We’ve had good hot dogs here in Western New York for as long as any of us can remember, so if you’re going to open a brand-new kind of hotdog restaurant, you’d better bring the heat.
The new Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs does just that; serving up regional hot dogs classics and nu-skool creations. Whether you want a taste of Chicago or a madcap original creation – Frank has you covered.
In a recent phone interview, Paul Tripi told Step Out Buffalo that he and his co-owner, brother Frank Tripi are always looking for different hot dog ideas. They’ve tried a lot of different ones and only a select few make the cut.
“We take inspiration from food, agriculture and even pop culture,” said Paul Tripi. “We just try to come up with elements that work together. There’s not really a pattern. We do a lot in our test kitchen, trying different items.
“It’s always nice to combine salty and sweet, like with our Violet Beauregard. If it’s fresh and seasonal, there’s a lot of things you can experiment with on hot dogs. As long as it tastes good, we’ll give it a shot. There’s no formula, but there is a lot of R&D!”
On our recent visit, we sampled the classic dog, Modern Chicago, aforementioned Violet Beauregard and Half-smoke, a type of hot dog that’s been a Washington DC cult favorite for years. Located at the corner of Kenmore and Starin avenues, the new Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs restaurant is essentially a fast food joint, with bright lighting and simple furniture. You order at a counter and takeout is available.
The classic dog was a simple joy that hit all the right notes. The snap of a hearty, perfectly-cooked dog played against the crunch of a pickle, tangy ketchup and bittersweet mustard.
The Modern Chicago was as hot as a Wrigley Field fastball in July. The spicy house-pickled pepper topping was cut by the sweetness and citrus of tomato jam. Brine from the pickle added another dimension of flavor – salt.
The Violet Beauregard was the perfect comfort food: Blueberry barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and fried onion equaled sweet, salty, crispy and creamy. Eyes-widened, we downed this baby in about 60 seconds.
The DC-imported Half-smoke was a plump dog flavored with pepper flakes and topped with mustard, onions and a spicy all-beef chili that had strong Middle Eastern flavors, specifically cumin and curry notes.
Fresh-cut fries aren’t the unicorn of menu items here in Western New York, but that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it when you find them. The version at Frank’s were particularly choice and expertly seasoned.
Vegetarians, you aren’t relegated to just fries here. Any of the dogs can be made with a veggie dog, in addition to an all-beef dog and a standard beef-and-pork dog. You can also order a veggie burger and a heaping order of veggie nachos.
Having moved from a food truck and a stall at the EXPO food hall, Tripi said the scale of a brick-and-mortar restaurant means more opportunities to play around with the menu.
“We have more equipment and more toys than we know what to do with, which is a real change of pace form the food truck and even when we were downtown at EXPO,” he cheered. “Once we get settled and comfortable, we’ll be introducing new hot dogs, new burgers, and even some off-menu items that people may not expect.”
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs
707 Kenmore Ave, Buffalo, NY 14223
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.