We’re no strangers to seedy dives — having spent our childhoods in Nebraska and college careers in Iowa, we’ve likely seen some of the best. In fact, we realize grungy floors, greasy plates and hard plastic cups that emit a strange smell are sometimes a requirement for real finger-lickin-goodness. As it turns out, the big city of Minneapolis is home to a few dive beauties of its own. So on a rainy Friday, we tested Wienery’s food and atmosphere to determine if it deserves the full glory that a true “dive” status bestows.
Sitting on the cultural Cedar Avenue along the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus, the small eatery walks a line between being diner-charming and just plain run down. With little room to spare, it fits nearly eight people at the bar and about as many at the tables against the wall. Chairs go beyond retro as stuffing hangs out of the cushions (a few had even lost the padding altogether and were down to the wood), but the knick-knacks along the walls lovingly boast the history and quirkiness of the local joint.
Though the ambiance leaves much to be desired, the menu leaves little to criticize. Alongside Wienery’s varied list of sausages, hot dogs and burgers are ample meatless entrees including black bean burgers, mock duck sandwiches and veggie dogs. The breakfast fare – served all day – made deciding what to order an even bigger challenge.
After one bite of Jim’s entrée, it was clear he won best choice. The Cadillac – a brat wrapped with bacon, an egg and cheese in a fluffy pancake – had both originality and taste. The soft sweetness of the pancake played well with the seasoned sausage, and though it proved difficult to actually pick up and eat, he finished it in record time. The side of chili cheese fries is where he started to slow down. Hand-cut, skin-on taters lay under shredded cheese (no fake nacho cheese here!), melted by a ladleful of chili that had been simmering on the stove. Good but not great, the flavors were average and the fries were soft.
I also went for breakfast grub. Aisha’s Mexico City Breakfast kicked up standard scrambled eggs with hot peppers, onion, a few tomatoes and a fierce helping of cumin. With two pieces of toast on the side, it was a solid portion: light, spicy and warm. I left full, but not stuffed. My mom’s Philly Cheese Steak sandwich had a meager serving of meat, but she raved most about the soft and sweet bun holding it all together. And my grandma stuck to scrumptious simplicity with Wienery’s basic: a hotdog with hot peppers.
Across the board, food was tasty and the prices were unbelievable. With sales tax already figured in, most items were $3-4. For as cheaply as the four of us had dinner, we can’t complain about the service – but a hefty bet says our server hadn’t seen the menu before we arrived. He asked us to read aloud the menu description as we ordered so he could write it on the ticket and then asked us the listed price. But he was friendly and, most importantly, got it all right.
Wienery convinced us of its rightly spot on the list of top Twin Cities grubby-but-yummy hangouts. Would we return? Perhaps. The food was good and there’s plenty more to try, but we wouldn’t make a special trip back to Cedar just to do so. In the mood for a dive atmosphere and anything-but-fancy food? Then, we’d recommend it — but plan to spend date night somewhere else.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠1/2
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠1/2
Total bill, including tip: Around $25 (for 4 people – a steal!)