California "Firsts" ... Der Wienerschnitzel / by George Geary

Der Wienerschnitzel

Opening Date: July 3rd, 1961

Location of first:

900 W. Pacific Coast Highway (at Gulf Avenue)

Wilmington, CA 90744

Currently: Still the first location

How many locations: Over 350 in 10 states and Guam

John Galardi founded the first location:

Current Owner/Parent Company: The Galardi Group Inc.

First location in Wilmington, CA Opened 1961

First location in Wilmington, CA Opened 1961

You could say that food and entrepreneurship started at a young age for John Galardi. In 1961, John started out working for Taco Bell’s (see page 00) founder Glen Bell at his Taco Tia Restaurant in Pasadena. Within a year, John purchased a small plot of land in the industrial port area of Wilmington in Los Angeles county. That was next store to one of Glen’s Taco Bell locations. He knew he had to sell something different, he saw an on slot of hamburger and shake stands, so I thought of the next best American food. Hot Dogs. 


Shortly after opening, the car clubs of the area started using the hot dog stand as their meeting spot for their weekend get together. John realized was tired of the young group in upwards of 100 kids drinking in his parking lot only accounted for about 5% of his business and who knows how many people didn’t come because of the heavy crowds. He rethought his building design and then remodeled it with a drive through where your car drove directly through the building thus the kids didn’t get out of their cars and left with their hot Dogs. The driver’s side of the building housing the kitchen and production areas and the passenger’s side, the storage of raw products and paper products.


The menu was simple. Hot dogs, fries and drinks. Hot dogs were dressed with Galardi’s homemade smooth chili. Orders were taking through a two-way intercom similar to In ‘N Out Hamburger (see page 00) so that the kitchen could start the order before the car arrived to pay. John was environmentally conscientious before his time. Orders were written on the back of the bags that eventually the hot dogs and fries would be placed into. Unlike the McDonalds brothers over in San Bernardino, where they had pre-prepared wrapped food, Galardi felt that it did not take too much time to place the cooked dog into the pre-warmed bun and dressed in sauerkraut, chili, or other condiments. A few “special” dogs made the menu in the early days such as the Super Dog, and Polish Sandwich (Dog) which consisted of a polish sausage split lengthwise and grilled with a pickle wedge between the two halves, placed on a piece of rye bread that has been dressed in spicy mustard and a slice of Swiss cheese, topped with another piece of rye bread. 

Construction on the iconic buildings.. 

Construction on the iconic buildings.. 

Within three years, Der Wienerschnitzel opened 3 locations. John felt that more locations the less the raw goods would cost as he could buy in bulk. His buildings took on an iconic “A” frame look, that of a mountain chalet. The roof, painted “Catsup Red”. Some with a few outdoor seats, and the drive through the building feature. He also added a walk up window. You could see the building before you passed it on the road. In 1965, only 4 years after opening the first Wilmington location, John had 20 locations and had started franchising his concept. Hot dogs with a condiment was only 18 cents. With chili 22 cents. He also rolled out his first motto: “Hamburger lovers are going to the dogs”. It reminds me of the current campaign with a southern chicken company using cows on their billboards “Eat more Chicken”. 1973 brought the end to the “A” frame locations thus creating a dining room and outdoor area with a drive around the entire building. The former drive through did create problems for employees needed stock for the kitchen, having to wait until a car was out of the drive through to get to the other side of the building.

A big change for the company happened in 1975 when hamburgers were added to the menus. Hot dogs are still the main menu item today thou. Der Wiener Dog, a caped masked mascot was introduced in print ads and commercials. Give-a-ways were little plastic dogs and some smaller items.

1977, brought on another change. Dropping “Der” in the company name and shortening the logo. Bringing a change with a big yellow “W” and the name Wienerschnitzel in red below. (Catsup and Mustard colors). TDO (The Delicious One) another mascot was introduced to replace Der Wiener Dog in 1998. This was an upright hot dog with legs, arms and his clothing was the bun. 

You cannot go to a baseball game without eating the Americans pastime, the hot dog. In 1999, Wienerschnitzel became the official dog of Anaheim Stadium home of the Angels baseball team. Dodger Stadium, five years later a deal was struck to be the official hot dog of Petco Park home of the San Diego Padres in their new stadium in downtown San Diego. John Galardi now supplied the hot dogs for the two closest baseball stadiums to his corporate offices. 

To be relevant in the new motor mobile food trucks, in 2001, Weinerschnitzel outfitted a new 40-foot catering wagon that could roll up to any park, party or event at a moment’s notice. They named it “The Wiener Wagon”, it still rolls out around the Los Angeles area today.

In 2003, The Galardi Group acquired the Tastee-Free brand. A soft serve ice cream and shake company. With just a little space and minimal costs, Franchisers started outfitting their locations with the dessert treats. Both brands became an instant success together, since Weinerschnitzel didn’t have milkshakes or desserts prior. 2004, marketing started revving up with localized city dogs such as the New York, The Chicago, the Midwestern and others.   

April 14th, 2013 was a sad day for the company. Their founder John Galardi passed away. He survived by his second wife and four grown children that all work in the company business to this day. They oversee over 350 locations (Corporate and Franchised) in 10 states and Guam with sales of over 120 million hot dogs annually.

September of 2014, The Original Wilmington location was awarded the 1046th Los Angeles Historical Landmark. His entire family was on hand to accept the bronze plaque from the city. During the event, his children stated that the company has just begun and will be massively expanding eastward.

Galardi Group Inc.

7700 Irvine Center Drive #550

Irvine, CA 92618


Currently the First Location

Currently the First Location