We grew up in Chicago. We know sausage. We know hot dogs. In fact, I grew up two blocks from the number one hot dog joint in the country. And after many trips across the border to Wisconsin (Miss A is in fact a legitimate “cheesehead” born in LaCrosse), we know brats. At least that’s what we thought. Then we were introduced to the FLX Wienery in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
On our photo shoot extravaganza it was recommended we visit the Wienery on our way up Seneca Lake. “They have great burgers and hot dogs.” Now being both self-professed foodies and Chicagoans, we’ll admit Mike and I weren’t really sold on the idea. The kids, however, heard hot dogs and the decision was suddenly out of our hands.
We found the Wienery easily, a small yellow building with rust color trim. It’s unassuming, a former hot dog stand and prior to that we were told (but I haven’t verified), a local honey shop. It offers both indoor seating and outdoor picnic tables. Miss A quickly found the games.
We were immediately surprised upon entering. The small town food stand gave way to a unique blend of urban gastro pub and summer camp eatery (the kind of place tweens and teens find those first summer romances after a swim at the lake). There was a surprising amount of seating throughout at four-person booths and larger more communal benches. The tables were each set with a metal napkin dispenser and plastic bottled condiments. (An observant person might notice the bottle of Sriracha on the tables too – our first clue that this place might be more than we expected.)
The Wienery had a steady diet of customers of all ages, many drinking wine; yet another sign this wasn’t a run of the mill dog and burger joint. Music played throughout as a staffer took orders at the register and shouted them back to the kitchen, which filled the place with a hunger-inducing scent of sausage and burgers. We were quickly greeted by a smiling teenage employee that asked us if we had ever been to the Wienery. As we had not, he walked us over to the menu, rustically framed on the wall.
Our host enthusiastically went over how the menu worked and made suggestions for our first visit. Now, you might think this would be a simple process – pick a burger, sausage or dog, then choose from a variety of chef created options or make your own. However, at this point we knew it was going to be anything but easy. This was an indulgent foodies’ dream. All the dogs and burgers are locally sourced; sausages, pickles, kimchi (yes-kimchi!), soups and relishes are housemade. Hops and herbs are grown in planters by the backyard picnic tables.
On our first visit (we’ve been back a few times since!), Mike and I took the host’s recommendations. I ordered the Whole Hog with bratwurst (which I have yet to deviate from). The Whole Hog, as its name suggests is not for those on a low-fat, low-cal diet. The housemade brat is served on a white bun and topped with fried onions, bacon, cheese curds, housemade corn relish, fried egg (which oozes when bit into), chipotle mayo and fresh herbs. It must be eaten with a fork – at least initially. You might think the flavors of the brat would be lost to the more intense ingredients, but these juicy brats hold their own and everything plays together for an absolute party in your mouth. 4 spoons!
On our first visit, Mike ordered the K Town Burger, a burger topped with kimchi, cilantro, fried egg, Korean BBQ sauce and miso mayo. Again an amazing marriage of sweet, spicy, salty and sour over a burger prepared to-order. Mike has also tried the State Fair (pictured below) with an Italian sausage which features peppers and onions, American cheese, smoked ketchup and mushrooms. Of these he preferred the K Town, exclaiming it was “fantastic!” The State Fair was also very good, but the sausage was too sweet for this spicy loving guy. 4 spoons and 3 spoons respectively.
The kids began their FLX Wienery adventures on the cautious side. They both started with corn dogs; but branched out on the next visits. Miss A is the least adventurous of us all and has stuck with the create your own option. She did try both a cheeseburger and hot dog, served plain. Mr. N also went the create your own route the second time, opting for a brat with ketchup. Then he got daring and ordered the Peanut Burger. The Peanut Burger is cooked to-order burger with peanut butter, bacon, fried onions and American cheese. Each of the flavors stood out on its own, but once again complemented the others. He was a big fan of this choice. 4 spoons all around for Mr. N and 30 spoons for Miss A.
