Saturday, June 23, 2012

Franks 'n' Dawgs

There are probably 1000 hot dog places in the Chicago area.  At most, you can get a Chicago-style hot dog.  Some are even pretty good but there are very few that make what could be called gourmet hot dogs.  I have often referred to Hot Doug's as the best hot dog joint in Chicago.  This was before I went to Franks 'n' Dawgs.  Located on Clybourn Ave, it is actually a little difficult to find unless you know where to look.  While it does have a sign that sticks out from the restaurant, there are many other businesses that have signs that stick out from the building.  The restaurant is narrow so it took some creativity in the layout to utilize the space well.  The entrance is a little odd.  It is located in a narrow alley and opens in front of the counter, with the menu displayed above the counter.  The seating is a varied with counter seating to the right of the entrance, a row of booths on one side of the restaurant in the front, and several two tops on the opposite side of the restaurant from the booths.  When an order is made, you choose a velcro-backed celebrity villain that range from Donald Trump, to Lindsay Lohan, to Charlie Sheen, to Montgomery Burns. This is used to mark your table so they know where to bring the food (like an order number).  I chose Mr. Burns.  The sausages used at Franks 'n' Dawgs are all handmade with a wide variety of meats like beef, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon, scallops, and duck.  The buns used are New England-style, like those used with lobster rolls.  It is like a thick slice cut from a loaf of bread with a partial cut in the middle forming a V.  The roll is also toasted.  On top of the hand-made sausages are a wide variety of handmade toppings using ingredients from artisanal and local vendors.  The fries that they serve are waffle fries that can be ordered plain, with cheese, or truffled.  I will never turn down truffle flavored food, so of course my fries were truffled.  The fries were crisp, well seasoned, and very good.   

In addition to the creativity and variety of their own sausages, Franks 'n' Dawgs has an Iron Dawg competition in which they invite a pair of local chefs to create a  hot dog to compete against one another.  The hot dogs will be on the menu for a month with the best selling dog staying on as the champion and competing against another chef's creation.  When I went, the competing chefs were Chef Bill Kim (Urban Belly, Belly Shack), the champion, who created what he called urban belly chix which was a Vietnamese Chicken Sausage with Pickled Green Papaya, Curry Mayo, Crispy Shallots, Thai Basil, and Lime.  This is what I ordered.  The challenger was Chef Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe, Nightwood) who created what he called the Lula Cristo which was essentially a Monte Cristo (a fried ham and cheese sandwich on French toast with maple syrup).  Lula Cafe is my favorite neighborhood restaurant and I am sure that the Lula Cristo would have been good but I was more interested in the urban belly chix and I didn't think that I could eat both so that is what I ordered.  It was amazing!  It was sweet, spicy, and a little tart with the excitement of the Thai basil.  

I really liked my meal here and I have to say that while I still like Hot Doug's, I cannot say outright that they make the best dogs in Chicago.  Franks 'n' Dawgs is also amazingly creative and the line is much shorter.  I will definitely be back for more. 

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