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Ode to a Hot Dog Stand

NoVA’s own half-smoke.

by Kate V. Comfort

 

Weenie Beenie

The iconic Weenie Beenie stand / Photo by Shana Fitzpatrick

The yellow and orange retro font signage on a small roadside shack belies the treasures served up hot, dozens, if not hundreds, of times daily: Weenie Beenie’s signature half-smoke.  

No one can confirm the definition of half-smoke, but common theories include: 50 percent pork-50 percent beef composition; slicing the sausage down the middle to griddle; neither or both. 

With substantially more flavor and girth than a hotdog, or even a run-of-the-mill sausage, the half-smoke is likely smoked, often served with chili (then called a “chili smoke”). Sans chili, the sausage’s smooth, almost pureed texture is more evident as are the mysterious spices that feel akin to a moderately spicy Polish kielbasa. When ordered as intended at Weenie Beenie—“all the way”—the stewed tomato chili sauce, mustard, pickle relish and onions alter the fundamental make-up, transforming the flavors to something else, leaving that Eastern European je ne sais quoi to become an American experience. 

While mostly unheard of now, Weenie Beenies used to speckle the landscape of Northern Virginia from the 1960s through the 1990s. Where D.C.’s Ben’s Chili Bowl gets much public praise and celebrity visits, from Bill Cosby to Barack Obama, Weenie Beenie’s s founder, William Stanton, a professional and one time-champion billiards player, was for decades responsible for bringing the half- smoke to Virginians. 

I am sated not only by the meaty treat, but content in knowing this off-the-beaten path locale still exists with no massive public relations campaign and no James Beard award winner behind the grill. It doesn’t need to do more than serve its signature.

2680 S. Shirlington Road, Arlington; 703-671-6661

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