Furthering frankfurters

Eager diners have flocked to Texas Wieners, originally called The Greeks, for 93 years.

Photos by Maria Young

Owing to his family’s 16-year involvement with Texas Wieners, 1426 Snyder Ave., Michael Viggiano experienced pangs of sadness Sept. 9 when minor health inspection issues and an opportunity in another line of work led brother John to close the hot dog haunt. Determined not to let the 93-year-old establishment become a relic, he chose to relish the possibility of reviving operations and will celebrate its return Nov. 1.

“I know there are many occasions where people just have to let stuff go, but this didn’t strike me as one of those times,” the proprietor said Monday from the Newbold space, even enjoying a moment of excitement when telling a would-be customer of the rejuvenation. “It’s too much of an iconic place to say goodbye to, especially since we’ve been involved for so long.”

The Viggianos are the fifth family to oversee operations for the business, which began as The Greeks and initially peddled its wares at 2031 S. Broad St. Michael, whose clan’s connection to the site includes maintenance upkeep from father John and former ownership responsibilities for uncle Russell, could easily have let the late summer matters signal the end for Texas Wieners, especially because he has another job to fall back on through the Register of Wills for the City of Philadelphia. However, a desire to preserve tradition coupled with his interest in guiding the eatery to an enhanced identity that could include franchising will make the 29-year-old an even more active participant in the marriage of franks and buns. Rest assured, all of you devotees, the existing menu items will remain intact, meaning you will still be able to sate your hankering for The Works or a Texas Tommy.

“It’s a family-owned location, but it has its own identity, especially with regards to our products,” the nearby resident said of the selections, with fish cakes being another cherished champion. “This was all really about making everything look in better shape. We have a reputation for selling quality food, so there’s no need to alter that.”

Michael Viggiano’s esteem for gratifying stomachs and pleasing admirers of longevity sits quite well with longtime customer Paul Stricker. Having begun his affinity for Texas Wieners’ dogs, particularly the bacon-and-cheese-abounding Tommy, more than 30 years ago, he found himself “sad and taken aback” when learning of the closing.

“I felt as if another one of my South Philly favorites, as well as a staple of my childhood and what I refer to as ‘My Philadelphia,’ was gone,” the Packer Park resident said. “I know there was much talk of how the quality had gone down in recent years, at least in so far as how the place was kept up, but I didn’t believe it was bad enough to warrant closure. … I am happy to see it return. I am not yet, however, ready to set off any fireworks. … Only time and taste will tell.”

Stricker and every other patron will frequently come to mind for Michael Viggiano as he looks to take Texas Wieners to the century mark and beyond.

“A week after the closing, I became really enthusiastic about taking over here,” he said of the revered spot whose durability merited its placement in SPR’s 65th anniversary issue. “I’ve been involved with our time here long enough to know and respect that people have come to rely on us for our hot dogs and delicious side items. Businesses are bound to have setbacks, and, yes, it did feel a bit weird not having a presence for so many weeks, but that’s all about to change.”

The owner, who oversaw a Collingswood-situated Texas Wieners outpost before securing his City position under Ronald R. Donatucci, confessed that he might add items for further consumption, with more than two dozen choices to await the eager eyes and tummies of patrons come 10 a.m. Tuesday. No matter how much creativity he injects into the process of remaining revered, it seems many South Philadelphians, including Stephen Pagano and Jody Della Barba, are simply happy that a walk near Broad Street will soon enable them to utter “Hey, let’s stop at Texas Wieners.”

“I’m glad they’re reopening,” Pagano, a Marconi dweller, said, lauding the Texas Tommy and the nostalgic pictures that line the walls. “I’ll definitely be eating there again come November. It’s a throwback kind of business, and I’m glad these places still exist.”

“I love them,” Della Barba, a Girard Estate resident and ’15 South Philly Review Difference Maker added, relaying that her father ventured there as a teenager in the 1930s. “Too many South Philly places are gone. I’m glad they will keep it going.”

With five days remaining until Michael Viggiano, his patriarch, and other personnel exchange smiles, cash, and provisions with diners, including hot dogs topped with a highly regarded Greek sauce, an overall analysis of Texas Wieners’ contributions to the caloric intakes and memory banks of residents yields the hope that even though time waits for no man, woman, or business, the location will continue to serve as a source of gastronomic satisfaction for sausage lovers.

“I like that they have a unique way of serving the hot dogs in that they are split and then enveloped by what’s more of a part roll, part bun than a traditional hot dog bun,” Stricker noted. “Even as I approach my 40s and eat much better than I did in my youth, I can’t help but stop by for a Tommy every now and again. … I will certainly make a stop once it reopens and order up some Tommies and maybe a side or two.”

“I think we’re prepared to have our next phase be a terrific one,” Michael Viggiano said. “We had a setback in September, but everything is operating smoothly, and the food is still going to be amazing.” SPR

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.

Owner Michael Viggiano’s family has overseen operations at Texas Wieners for 16 years.

Photo by Maria Young