The Wienery’s sides include a variety of fries, chips, spicy onion rings and fried cheese curds. Every burger or dog needs a side! We opted to share the fries – cooked in locally sourced, dry rendered lard. On our first visit we ordered the Royal Fries (dish with two forks in photo below), a full dish of fries covered in foie gras, Pecorino cheese, truffle mayo and fresh herbs. Can you say decadent?! These took top billing for both Mike and I. 4 spoons easily.
The kids, however, preferred the Chili Poutine Fries. This dish comes topped with gravy, bacon, chili, curds and fresh herbs. While Mike and I enjoyed these as well, it’s hard to not crave the foie gras and truffle mayo variety. Again, 4 spoons.
You may recall, I mentioned wine earlier. It likely seems odd to have wine with hot dogs, but I assure you this place gets it right. The head chef and owner, Christopher Bates happens to be a Master Sommelier. That’s right, he’s one of an elite group of around 200 Master Sommeliers in the world – and he’s the only one in the world to preside over a kitchen! He was named the Best Young Sommelier in the World in 2012 and TopSomm in America in 2013. Chris, who owns the Wienery with his wife Isabel Bogadtke (named by Mobil Travel Guide for offering “Best Service in the World”), stopped by our table to see how we were enjoying the meal. (In the meantime, sausage making continued…)
Chris is young, mid-30’s maybe, bearded, has long hair tied back in a bun and wore shorts and a t-shirt. Most notably, he has a friendly, approachable demeanor. Much like everyone else we’ve met in the Finger Lakes, he is open, warm and welcoming – not to mention a happy guy. He told us how he and his wife spent a more than a decade in the hospitality industry (working at renowned establishments) including both in Europe and New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes, Chris wanted to return and help bring attention to the area as a wine and travel destination.
While you can get a variety of sodas or beer, Mike and I are wine-ohs, so this was a no brainer. Not to mention the house wines are from the local Elements Winery – established and run by Chris, Isabel and Chris’ father. The wine is only available by the glass due to liquor licensing, but the Wienery does offer other select wines (including a selection in the “secret wine fridge”) and allows visitors to bring their own Finger Lakes wine. There are no corking fees, but if you prefer to drink your wine from a Riedel glass (rather than a plastic cup) you can for $2.50. Located directly on the Seneca wine trail, bringing your own is an easy option. Mike and I chose two glasses of the house wine – Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. While the Pinot was a little cloudy, Mike thought it was likely one of the best Pinot Noirs he had on this trip. I also very much enjoyed the Cab Franc. It didn’t have that over-powering green pepper note, but was smooth and rich. Both wines paired well with the food. Brats and wine! Who knew. (Well, apparently Master Sommelier Bates did.)
Needless to say, the next time we have the opportunity to visit the Finger Lakes we’ll be eating at the FLX Wienery; after all, we haven’t even made it to the dessert menu. That will have to be a visit in and of itself with shake and malt options including a Salted Caramel Pretzel shake, a Nutella malt and even a Bacon and Brown Sugar shake. By then, we’ll also hopefully be able to try Chris and Isabel’s next venture – they are planning another restaurant in Geneva, NY. I’m guessing this one will get 4 spoons from us too.
The FLX Wienery is located at 5090 State Route 14 in Dundee, New York along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. It’s open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. through 6:30 p.m. www.flxwienery.com. (Photos were taken with permission and we were not compensated for this review. All opinions are our own.)
I think it’s fair to say that Mike and I were grateful to the kids for insisting we have burgers and hot dogs. This was a delicious find. And as much as it pains me as a Chicagoan to say, these New Yorkers know their brats and dogs. Hats off to them.
We’ll have a few more posts coming your way as we just finished our 5,116 mile road trip. (Yes we all survived each others company for two straight weeks, while traveling in a small rental car!) Until then, I want to share that the Cabernet Franc vines that Mike and I tied back in May, are growing beautifully. Maybe my black thumb is slowly turning green!