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California transplants get taste of home at Spokane’s new Wienerschnitzel restaurant

When Larry Chao saw the vibrant red and yellow Wienerschnitzel restaurant pop up in north Spokane, the California transplant knew a taste of home was around the corner – eventually.

Chao said during its first days of operation, a line of cars for the drive-thru at 10220 N. Newport Highway began at the store’s northern windows, stretched past the Safeway parking lot, bled onto Hawthorne Road and wrapped around onto the highway.

Four days after its grand opening, the wait in line at the California chain’s drive-thru Tuesday still extended beyond an hour, but Chao figured it was the right time. He noticed the line only extended to a few cars on Hawthorne, so he decided the holdup was well worth his favorite item, which is not listed on the menu – a polish sausage with sauerkraut.

The patient patrons like Chao weren’t only waiting for a taste of coveted hot dogs – but of home.

“It really shows how many people have moved here from California,” Chao said.

Chao said he learned of his secret order as a young man when he frequented his local Wienerschnitzel in Los Angeles.

“It’s one of those tastes that you just remember,” he said. “You go through high school eating it and you get used to it. You start to kind of crave it.”

Chao also grabbed some mini corn dogs for his canine companions, a boxer and a boxer-Labrador mix.

“Yeah, they’re addicted, too,” he said.

It’s been 20 years since Lloyd Trotter, 83, has eaten at the chain based in Irvine, California. During his early adulthood in the 1960s, he used to frequent the chain in his hometown, San Clemente.

He leaned on the outside of the windows to the small lobby that consisted of only a few benches, no tables, as he considered how the menu had changed since then.

“There’s a few new items,” he said. “I don’t remember them having fish or lemonade.”

In addition to staple offerings like the Chicago dog and sauerkraut dog, the menu consists of cheeseburgers, breakfast items like burritos and a biscuit sandwich, sides like smothered fries and jalapenos poppers, and ice cream.

But over the decades, Trotter’s preference has remained unchanged.

“The only item for me is that polish sandwich,” he said.

The only sandwich on the menu, Trotter’s favorite consists of a spicy Polish link split in two, bisected with a pickle spear, placed between two slices of warm rye bread, then topped with Swiss cheese and tangy mustard.

“It’s the best,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of pickle it is, but I’d like to take some home in a jar.”

Though patrons can’t go home with a can of proprietary Wienerschnitzel pickles, they can carry out the coveted chili for $5.

Karen Truss has tried to recreate the secret chili sauce but can’t quite capture it.

While in town from the Spirit Lake area for a shopping trip with her friend, Bernadette Stapleton, the two California natives waited in the small lobby for about half an hour to each buy a corn dog and a chili dog.

Enjoying her corn dog in the driver’s seat, Truss said the items brought back memories of her childhood spent in San Diego.

“My stepdad was a postal carrier in my area, so he would come pick me up and we’d get Wienerschnitzel every day for lunch,” she said, as she laughed.

Stapleton, from Riverside, said the stop is a great place for kids.

“All the time, I used to drive to Wienerschnitzel to get my kids dinner when they were little,” she said.

Born in Ridgecrest, John Biggs drove in from his home in Spokane Valley with the same idea.

“I got 12 chili dogs and two corn dogs,” he said, adding that he is bringing food for his mother, wife and kids.

For Anttwon Scurlock, it’s been six years since he was able to order his usual: chili cheese fries and a junkyard dog.

“The junkyard is a must. It has everything you want,” he said. “It has fries, it has chili, you have your all-beef hot dog, a little mustard on there with some good onions.”

Scurlock said the last time he tasted Wienerschnitzel was when he visited his hometown, Los Angeles.

“When I go back, I frequent all the food and restaurants that I miss,” he said. “That’s why I’m so glad it’s here. Spokane definitely needed it.”