Travis Hackney has been working at Weenie Beenie in Shirlington for 34 years, almost as long as some of his customers have been eating there. The roadside carryout opened in the late 1950s with a short menu of hot dogs, fish sandwiches, hamburgers and beans. That menu has expanded over the years, but the idea has stayed the same: to serve everyday working people.
"We all frequent McDonald's occasionally," says Hackney, "but our customers come here every day."
Just off I-395, Weenie Beenie is a splash of color in an industrial area. Orange trim and yellow lettering brighten the lot where a steady stream of lunch customers pull in and make their own parking spots before placing their orders. North Carolina barbecue, half-smokes, chili dogs and soup are only a few of the items on an ancient menu covered with peeling stickers layered over last year's prices.
"One hot dog all the way, hold the chili," the cashier calls out to the cook behind her. The line for lunch is growing, but everything moves quickly. It helps that Hackney, 45, and his staff know so many of their regulars.
"We know what they want before they get out of the car," he says.
The Hackney family has owned and run Weenie Beenie since it first opened. His father, Theo, 73, and his brother, Troy, 40, work right alongside him. They have never taken anything off the menu, he says, only added to it. For that, trucker R.J. Ray is grateful. A regular for four decades, Ray gets something different every time he comes: "It's quick and it's good."
Weenie Beenie, 2680 S. Shirlington Rd., Shirlington. Call 703-671-6661. Open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Directions: Take the Shirlington/Glebe Road exit off I-395 South , following the signs for Shirlington. Turn right on Shirlington Road. Weenie Beenie is on the left immediately after the turn.
-- Matt McMillen