GIF: YouTube

Editor’s note: Lucky Peach was a magical food magazine that existed from 2011 to 2017. It was beloved by readers, regarded as a destination publication for writers, and won a slew of James Beard Awards. After its untimely demise, the website—and all the stories it ever published—disappeared into the digital ether. In the spirit of resurrecting the dead (and because the copyright reverts to the author), The Takeout will be republishing stories from Lucky Peach’s archives—for posterity. This piece was originally published in September 2013.


This dude spills mustard all over his nice shirt. He asks for water to clean up the mess. Behind the counter stands Roberta “Poochie” Jackson, who—we beg your pardon—will now comment on his sloppiness by talking about her pussy.

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“You’re not supposed to suck on a pussy, you supposed to chew on it.”

Someone else orders a chargrilled hot dog. It is topped with the seven requirements of a Chicago-style dog: dill pickles, tomatoes, raw onions, mustard, celery salt, neon relish, and sport peppers. Poochie points to a plastic jug that says: BITCHES NEED TIP TOO ASSHOLE.

She says: “Put a dollar in that, cheap ass.”

Poochie is not the sole purveyor of shit talking at The Wieners Circle. The hot-dog stand is a beacon for twenty-something yobs sodden with Miller High Life who find themselves in Chicago’s Lincoln Park past midnight. They stagger in, and—because they know of the place’s reputation from Conan O’Brien, TruTV, or This American Life—they talk a neon-blue streak of often awfully racist shit to the mostly black crew working behind the register. I can’t help but wince when I hear it.

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But Poochie and her team punch back with brass knuckles. “Hey, pussy lips, you ordered a hot dog, extra dick,” she’ll yell back. “I can smell it in your breath, motherfucker.”

People who come here at night (during the day it’s a serviceable hot-dog stand with its own convenient parking lot) are in on the joke that they are the joke. The customer never wins; Poochie always reigns supreme, but the losers get hot dogs and goopy cheese fries as thanks for playing.

Outside of work, Poochie confesses that she’s playing a part—that of a professional wrestling heel—when she’s behind the counter. At a Mexican restaurant across the street from The Wieners Circle, Poochie and I spend two hours in the company of strawberry margaritas and queso fundido, and I get to converse with a polite and introspective woman who has a gift for making grown men cry.

You really like the word “bitch.”

Poochie: When me and my girlfriends get together, we call each other “bitch.” I’m not offended when someone calls me a bitch. It’s a form of expression.

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Customers say much worse things.

They call me “nigger.”

White boys call you “nigger”?

Yeah, but it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. I can have a cool white boy come in who sees all the time on television black people call each other “nigger.” They feel like they’re cool enough to come in to my restaurant and go, “Whaddup, my nigga.” But if we go back and forth and you say, “You ain’t shit, you fucking nigger,” then I know you’re getting on the race level and treating me like I’m nothing. I tell them, “You gotta realize, you got nigger in you too. On that plantation, your white granddaddy was fucking my great-grandmama. She was black and had that good juicy pussy.”

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Doesn’t it bother you that white boys call you “nigger”?

If someone doesn’t like me because of the color of my skin, there’s really something wrong with that person. But I’m not gonna stop being who I am. You may not like me because of the color of my skin, but I’ll be the person who puts a smile on your face, maybe pick you up when you fall down on the ground. Maybe I’ll be the person who comes and saves your life. Maybe I’m the person who helps you respect God and change your attitude about race. You never know.

Nothing anyone says fazes you.

Why let words hurt you? Don’t dish it unless you can take it. You gonna give it to me, I’m gonna give it to you.

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There’s got to be something a customer has said that has offended you. 

It doesn’t register with me now. You either deal with it, or you ain’t gonna deal with it. That’s why you got two good legs to walk away.

Were things different when you first started?

I’ve been at this place 15 years. I started when I was 21-years old—actually two days before my birthday: April 27, 1998. When I first started, it showed me a different side. Everybody was getting drunk, calling me a bitch. I was 21. I’m from the hood. I grew up around gangbangers. I would choke the shit out of someone if they called me a nigger. I got upset. I’d throw a pop at someone. At that age, we didn’t know how to accept, especially being from the street.

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Did your character slowly form, or did it happen all of a sudden one day?

I’ve always been that type of person. That hasn’t changed since my first day on the job 15 years ago. I talk shit to you, but at the same time it’s a funny thing. I keep a smile on your face. You think, This bitch is cool. It’s never malicious.

You get recognized a lot on the street?

