Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Dog We Trust

Another review I'm cross-posting to Yelp - here, with photos.
I've lamented many times since moving to Austin that there are no really good Chicago dogs to be had here. I came close when I discovered Chris' Little Chicago on South Lamar, but the environs (an overgrown field, which is both hellaciously hot and high on the allergen and bug factor this time of year) left something to be desired. Plus, I think Chicago dogs are best eaten with waffle fries, and Chris' Little Chicago serves theirs with seasoned fries.

So I was cautiously optimistic when I started seeing very positive buzz on Yelp and elsewhere about a new dog place in town, aptly named Frank. Frank's tagline, "Purveyors of Artisan Sausage," hints at its upscale-ish nature, but happily, it doesn't take itself too seriously. The space is attractive, yet casual, and the pricing is surprisingly good considering its high-rent 4th and Colorado location - a Chicago dog runs just $3.75 and a small order of waffle fries is $2.50. Of course, you could easily exceed your food bill with a single drink from their awesome cocktail menu, but having that option available to you just adds to the experience, in my opinion.

The exterior of Frank - housed in the former location of Starlite (see the star remnant in the upper right?) - appears to be a work in progress.

Looking from the bar area into the main dining room.

I arrived at Frank right during the busiest part of the lunch hour on a Friday. There were people waiting for tables, but the bar is first come, first serve, and I was able to immediately snag a seat there. There were two bartenders working; both were super friendly and attentive - as well as being noticeably inked - which lent the service a "cool-but-not-too-cool-for-you" vibe.

I can't tell you how much I was wishing I could sample one of their cocktails.

In addition to a more predictable range of dogs - the obligatory chili cheese dog, a plain dog, the Chicago dog, a beer soaked brat - there are a couple of more interesting offerings on the menu. For example, the Jackalope ($7.00) begins with an antelope and rabbit sausage and is served with huckleberry compote, sriracha aioli, and applewood smoked cheddar. Or, you could spice up a more run-of-the-mill dog by making it into a Frank Flapjacket - wrap it in corn batter and load it up like a bun. Better yet, you can "Pork It" by splitting it, stuffing it with white American cheese, wrapping it with bacon, and deep frying it. Because hot dogs aren't bad enough for you already.

For vegetarians, anything on the menu can be made with a veggie dog. They even offer veggie chili and a portobello cheesesteak.

After grappling with the menu and my taste buds a bit, I finally decided to try a Chicago dog so I could have an apples-to-apples point of comparison. It arrived quickly (along with the side of waffle fries I just had to get), and I staved off my eagerness to dig in for long enough to document the meal.

Hot diggety.

I'd say the Chicago dog is roughly comparable to the ones at Chris' Little Chicago. Delicious, to be sure, but not the best I've ever had. I thought the bun was a little on the soft side, and the dog itself was ever-so-slightly less firm than I like. Also, I don't think Frank's chefs quite have the knack for building a Chicago dog, which is an art unto itself. It is KEY that you wedge the larger toppings (the tomato, sport peppers, and especially the pickle) down into the cracks between the dog and the bun; otherwise, they have a tendency to fly everywhere when you bite into your dog. As you can see from the photo, this was not done at all, so eating this dog was a bit of a mess. Despite these minor issues, however, the dog was great flavor-wise.

The waffle fries were perfect. Crisp and hot, and they come with your choice of interesting dipping sauces (ketchup, mayo, peanut sauce, buffalo bleu sauce, punchy sauce, and horseradish sauce). I tried the buffalo bleu sauce - a combination of buffalo sauce and chunky bleu cheese - and it was absolutely fantastic. These fries and the excellent service in very comfortable surroundings earn Frank that fifth Yelp star that Chris' Little Chicago missed.

Potato perfection.

Frank is my new go-to place for Chicago dogs. I'll be back frequently, without a doubt.

407 Colorado St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 494-6916
(5/5 stars)


  1. When you were in Ann Arbor, did Uncle W. ever take you to American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island? There are imitators (some pretty good), but it's hard to beat the originals. We can't get them, or decent imitators, in the East. Unlike the imaginative ones you have in your blog, these sound rather unimaginative: hot dog, "chili sauce", onions, mustard. The difference is the sauce; it's not chili or chili with beans, it is (well, I don't know).

    By the way, what's a Chicago Dog?

    uncle h.

  2. I'm so thrilled to read this; I know where I'm going for my birthday-dinner-with-friends now. They'll probably roll their eyes since several of them witnessed me grill a hot dog every day for lunch during a recent trip to Maine. I blame the obsession on the July Bon Appetit, read on the plane, which featured 80 ways to top a hot dog.

    Starlite never was the same for me after the move from 34th street. Welcome Frank!

  3. Uncle H - no, I don't think I've been to either American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island. Does this demand a reunion tour?

    Here's the "official" definition of a Chicago dog from Wikipedia:

    "A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed or boiled, never broiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, which originated in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (usually a dyed neon green variety called "Nuclear Relish"), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; sometimes, but not always, cucumber slices."

    I've never seen one served with cucumber slices, but the rest is right on!


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