I, too, fondly remember the Wiener King in Lexington. That was my favorite place to eat in kindergarten.
I was excited to see on this forum that there’s still a Wiener King in Mansfield, Ohio. This past weekend, a friend and I were on a road trip to Cleveland and took a detour to Mansfield to find Wiener King.
It’s still there and still in business, but the two of us struggled not to break down and cry our eyes out. A stooping, elderly man on a walker is the owner and seemingly only employee in that place. The decor hadn’t changed in thirty years, like the home of a shut-in, and it had not aged well. That poor man could barely stand, let alone walk, and the sight of him shuffling from the griddle to the fryer, surrounded by peeling, discolored wallpaper, was nothing short of heartbreaking.
From talking to him, I learned the chain folded in the early 80’s, due to some serious financial mismanagement at the corporate level. He’d opened his store in 1976 and paid it off in 1978, so he just kept right on with what he was doing when the chain went bankrupt. Based on what we saw–both the disrepair and the dearth of business–I doubt he could afford to have an employee help him out. It seemed like that sad restaurant is all that he has left: it’s his legacy.
We ate our fries and foot-long chili dogs with tears filling our eyes. My friend almost lost it while we were in the restaurant; I almost broke down in the car afterward. We went looking for a nostalgia kick, but instead we found deeply moving pathos. It was an unforgettable experience.
If you’re in that neck of the woods, don’t miss the opportunity to support the last of the Wiener Kings. Buy a dog and a soda, and sit down for some conversation. It might just break your heart, but you won’t regret the experience.