Valpo Viennas owner relishes opening eatery
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent June 15, 2012 3:58PM
Valpo Vienna owner Pat Truax (right) is shown with staff members Miguel Trujillo (left), Cheryl McGing and Megan Gentry at the recently opened store in Valparaiso, Ind. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:04AM
When Patrick Truax opened Valpo Viennas on April 24, he didn’t announce it.
After more than a year of construction and problems getting his restaurant at 3 Napoleon St. ready, Truax wanted to start sure before his “grand opening,” which he plans for this month.
However, he had customers waiting for the restaurant — decorated in mustard-yellow and ketchup-red — to open while he set up the first day. In a week, he had regulars.
“We’ve been anticipating the opening for a long time,” said customer Kurt Wienhorst.
People knew Valpo Viennas from the downtown hot dog cart Truax began last August, when the restaurant wasn’t going as quickly as he planned.
“I wanted people to know we were serious about opening a restaurant,” he said.
However, the cart was only Polish sausage and hot dogs — grilled with steamed buns, of course, because he feels that is the best way to bring out the flavor.
The restaurant and catering offer his father’s recipe for Italian beef, bratwurst, spiral cut chips and spam on a bun, which you have to order in a Monty Python voice.
Truax opened the restaurant after he was laid off after 30 years in the auto industry and was often told he was overqualified for positions at other companies.
He modeled Valpo Viennas slightly after Coney King in Glen Park, where he grew up, and noticed there was nothing similar here.
“I just decided there was a niche market for it,” Truax said. “There are several places in town that sell hot dogs, but no specialty (restaurants).”
Regular customer Jim Sievers said it’s nice to have a local guy and affordable restaurant downtown, although Sievers said he also just likes hot dogs.
Truax chose the name Valpo Viennas because he wanted his restaurant to be a part of the community that people “pass on” to kids and grandkids.
“We want people, when they come back to Valpo, the first thing they do is come order a hot dog,” he said.
Lindsey Camp said she feels the place is like Cheers — you meet people and talk.
She also likes it because before it opened, “you couldn’t get a good Chicago dog in Valpo,” she said.