Wienerschnitzel finally lives up to its name

The hot dog chain will start serving Schnitzel

Wienerschnitzel, the country’s largest hot dog chain, is about to start serving the food it was named for.

Because of course a Wienerschnitzel isn’t a kind of hot dog — Wiener doesn’t mean “hot dog;” it means “from Vienna” — it’s a thin, breaded, fried cutlet traditionally made from veal.

The chain’s name, according to J. R. Galardi, executive vice president of the 330-unit chain and son of founder John Galardi, came from a suggestion at a dinner hosted by Taco Bell founder Glen Bell.

Galardi worked for Bell at the time and was trying to think of a name that would stick in people’s minds, which “John’s Hot Dogs” would not. Bell’s wife was flipping through a cookbook and said, “How about Der Wienerschnitzel?”

Galardi thought the idea was ridiculous for the obvious reason that he was trying to sell hot dogs and not schnitzel. But he couldn’t get the name out of his head, and that, he inferred, meant that it would stick in other people’s heads, too.

They dropped the “Der” about 30 years ago, but the nonsensical name has lasted through the years. In a rather odd turn of events, the chain is finally living up to its name by launching three schnitzel sandwiches on May 1.

The timing’s good: Chicken sandwiches are about the hottest item in limited-service restaurants these days, and J. R. Galardi said that even in Germany and Austria, most schnitzel is chicken these days.

The breading doesn’t generally contain potato chips, but Wienerschnitzel’s does.

“We kind of like to do our own thing,” Galardi said.

The schnitzel sandwiches, which will be available through June 25, come in three varieties:

  • The Classic Ranch: Ranch dressing, four pickle chips, a slice of tomato and lettuce, suggested price $3.49.
  • The Barbecue Bacon: American cheese, two slices of bacon, barbecue sauce and grilled onions, suggested price $3.99.
  • The Blazing Bacon Guacamole: Guacamole, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Blazin’ Ranch sauce made with Wienerschnitzel’s signature Blazin’ Sauce, which has red jalapeños and garlic as the main flavoring agents. Suggested price $4.49.

Although it’s running as a limited-time offer, Galardi said he expects it to sell well.

“If it does, it will most likely remain on the menu,” he said.

Correction: April 14, 2017, This story has been updated with the latest Wienerschnitzel unit count, which is 330, and the correct suggested price for the Classic Ranch schnitzel sandwich, which is $3.49.