Portland, OR – Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots

“Someone” dropped me an email last week saying I should visit Wayne’s; the mail probably came from an insider since it included a bevy of photos, as well. Some of the pix were really great, unfortunately, they have people in them, so I couldn’t use them w/o permission.

I like hearing from restaurants, actually, it gives me the impression that people have the impression that these posts actually account for something. (pause while the writer laughs hysterically).

But as a frequent reader, you know I love Chicago dogs and Chicago beef sandwiches, particularly from the godfather vendor of all such things, Vienna Beef Company in Chicago.

So I wondered over to Wayne’s to scarf down a Chicago beef, and a side of “Wrigley” fries (chili/cheese). I have noticed the place on the few occasions I drive up or down MLK. Usually the only time I am in that area is when Mrs. BDB is feeling nostalgic for the Big Easy and barks “I need Popeye’s Red Beans!” And the MLK Popeye’s is the closest (3 days drive) to our house in SW.

As I approached Wayne’s, I remembered one of the reasons I had not stopped by. Parking is dear in that neighborhood, tho I am not sure why. Be prepared to either get lucky and get a spor right away, or circle the block a few times, if you are not arriving by Tri-Met.

I walked in shortly after opening, placed my order and waited. And waited. And waited. About 25 minutes. My guess at first was that employees don’t arrive with ample time before opening, but in fact, my food was delivered shortly after I saw a guy leave with a huge take out order. Inked up girl behind the counter, you could have politely told me “it’ll be awhile,” and I would have been happier.

The beef sandwich comes w/ your choice of any or all of the following: grilled onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella cheese, or giardiniera. I passed on all, preferring the taste of the beef all on its own. Inked up counter girl did ask me if I wanted it “wet or dry,” and that’s a nice Chicagoism. I went with wet, meaning the roll was dipped in the au jus prior to assembly. One other nice touch I liked was there was a pool of jus in the bottom of the paper tray, with the sandwich split in half and perched vertically. So I had a juicy end to bite into, or a little extra for dipping, if that was my want. It was.

The sandwich was as good as any – from an authorized Vienna vendor, and it had some subtle differences between it and the same sandwich served by Chicago Windy City Hot Dogs in SW Portland.

I won’t compare either to Michael’s Italian Beef, which is good for what it is, he cooks his own beef, which he says is “better than any in Chicago,” but for me, that’s kind of like saying “Wow, that Frank Sinatra Jr concert was amazing! It was just like listening to his old man!” And then there’s that old personality thing, which I won’t get into.

Subtle differences – only a persnickety guy like me would care about. Chicago’s sandwich is slightly bigger than Wayne’s; the rolls at both places are great, but Wayne’s has a definite edge, it’s very reminiscent of Leidenheimer”s bread in New Orleans, which is arguably the best sandwich roll outside of any Francophone country.

It would appear to me that Wayne warms his beef in the au jus either longer than Chicago Windy does, or at a hotter temperature, which produces a slight variation in the texture That’s neither good or bad, just depends on your personal taste.

I didn’t have fries at Chicago Windy, the chili cheese fries at Wayne’s are pretty darned good. I assume the chili is from Vienna as well, and the shredded cheese, well that could have been anybody’s from anywhere. Serves the purpose. The fries themselves were hot, crisp, slightly thicker than shoestrings, and had a little peel on them. Nice.

About “snap.” I read a couple of other reviews after I wrote mine, initially, one guy was griping about the dogs didn’t have “snap.” He must have had a Vienna natural casing in Chicago, which they also make. I prefer them, too. But less than 4% of the hot dogs sold in the US are natural casing dogs. Wayne’s is smart to go with Vienna skinless, which will appeal to the largest number of people.

The decor is pure Chicago, sports jerseys, photos, memorabilia. Some very nice b/w pix taken by the owner himself. Or hisself, as they would say on da nort side of Chicago. I loved looking at these photos. Especially the one of the Billy Goat! (Chicagoans will understand the reference, all other think John Belushi and cheezbooger bit.)

If you’re from Remulak and hungry for mass quantities, Wayne’s will sell you 30 dogs, buns, and condiments for $105. That’s a weekend of grazing for me, but you might like it for a party. He also has a little Vienna adorned cart for rent (see below).

I’ll be back. Wayne’s has apparently been spawned from a hot dog cart somewhere north of the Columbia River, which in turn became a story in Warren, wherever that is. Not sure if this is location #2 or replaced Warren.

Menu online, don’t judge Wayne’s by their website, tho! Menu.  The good news?  No matter which side of the river I am on, I can get a Chicago dog or beef!

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