NAVY PIER — America’s Dog & Burger, a family-owned Chicago chain, has been inducted into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame.
Vienna Beef celebrated America’s Dog & Burger with a Tuesday ceremony at the chain’s Navy Pier location. America’s Dog & Burger started in 1996 and has grown to three locations, with additional spots at O’Hare Airport and in suburban Evergreen Park. It’s the 140th business to enter the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame.
“… For me, just some guy who operates a couple of hot dog stands, it really means a lot,” said Manolis Alpogianis, who founded America’s Dog with his brother, George. “It is a recognition of all of the hard work, how long we’ve been around, how it’s become part of Chicago and part of the fabric of Chicago’s restaurant and culinary scene.”
Hall of Fame inductees must be actively involved in their community and show commitment to customer satisfaction and producing quality food, according to its website.
Bob Schwartz, senior vice president of Vienna Beef, said America’s Dog was chosen over numerous nominees in part because of its local ownership.
“Independent hot dog stands are very special to Chicago; and what we don’t appreciate, sometimes, is that other cities don’t have restaurants like this,” Schwartz said. “They have all the chains, and that’s what they’re used to, but a hot dog stand when you walk into one of those neighborhood places … you feel a certain amount of soulful ownership in a place like that.”
Schwartz said he has known Alpogianis and his family since they started the business in the ’90s.
When America’s Dog & Burger opened at Navy Pier, other hot dog stands had already turned down the opportunity to sell their products at the Chicago tourist attraction. The Alpogianis brothers pushed to open a hot dog stand and deli with the tagline “Taste the best from East to West,” that would feature recipes from across the country, according to a Vienna Beef news release.
America’s Dog & Burger sells nine “city dogs,” hot dogs based on a particular city, including the Chicago-style hot dog. Alpogianis said he believes the extensive menu, with items and ingredients not typically seen at most hot dog stands, sets America’s Dog & Burger apart.
America’s Dog & Burger also donates lunch to public school students and sponsors programs that encourage Chicagoans to get outside.
And the family has a long history in Chicago’s food scene: George Alpogianis, America’s Dog & Burger’s co-founder, is a chef and T.A.G. restaurant group partner; their father, Gus, opened Palace Grill in the West Loop; and their cousin now runs Palace Grill. Manolis and George’s grandpas also owned restaurants in Greektown and Wrigleyville.
Manolis Alpogianis said joining the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame is more special after trudging through two tough years with the pandemic, which was only possible because Chicagoans offered their support to his business.
“I think that it’s really important that we still send a message that Chicago is a great independent restaurant town,” Alpogianis said. “There’s nothing wrong with chains. But there’s something really special about a guy who owns a restaurant, rolls up his sleeves, and works hard to provide for his family. That’s what we do.”
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