Restaurant Review: Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Ironic T-shirts and tattoos are not required at Dirty Frank's, but they are welcome. Open barely a week, local business whiz Liz Lessner's new hot dog emporium has the built-in cachet of instant hipster hangout.

Then again, if Lessner (Betty's, Surly Girl and Tip Top) took over an MCL Cafeteria, it'd probably be immediately swamped with a swarm of PBR-clinging kids lining up for retooled liver and onions. And I'd probably be there too, because Lessner's restaurants are flat-out fun.

With Dirty Frank's, Lessner and her partners are batting 1.000. I use those words with purpose, because Frank's smile-provoking - if tiny - interior is filled with baseball imagery (baseball goes great with hot dogs). Well, that and iconic '80s rock 'n' roll homages (OK, maybe everything goes great with hot dogs).

Frank's bright mustard-yellow walls trimmed in firm burnt orange are brimming over with impossible-to-stop-gawking-at wood cutouts and portraits of diamond ballplayers and solid-gold rockers. Rendered in a clean, flat style, the engaging all-over artworks (by Thom Lessner) recall both folk art and the deceptively simple technique of Alex Katz.

I especially loved a large assemblage of cut-out baseballers mounted against an Astroturf background encased in glass, and some portraits of Gene Simmons, Billy Idol and the like done on skateboards.

But just as much freewheeling thought has gone into Frank's lengthy menus of drinks (a mix of high- and low-brow beers; imaginative cocktails for $5-$6), dogs ($3) and sides ($2).

Saluting adults in perpetual touch with their inner truant (all the best people, in my book), the small bar is equipped with slushie machines that pump out drinks whose kiddie sweetness can be slightly tempered with hooch (like the neon green, tequila-spiked Hot Lime or the glowing red Chris Sabo -a cherry slush with orange vodka).

Imbibers who prefer salt over sugar should try the perfect-for-Halloween, Bloody Mary-like Reign in Blood, with a cocktail weenie floating in it like a missing finger and named after a Slayer album, of course.

Frank's wild 20 or so hot dog varieties smartly use Chicago's gold-standard Vienna Beef natural-casing wieners (though you can sub in veggie dogs, brats or Polish sausages) and those cherished Chi-Town-style celery seed buns. Myriad toppings range from a corn relish (Ohioana) to tzatziki (Nickola) to kim chee (Seoul Dog) to beyond.

I thought Frank's made a very solid (and messy!) Chicago Dog and Chili Dog, but my favorites so far are the T-Dog (sriracha mustard, roasted red peppers, bacon bits and sharp cheddar) and the extra-meaty Whoa Nellie! (topped with delicious beef brisket - you read that right! - and a touch of barbecue sauce).

Sidewise, the crackly hand-cut fries were top-notch, the Sriracha Slaw was a good, fresh mayo-creamy version with only a drizzle of the hot sauce, and the inspired if otherworldly looking and hard-to-eat whole fried leeks were well worth trying.

Columbus, the dog days are now officially on! See you at Frank's.

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

248 S. Fourth St., Downtown



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