Thursday, August 31, 2006

Good Bye to Genie’s Wienies


Do you have a favorite restaurant?

In all my travels, a couple of my favorite restaurants are still the ones back in my old hometown of Hamtramck, Michigan.

The tale begins in 1950 when John Cieslak purchased the little restaurant in Detroit, on the corner of Conant and Casmere, a block off the Hamtramck border. John’s oldest son, Gene, took over the restaurant in 1970. Gene, who is the very name to Genie’s Wienies, and his wife Donna ran the family business until Gene retired in 1999. Their daughter, Michelle, took over as the third generation owner.

So what is Genie’s Wienies? Genie’s is a rare metro Detroit coney island owned by Polish Americans for the past 56 years. Genie’s is more than a local coney island, it’s a city icon, celebrated by dinners, musicians and pop-culture mavens. It contains only 675 square feet and features a simple menu; hot dogs, loose burgers in a hot dog bun, hamburgers and cheese burgers all smothered with onions, mustard and their famous secret-recipe chili. French fries and Boston Coolers top off their menu. (A Boston Cooler is Vernor’s Ginger Ale with vanilla ice cream and it can’t be just any ginger ale, it HAS to be Vernors. To try a Vernors for yourself, you can order it by mail at www.vernors.com.)

My first experience going to Genie’s was when I was an alter boy at Our Lady Queen of Apostles. One Saturday, after helping the nuns clean the sacristy, my friend Rob Solecki’s dad treated us to Genie’s Wienies. The year was 1970, I was in the sixth grade. I remember the burgers cost a quarter because Rob’s dad said he recalled when they were only fifteen cents. Today you’ll dish out two dollars and five cents for the tasty morsel and if you want a cheese burger, that will cost you and extra thirty-five cents. The price may have gone up but the delicious flavor is the same.

When I was in the seventh and eight grades at Q of A Grade School my mom would occasionally give my younger brother, Joe, and me a dollar each for lunch. During our lunch break we would race over to Genies, a block away from the school, for a burger, fries and Coke; all for under a dollar. It was definitely a treat I looked forward to.

Throughout the years, as out-of-town guests would visit, one of the highlights was a visit to Genie’s. A visit to Hamtramck just wasn’t complete without it. One friend, Jeff Bibik, from Chicago, even missed his flight home because he had to have a Genie’s. What had happened was that Bibik forgot to set his watch ahead. His flight was to leave at 4pm Eastern Standard Time (EST). His watch read 2pm, but it was set to Central Standard Time (CST), which in actuality was 3pm in Detroit. So after our quick meal I ran him to the airport, we said our good-byes and a half an hour later he called to tell me he missed his flight, but not to worry, the Genie’s Wienies were worth it.

Also, throughout the years my wife, Lori, and I have had the pleasure of introducing our nephews and nieces to our local treat.

Whether it was for lunch, dinner or as a late night snack after the bars closed you always knew you’d get a delicious, one of a kind fix at Genie’s along with a smile and a hardy welcome from Gene, Donna, Gene’s brothers John or Bob and most recently Gene and Donna’s daughter, Michelle.

On September 3rd, 2006, at 5pm, after 56 years, the Cieslaks will shut down Genie’s. Sunday is going to be a sad day in Hamtramck. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. Genie’s Wienies has been a part of my life for over thirty-five years. A visit to my old home town just won’t be the same without them.

I wish my friends, the Cieslak family, good fate and good fortune. They are planning on reopening out in the suburbs in the near future but there will be a great void left where they once were.

Aloha,

Al The Only
www.tricky1.com


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1 Comments:

Anonymous Christine said...

I used to eat at Genie's Weinies when I lived on Harold St. Too bad I never ran into you there.

6:39 PM  

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