Now, a lot. Especially after the Conan O’Brien thing. They say, “Oh I love you, Poochie, can I get your autograph?” I’m real humble. I take pictures, tell kids to stay in school, don’t let anyone bully you. You kick the shit out of them and run.

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Fans don’t ever say mean things to you outside the restaurant?

Never. Once people know who I am, they know, “She ain’t really like that.” People say, “You ain’t even mean, you cool as hell.”

What’s the worst way a customer has responded to your insult?

I’ve made someone cry. She was skinny, I probably kept going on about her being bulimic. But I apologized quick. I said, “Sweetheart, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. This is how our restaurant is.” Before she left, she was smiling. She knew I didn’t mean to make her cry and be malicious.

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Is there a line you won’t cross?

I never talk about mentally challenged people. I’d never disrespect senior citizens.

Do any black people come to the shop and say, “You’re making us look bad?”

They love me. They know who I am. They say, “Bitch, you’re real.” They see a black girl coming from the hood and kicking it with all these rich white people, and just being herself, they say, “Shit, that’s cool.”

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Do you see your character as empowering women?

It empowers every woman.

That being said, you do this thing called “Chocolate Shake.” Describe it.

You have to come in and get it. It’s something no other restaurant in the world has. It’s my own favorite recipe. And it always puts a smile on your face! (Laughs uproariously.)

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Okay, I’ll say what it is. Basically you flash for money.

I’m not ashamed.

Where did Chocolate Shake come from?

“Chocolate Shake” came from my best friend, Jasmine. Jasmine had these big, humongous titties. The male customers would say, “Man, those some big titties.” I said, “No, we call that a big chocolate shake.” They’d say, “I’ll give you $40 to see one.” Then about eight years ago, me and Erika [who works at the restaurant] added a beat to it and made up a song. It’s funny. The lights go on and off. It goes, “Shake, shake, shake, shake-shake, everybody!”

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And you show your breasts.

It’s $20.

How often do customers request Chocolate Shake?

If it’s busy, I may get it five or six times a night. I may do Chocolate Shake, but I’m gonna share [the tips] with my team. My team pimps me.

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Doesn’t that make you feel like a stripper?

It’s an anything-goes restaurant. You come in and have fun. It should be for adults only. Most kids shouldn’t be here at five in the morning.

If you had a daughter, would you behave differently?

She wouldn’t see it. I’m not gonna change who I am. There’s a time and place for everything. I’m not gonna do Chocolate Shake for kids. I mean, it’s a breast. I’m not bending over, shaking my ass. You can go to a strip club for that.

Do you want children of your own?

I want a baby so bad. But I’m 36. I’d rather be a mom to a baby who doesn’t have a mommy. But when you try to adopt, it’s so expensive. I would have to get a second job. I don’t have health care. You’d have to afford the facilities, see the doctors.

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Would you want a boy or a girl?

Doesn’t matter.

Would it be tougher if you had a daughter?

It would. But at the end of the day, I would raise her the way I’d raise her. It would be better than my childhood. I’ll make sure education is first. She’d grow up knowing who God is. I’d tell her to go to college. I’d keep my kids busy. If you were raised by a strong woman, you’d know to cross your legs when you’re having a drink.

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Tell me about your parents.

My mother comes from a Cherokee background. My father’s Belizean. My mother actually has been on life support since September. Thank God she’s off the ventilator now, but she’s not doing a lot of movement.

What happened?

It happened September 6, 2012. It was me, my mom, and my dog. We pulled up to the corner store. She went inside and I went to park the car. Then this lady knocked on my door, hysterical. I looked down and my mother was on the ground. I thought she may have slipped and busted her head. First thing I do was pick her up. Her eyes were in the back of her head; her tongue was in a big ball. Oh my God. Can you imagine how it feels not to know CPR? I took my hand and pulled her tongue and blew in her mouth. I was crying. I said, “Mama, please, please, please.” I didn’t know what to do. There was this undercover detective who was nearby. She came and laid her down, started doing chest compressions. I dropped to my knees and prayed to God. At that point, if I could’ve given her my life, I’d do that. She had a tube down her throat. The doctors gave her a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. I just knew she was fighting and fighting.

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How did that change you?

I joined the church. I don’t even go every Sunday; I don’t pick up the Bible all the time. But I know deep down God is real. I pray all the time.

Would your coworkers at The Wieners Circle say you’ve changed?

Probably. They’ll say, “What’s going on? You’re not your usual self.” But even with what’s going on with my mom, I feel I have to do my job. I still wanna put a smile on your face. When I go home at night, I look at her picture and get emotional. I go to the bathroom at work and cry. My crew knows.

