Celebrating 5 Years in 5 Hot Dogs
Five years ago (yesterday), we set out to make hot dogs better, healthier and a lot more interesting. And to do it in a way that brings people in our community together. On January 17, 2013, Paul and I set out to First Niagara Center for the very first food truck service. It was snowy and bitter cold. Not the most ideal weather conditions for hot dogs. But, we figured it would be a good way to test the waters. And I would get a chance to cook on the truck for the first time. As you can imagine, we were both nervous wrecks that morning. So much work, anticipation and money went into this day. And we still didn't know what we were doing. Fortunately, the actual food [hot dogs, fries] was the least of our concern. It was everything else. Literally, everything else. As we started setting up for service, none of the equipment turned on properly. And when it finally did, something would kick off the generator power to the rest of the truck. It was a nightmare. During my time troubleshooting all of the problems, news cameras showed up. At 11:30AM, the line was already twenty-plus people deep. Somehow, we pulled it off. To this day, I don't know how. But, together we did. Fast forward five years and you are all still tracking down the trucks and finding Frank! And we couldn't be more grateful. In honor of the last five years, Paul and I have come up with five hot dogs that, we feel, best represent Frank (the company) and the way we make hot dogs. It was a lot more difficult than we thought. We racked our brains narrowing down five hot dogs from a catalog of nearly fifty. Let's take a look… The Hogtied. The catalyst. As children, my aunt would make Paul and I anything we wanted when we stopped over for a visit. Fortunately, she lived right next door! And we took full advantage. Our Aunt Anna knew we loved hot dogs. But she didn't just make us regular ole hot dogs – only the best for the twins! She stuffed the dogs with a block of cheddar cheese & wrapped them in bacon. She would cook the hot dogs in a cast iron pan and finish them off in the oven. SO GOOD! Growing up, I never knew why I couldn't get one anywhere else in Buffalo. That was THE moment. Today, we've added a smoky barbeque sauce and the lightest, crispiest fried onions (we call it onion crunch) to our version. I know she would be proud. Proud Mary. A menu original with a cult following. Paul takes all the credit for this one. He says it is a hot dog inspired by a hangover and breakfast sandwich with an ex-girlfriend. The name for the hot dog came later on – ironically, her name was not Mary. This is a hot dog that makes so much sense. Crisp, smoky bacon and spicy cream cheese topped with the sweetest caramelized onions. There was a time when it seemed that this was the only hot dog I made - despite the fact that the team & I were introducing some fantastic new hot dogs (so we thought) to the menu. This year, the Proud Mary makes her return to the menu (and even to the big screen) and I don't think I will ever take it off again. Lesson learned. Modern Chicago. I never understood the appeal of a traditional Chicago hot dog, even after visiting the city. Nearly every hot dog shop across America has one on the menu. And yet, our version stands out. Raw, plastic-y tomatoes get swapped out for a delicate, sweet & spicy tomato jam made with fresh lemon juice, fragrant zest, sugar and warm aromatic spices (none of which you would expect to find in a hot dog kitchen!). We cook it down for hours. Then, traditional sport peppers get replaced with an intense combination of our spicy house peppers. A simple line of classic yellow mustard and a dill pickle spear balance out all of the flavors. In many ways, I think this is Paul's white whale. He worked it out. And it shows, because all of the local chefs love this hot dog. This hot dog challenged our skills (cooking, pickling, executing flavors) and creativity. In the end, I think we created something pretty damn special. City Limits. This hot dog is one of the prettiest and tastiest hot dogs we make. It is our spin on the Sonoran style hot dog. Our version is a bacon hot dog topped with charro beans, fresh pico, cotija cheese, roasted tomato aioli & cilantro. When we conceptualize each hot dog, the goal is to put together ingredients and flavors that work well together, taste amazing & bring out the quality and flavor of our hot dogs. This hot dog does just that in taste and style. It also reaffirms why we cook the hot dogs on a flat top. When you cook on charcoal, you only taste charcoal. And that never appealed to us. This hot dog pushes the boundaries and the result is some of our best work to date. Tradition is fine, but I think this hot dog team will keep taking chances. Kimchi Chronicle. This hot dog made the list for all of the wrong reasons. It is a hot dog topped with kimchi, romaine & cabbage slaw, Sriracha, toasted sesame mayo & cilantro. While delicious & beautiful, it's not Frank – at least not right now. I would never put anything on the truck or in the shops that I don't think is worthwhile. But, it is important to know your customer and audience. This hot dog taught us one of the most valuable lessons - "sometimes you have to go too far to know where you need to be." Final Thoughts. This was definitely a unique process but an important one. Paul and I really took some time to think about the hot dogs that made an impact and helped shape the company as we know it today. Over the past five years, we have made plenty of mistakes. There wasn't a blueprint to follow for running a food truck business in Buffalo, let alone introducing the public to the makings of a modern hot dog concept - one that focused on quality hot dogs made with expertly raised, minimally processed meat, fresh baked rolls and house-made condiments. We both think that above all, in our effort to consistently introduce new hot dogs to the menu, YOU did not always see your favorite on the menu. And for that we are sorry. However, we know we would not be in the position we are in today if we didn't make mistakes, experiment, learn and figure out the hot dog business, our customers and our place in the food scene and community. New ideas and menu items are in the works for 2018. But, before the menu goes to print, let us know your favorites & thoughts!