Today, Winetraveler Chief Communications Officer Kristy Wenz reviews her experience at the FLX Wienery in Seneca Lake (Finger Lakes), New York. Owned by Chef and Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, the Wienery offers a variety of options for all kinds of foodies along with local wine.
I grew up in Chicago. I know sausage. I know hot dogs. In fact, I grew up two blocks from the number one hot dog joint in the country (well number 1 in 2011, but it consistently ranks among the best in the U.S. and day or night the line extends outside). And after many trips across the border to Wisconsin I also know brats. At least that’s what I thought. Then I was introduced to the FLX Wienery on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
On a trip several years ago, it was recommended I visit the Wienery on our way up Seneca Lake, “They have great burgers and hot dogs.”
Now being both a self-professed foodie and Chicagoan, I’ll admit I wasn’t sold on the idea, especially having recently dined on some serious gourmet eats at the Stonecat Café and in Ithaca, but I had kids in tow and was out numbered the second they heard “hot dogs.”
The FLX Wienery – Going Beyond Hotdogs
I found the Wienery easily, a small yellow building with rust color trim. It’s unassuming, a former hot dog stand and prior to that we were told (but I haven’t verified), a local honey shop. It offers both indoor seating and outdoor picnic tables.
I was immediately surprised upon entering. The small-town food stand gave way to a unique blend of urban gastro pub and summer camp eatery (the kind of place tweens and teens find those first summer romances after a swim at the lake). There was a surprising amount of seating throughout at four-person booths and larger more communal benches. The tables were each set with a metal napkin dispenser and plastic bottled condiments. An observant person might notice the bottle of Sriracha on the tables too – my first clue that this place might be more than I expected.
The Wienery had a steady diet of customers of all ages, many drinking wine; yet another sign this wasn’t a run of the mill dog and burger joint. Music played throughout as a staffer took orders at the register and shouted them back to the kitchen, which filled the place with a hunger-inducing scent of sausage and burgers. We were quickly greeted by a smiling teenage employee that asked us if we had ever been to the Wienery. As we had not, he walked us over to the menu, rustically framed on the wall and enthusiastically explained how the menu worked and made suggestions for our first visit.
Now, you might think this would be a simple process – pick a burger, sausage or dog, then choose from a variety of chef created options or make your own. However, at this point we knew it was going to be anything but easy. This was an indulgent foodies’ dream. All the dogs and burgers are locally sourced; sausages, pickles, kimchi (yes-kimchi!), soups and relishes are house-made; and hops and herbs are grown in planters by the backyard picnic tables.
On this first visit (I’ve since been back every time I’m in the Finger Lakes), we took the host’s recommendations. I ordered the Whole Hog with bratwurst (which I have yet to deviate from). The Whole Hog, as its name suggests is not for those on a low-fat, low-cal diet. The house-made brat is served on a white bun and topped with fried onions, bacon, cheese curds, house-made corn relish, a fried egg (which oozes when bit into), chipotle mayo and fresh herbs. It must be eaten with a fork – at least initially. You might think the flavors of the brat would be lost to the more intense ingredients, but these juicy brats hold their own and everything plays together for an absolute party in your mouth.
My husband, who had also initially been skeptical, ordered the K Town Burger, a burger topped with kimchi, cilantro, fried egg, Korean BBQ sauce and miso mayo. Again, an amazing marriage of sweet, spicy, salty and sour over a burger prepared to-order. He also tried the State Fair with an Italian sausage which features peppers and onions, American cheese, smoked ketchup and mushrooms. Of these he preferred the K Town, exclaiming it was “fantastic!” The State Fair was also very good, but the sausage was too sweet for this spicy loving guy.
My children began their FLX Wienery adventures on the cautious side. They both started with corn dogs; but branched out on the next visits. My daughter, the least adventurous, has stuck with the create your own option; however, she has tried both a cheeseburger and hot dog, served plain. My more adventurous eating son also went the create your own route initially, but then he got daring and ordered the Peanut Burger. The Peanut Burger is cooked to-order burger with peanut butter, bacon, fried onions and American cheese. Each of the flavors stood out on its own, but once again complemented the others.
The Wienery’s sides include a variety of fries, chips, spicy onion rings and fried cheese curds. Every burger or dog needs a side! We opted to share the fries – cooked in locally sourced, dry rendered lard. On our first visit we ordered the Royal Fries, a full dish of fries covered in foie gras, Pecorino cheese, truffle mayo and fresh herbs. Can you say decadent?! These remain my personal favorite, but the Chili Poutine Fries with gravy, bacon, chili, curds and fresh herbs are another outstanding option.
Chef & Master Sommelier Christopher Bates
You may recall, I mentioned wine earlier (because of course I did!). It likely seems odd to have wine with hot dogs, but I assure you it’s a combo I will do again and again. The head chef and owner of the Wienery, Christopher Bates, happens to be a Master Sommelier. That’s right, he’s one of an elite group of around 200 Master Sommeliers in the world. He was named the Best Young Sommelier in the World in 2012 and TopSomm in America in 2013. Chris, who owns the Wienery with his wife Isabel Bogadtke (named by Mobil Travel Guide for offering “Best Service in the World”), stopped by our table to see how we were enjoying the meal.
Chris is young, and at the time he was bearded with long hair tied back in a bun and wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Most notably, he had a friendly, approachable demeanor. Much like everyone else I’ve met in the Finger Lakes, he is open, warm and welcoming – not to mention a happy guy. He told us how he and his wife spent a more than a decade in the hospitality industry (working at renowned establishments) including both in Europe and New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes, Chris wanted to return and help bring attention to the area as a wine and travel destination.
Wines Served At The FLX Wienery
The house wines at the Wienery are from the Elements Winery – established and run by Chris, Isabel and Chris’ father. The wine is only available by the glass due to liquor licensing, but the Wienery does offer other select wines (including a selection in the “secret wine fridge”) and allows visitors to bring their own Finger Lakes wine. There are no corking fees, but if you prefer to drink your wine from a Riedel glass (rather than a plastic cup) you can for $2.50. Located directly on the Seneca wine trail, bringing your own is an easy option. I chose two glasses of the house wine – Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. While the Pinot was a little cloudy, it was likely one of the best Pinot Noirs I had on that particular trip. I also very much enjoyed the Cab Franc. It didn’t have that over-powering green pepper note, but rather was smooth and rich. Both wines paired well with the food. Brats and wine! Who knew? (Well, apparently Master Sommelier Bates did.)
So Winetravelers, the next time you have the opportunity to visit the Finger Lakes do yourself a favor and stop by the FLX Wienery. And not to worry, hot dogs and burgers not your thing, they also have dessert…Salted Caramel Pretzel shake, a Nutella malt and even a Bacon and Brown Sugar shake.
The FLX Wienery is located at 5090 State Route 14 in Dundee, New York along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.