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How much of your success and notoriety is because you’re a black woman? Could you pull this off as a black man?

If I was a black man, I’d probably be the same way. People would still love me. Look at all the comedians: Kevin Hart, Mike Epps, Martin Lawrence. They put a smile on your face. I’m a comedian, and The Wieners Circle is my stage.

But surely a black man couldn’t get away with calling everyone a bitch.

It’d probably be much worse, calling people a bitch. It’d probably be a different atmosphere. But the way I was brought up, I’d know how far to take it.

OK, quick aside. I (Kevin Pang, the author of this piece) have a history with Poochie. In 2009, I took a hidden camera to The Wieners Circle for a TV show I hosted called The Cheeseburger Show. This is the uncensored version of that segment.

Are you married?

I’ve been with my fiancé for 13 years. I’m a little housewife. I cook, I clean. He watches the game, I might bring him a beer. He knows exactly who I am. He knows about Chocolate Shake. He’s also my best friend. He’s my love, I can talk to him about anything.

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He has no problem with you flashing your breasts for money.

No. I was honest with him from the beginning. I’m not the type of person to change. I’m gonna be who I am. You either accept it or you don’t. If you plan on spending your life with this person, he’s gonna love you for your flaws.

You have a tattoo that says “Juicy.”

“Juicy” because I’m chunky.

What’s your opinion of society’s view of heavy women?

They see it as, “Why did you get yourself that way?” You never know, it might be a fat gene, pregnancy. I say, “I’m a fat bitch with fat pockets.” You know, I want my own little plus-sized doll. I want to be a role model for heavy women. That’s why I call myself HBIC: Heavy Bitch in Charge. I’m proud to be heavy. Yes, I do want to be healthy. I’ve lost weight, and I want to lose a little more weight. I don’t want to be looking like a damn big-head Barbie doll: skinny body, big head. I’ve never been ashamed of who I am, even when I was heavier. I’ve never had low self-esteem, never. Women are beautiful. Love your body. I look at myself ass naked in the mirror. I know my man loves the way I get down. But at the end of the day, I could still develop diabetes, heart disease. I haven’t had a baby but then again, if I did, I wanna be able to move around with my child. Teach them a little karate. Do some dance moves.

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What bothers you the most?

I wanna be in a Tyler Perry movie. I wanna work with my favorite actor in the world, Adam Sandler. I don’t want people to say, “I can’t work with her, she’s too mean.” That’s the thing that bothers me. I don’t want my opportunity to stop, if I can go further. I want to be in a movie. I want to be a comedian. I want my own dirty ringtone.

You want a dirty ringtone?

Like “Good morning, bitch, wake up! Time to get up! You be late, yo ass fuck around bitch, you gotta get up!”

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Any crazy customer stories you want to share?

Two weeks ago, I did Chocolate Shake. Got crazy. This guy was banging on the window and being obnoxious. He breaks the window. He tries to go out the front. I said, “No, you busted.” Then I realize he cut his arm and was bleeding. Then the owner comes in and asks for his ID. He tries to run. At this point, I’m outside and say to him, “Excuse me, my boss said to give him your ID.” The man jumped up and balls his fist. He said, “Get the fuck out of my face, you fucking bitch.” I had to defend myself.

How did you defend yourself? 

I choke-slammed him on the bench. I was waiting for the ambulance and police to arrive. Only reason I let him go was I thought, “I don’t act like that. That’s not who I am.” I felt terrible. Some guys were cheering, but this was nothing to cheer about. What if he hit me and knocked me out?

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Do male cooks ever talk back to female customers?

Sometimes they do. But if I hear one of the guys say, “Shut up, bitch,” I’ll pull them off to the side and tell them, “For real?” It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Say it with a smile on your face. You giving them the strong male look and saying, “Shut up, bitch”—that’s totally disrespectful. You come in having a good time, saying, “Shut up, bitch, you got a big booty,” they take it better. There’s things to say to make a woman feel like you’re not being malicious towards her.

If a female employee says something to a male customer in a disrespectful tone, you have no problem with that?

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I’ll have to pull her off to the side. But we don’t really go too far. We know our limits. We pretty much know how to pick our fights.

What’s the gender breakdown at the restaurant?

The late shift is four guys and seven girls. Most of the guys work in the back, do the cleaning, frying, taking the garbage out.

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And the ladies are the faces of the restaurant.

Pussy rules.