You can upgrade the standard mystery-meat wiener to an all-beef or Polish dog for $1.20 more. Also available are burgers, corn dogs and Polish sausage sandwiches. For dessert, there’s cones and shakes from soft-serve pioneers Tastee-Freez, owned by the same firm that runs Wienerschnitzel.
As we pondered our choices, a fellow customer, who rocked a resplendent mullet the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the ‘76 Skynyrd tour, helpfully advised us to order more than one hot dog. “They’re small,” he cautioned.
Being a one-hot-dog woman, Sara chose the original chili dog, which has been a staple on the Wienerschnitzel menu since the chain began in 1961. The company touts the chili dog as “legendary,” so Sara figured that would be the one to try. She ordered a small side of fries to go with it.
“While I wouldn’t call it ‘legendary,’ I did get a sense that I was taking a bite of Everett history,” Sara said. “The fries were a nice surprise. They’re as tasty as McDonald’s, but more satisfying because they still taste like potatoes.”
I went for the chili dog, which can be crowned with a slice of American cheese if you like, and a deluxe dog, garnished with pickles, relish and onions.
Our lunch in hand, we repaired to one of several outside tables that are sheltered by steel umbrellas that give your voice a weird echo-y resonance when you lean in under them to speak.
Mullet man was right — these are small dogs. I easily could have downed a third dog, or a fourth, or a fifth … The salt, sugar and fat buttons were all emphatically pressed. Even Sara was tempted to order another dog.
And since Wienerschnitzel is open ‘til midnight, I can totally see an impulsive late-night trip here when the munchies set in — like kids used to do during the cruising Colby era.
But for the best description of Wienerschnitzel’s hot dogs, I turn to my colleague Jon Bauer, who wrote this in 2014: “There may be better dogs out there, but none come with the memory of a summer afternoon running errands with Mom.”
If you go