You may not want to know the intimate details of what’s in your hot dog, but Vienna Beef sure does. Yesterday, the prominent Chicago hot-dog company sued Scott D. Ladany, who owns Red Hot Chicago. The suit claims that Ladany either "ripped off Vienna’s 118-year-old recipe" or "is lying by telling customers that its hot dogs are the real thing." Red Hot Chicago advertises that its hot dogs are a "Family Tradition Since 1898," which is odd considering the company didn’t open until 1986. But you know what company did get its start in 1893: Vienna Beef. It’s not a coincidence.
According to the official history, the recipe for the Vienna Beef dog was invented by Austria-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1894, the two opened their first store and then went on to create the biggest sausage company in the Windy City. Scott Ladnay happens to be the the grandson of Sam, meaning that he used to be involved with the company. In 1983, he sold his 10 percent stake and also signed a collection of agreements, including a "gag order about Vienna’s secret recipes."
Though Vienna Beef is certainly still king around town (and is used at Danny Meyer’s ever-growing chain of Shake Shacks), we have noticed that Red Hot Chicago has been popping up in more stands around the city — including the very good Devil Dawgs.
We are sure lawyers will get in the way, but we’d like to suggest an epic taste-off between the two to decide whether they actually do taste the same. Schedule it for the Fourth of July, even! Either way, we’re pretty we know what we are having for lunch today.
Vienna has a beef with founder’s grandson over hot dogs [Chicago Tribune]