Franks 'N' Dawgs opened earlier this spring, replacing a sub-par italian beef place (called, of all things, What's The Beef?). Honestly, anything could have moved into that space and I'd have been happy. We have a lackluster selection of walkable lunch options, so when something closes you cross your fingers that it's place will be filled speedily. (We're still feeling the sting from the October closing of the Jewel's-version-of-Whole Foods grocery store Urban Fresh that now sits vacant right across the street.) So when I noticed the paper had been taken down off of the WTB windows after what seemed like only a month, I stepped right in expecting to find yet another Chicago style beef or hot dog counter-service restaurant.
Let me tell you friends, this is no ordinary Chicago style hot dog joint. In fact, they do not even serve a classic "Chicago" dog. Not being a huge fan of the pepper-onion-relish-tomato-mustard-covered... thing... I was excited to see options with names like "Cheese Head" (sheboygan sausage, caramelized onions, grilled portabellos and smoked gouda), "Dirty Dawg" (andouille sausagewith dirty rice, hush puppies and cherry tomato relish) and "Spoiled Brat" (brat, red cabbage, beer mustard and red pepper relish). Most of their sausages are made in-house and the (deliciously crispy and buttery) buns were designed especially for them by a local bakery. And the fries (oh, the fries...) are cut and fried up fresh.
But I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. Every month their chef (yes, they employ a head chef to create their gourmet dogs) features a new creation, most of which I've seen have made their way onto the daily menu because they are just too delicious to forget about. One of these happens to be in my Top 2: affectionately called the Turdawgen. That's right. It's the Franks 'N' Dawgs version of that meal-within-a-meal, the Turducken. Turkey & date sausage, crispy duck confit, herb garlic aioli, house pickled onion relish and pickled carrots. Chew on that for a minute (pun intended). Note: My other fav is the Dirty Dawg.
But wait! There's more. Franks 'N' Dawgs has a heart too. Each month they feature a "Charitable Dog" and donate a portion of the proceeds to a selected charity. (That's how the Dirty Dawg came to be in March, with proceeds going to PAWS.) They've also got a vegetarian option called the FU (marinated tofu, grilled eggplant relish & portabello with salsa verde) which sounds mouth watering even to a meat eater like me. Of course they still offer plain dogs and chili dogs. And nobody scoffs at me when I order a plain dog and go straight for the KETCHUP. (I don't like mustard. So sue me, Chicago.)
Franks 'N' Dawgs is located at 1863 N Clybourn Ave (just north of North Ave.) in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL. I'm telling you, you won't be disappointed. I may or may not have sampled over half of their menu. Their service is terrific and the restaurant is always clean. I pop in almost daily for (at least) an afternoon soda and a brief chat. I think this place might be my CHEERS... where everybody knows my name.