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)


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Belated Independence Day Post

Phew...what a week. How's a girl supposed to keep up with her blogging between work, friends, an energetic dog, and this heat? I don't know how you people with kids do it, but I'm convinced you are all superhuman.

The good news is, I ate at three new restaurants this week, so there's a lot to blog about. But first, I need to rave about the fun 4th of July party last Saturday thrown by our good friends Laura & Shane.

Laura and Shane subscribe to the CSA at Tecolote Farms, so fresh, fresh vegetables was the theme of this party. In addition to delicious mesquite-grilled jerk chicken, there was some absolutely wonderful grilled okra, salsa using the freshest home-grown tomatoes, and gorgeous grilled eggplant:

Fresh off the grill.

There is nothing better than homegrown tomatoes.

Tender, smoky and wonderful.

Laura and Shane also concocted their own special cocktail for the occasion - fresh cucumbers run whole through the juicer and mixed with lime juice, garden mint, Tito's vodka, Cointreau, and a tiny bit of sugar. Dangerously refreshing. But so healthy, so why stop at one?

Far too easy to down...and I loved the verging-on-day-glo color.

Laura had requested cupcakes, so at the risk of seeming like a one-trick pony, I whipped up a batch using this now-well-worn recipe. In an attempt to stay on the Independence Day theme, I used red velvet cake and filled with white chocolate. Then I iced them with this white chocolate cream cheese frosting and topped them with blue sprinkles. While I loved their patriotic look, I still think the original chocolate mint version I made of these cupcakes tasted the best.

Fun to look at, though.

After we ate, we each grabbed an ice cold bottle of Topo Chico and walked to the school near Laura and Shane's house to watch the fireworks.


What a perfect way to celebrate the holiday...fresh, well-prepared food in the company of great friends. Hope everyone had a delightful 4th.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

How Hot Is It?

This is the time of year in Texas when I stop bragging to my family in Minneapolis about the weather. The heat gets downright oppressive, even at night, and outdoor activity is best limited to the early morning or the late evening when the sun's rays are ever-so-slightly less scorching.

Yeah. Hot.

As you can imagine, turning on the stove or the oven is less appealing in this heat. So in lieu of cooking something fabulous, I thought I'd cook up a little experiment for my blog...an attempt to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

My first attempt was on a total whim. It started around 5:00 p.m. on the day the photo above was taken - not the optimal time, but that's when I thought of doing it. Our house is very tree-shaded, so I cracked an egg on the ground in the cul-de-sac sort of kitty-corner (or catty-corner, if you're a Texan) from the house. I then went inside and e-mailed my neighbors to explain to them why their crazy neighbor had left a raw egg sitting on the street outside their homes.

My neighbors are very forgiving.

After about twenty minutes, I went out to check on it and it didn't look like anything was happening. The shade was starting to encroach on the spot I'd chosen and I felt self-conscious about leaving this thing out there for too long, so I scooped it up and threw it away.

Most people would have stopped there. But not this intrepid (read: nuts) food blogger.

Attempt #2 began a few days later at around 2:30 p.m., which I thought would be somewhere around the hottest time of day. It wasn't quite as hot that day - around 101 degrees - but since my weekend opportunities for conducting an experiment like this are limited, I thought I'd make a go of it. Some quick Internet research suggested that putting the egg in a pan would facilitate the process, so I thought I'd try that method.

Kicking off attempt #2

After about twenty minutes, the edges started to crisp up a little. Promising.


However, the next 50 minutes didn't bring much progress. This is an hour and ten minutes in:


At this point, I started to get impatient and broke out a magnifying glass:


...but I didn't want to sit outside in the heat for as long as it seemed like it was going to take, so I exchanged my magnifying glass for a mirror:


Forty minutes after I put the mirror out (a total of two hours into the experiment), the shadows began to take over my "lab" area and I was forced to throw in the (kitchen) towel.

The "finished" product.

Gordon Ramsay would throw me out of Hell's Kitchen for this egg, for sure. Looks like I won't be trading in my range anytime soon.

Sorry, Texans. Apparently, it's not that hot.


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