Wise Guys opens
Vienna beef and Nathan's dogs on Packard
Kerry Thompson says you can find a lot of good Coney Island hot dogs around town, but "nobody in Ann Arbor I know of offers the Vienna hot dog anymore." So in September Kerry and his younger brother, Kasey, opened Wise Guys in the former Bev's Caribbean Kitchen on Packard. They carry both Chicago's legendary Vienna Beef dogs and Nathan's Famous all-beef hot dogs from New York. Both are served in a steamed, poppy seed Gonnella roll, a hot dog bun made in Chicago and beloved by Windy City hot dog aficionados.
Kerry says their best seller is the Original Chicago Dog, a one-sixth-pound hot dog "dragged through the garden." That means "it has your nuclear relish--which is your bright green relish--tomato slices, a giant tomato spear, chopped onions, and sport peppers." He pauses to consider the ingredients, then laughs. "I should really be worried about food costs, but I'm not right now. It's really about getting the right food in there." Other offerings include the Ann Arbor Dog (a quarter-pound skinless Nathan's frank) and the New York Reuben Dog (a Nathan's frank smothered with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese). Or you can create your own hot dog by piling on the toppings of your choice.
Born and raised in suburban Detroit, the brothers never lived in Chicago, and Kerry says that makes some customers wonder if they really know what they're doing. "I can't tell you how many people who lived in Chicago come in and say, "I'll tell you if it's authentic.' You get a little worried because they give you that look, like, 'Yeah right--you're not from there, you don't know.' And they're shocked. They bite into it, and they go, 'Yep, that's a Gonnella roll,' or 'Yeah, that's a Vienna dog.' I'm proud of that because I know they know we have the real thing."
The place is small, barely 300 square feet, so everything's carryout. And if you do want to drop by, there's not much of a window of opportunity. "Being students, we're kind of limited in the hours department right now," Kerry admits.
Wise Guys, 1232 Packard. 681-0038. Thurs. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., Fri., Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight. Closed Sun.-Wed. www.-wiseguysannarbor.com
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[Originally published in December, 2009.]