When Frank opened this February, it was hard not to judge the long-waited eatery harshly.
Though first announced in October 2014, the second location of the Austin-based hot doggery had a few construction woes to contend with. Then again rehabbing a building originally erected in 1912 probably wasn’t easy, but the neighborhood’s anticipation was understandable. Here was a beacon of Southtown that went unused since Casbeers at the Church vacated it in 2011, promising scratch-made dogs and, more importantly, booze, and yet it showed no signs of opening for several months on end.
It was also easy to see why it took so long to complete. The indoor dining room on the bottom floor stands in stark contrast to the haphazard space that former owners Steve Silbas and Barbara Wolfe added in 2008. Those rasquache qualities worked for Casbeers, of course, but that was then. Now restaurants looking to make a splash in the bustling culinary scene are often tasked with delivering intricately designed spaces, though not to the detriment of the food.
However, Frank’s St. Francis Room, now a dining area and bar, was most definitely worth waiting for. Already the Alamo Methodist Church and later Green Room Dinner Theatre in its past lives, the St. Francis Room is spooky, yet inviting. Here’s a former place-of-worship-turned-lively-eatery-and-bar with tin ceiling tiles up above, awe-inspiring stained glass and a sizable stage that commands the eye, be it with bands or Spurs games on a giant projection screen.
Early visits for this diner were often hit or miss – though the hits were consistent to be fair. The waffle fries (order the Reuben version, trust me) were hot and crisp and sturdy vessels to the mounds of sauerkraut, Thousand Island, Swiss and corned beef they’re tasked with carrying. Another early hit was the ginger cherry limeade, an addicting and light blend of vodka, cherry cider, ginger, lime and Main Root natural lemon lime soda. The pretzel — a massive beast of a baked good easily shared between four — was crisp and chewy both times we’ve tackled one (it comes with a steak knife, that’s how serious this pretzel is).
But, the hot dogs were harder to perfect. The first few tries were cursed with dry buns, which essentially made eating the dog next to impossible. That has since changed. A recent Texalina — custom-made smoked pork and beef sausage, grilled horseradish coleslaw, Carolina mustard barbecue sauce and white cheddar — was nuanced, messy without being cumbersome to eat and the bread was buttery and soft. The Chicago dog, one of their daily offerings (the custom menu fluctuates some) carried all of the requisite relishes, fresh onions and peppers and made for a tasty bite. If you’d rather not bother with the bun, the German currywurst, doused in curry barbecue sauce is a winning alternative.
Though service still needs a few tweaks — we were missing cutlery and napkins during both recent visits — the vibe, food and cocktails at Frank deserve multiple visits.
Frank 1150 S. Alamo St., (210) 265-5292, hotdogscoldbeer.com