Frank’z Finest Hot Dog Palace (335A Yonge St.) opened up back in May to lackluster reviews. Most reviewers found the hot dogs to be of no higher quality than the average cart vendor’s, and similar quality complaints were made about the chili, french fries, and hot dog buns. Worst, the prices were higher than a vendor’s, so on top of the mediocre quality.
One of those reviews was mine. I disagreed about the chili, which I found to be a perfectly acceptable if not horribly adventurous all-meat chili that compares quite favorably to other fast food chilis, and the french fries were decent. But the hot dogs were lousy, by any reasonable yardstick – overpriced and underwhelming.
Needless to say, I was surprised when Anthony Del Maestro (that’s him in the picture), the general manager of Frank’z, emailed me to tell me that they had changed their hot dog recipe and to invite me down for a free hot dog on them. Free food is good, but I wanted to see if Mr. Del Maestro would stand by his product (and come on, I’ve always wanted to do a critical taste test), so I countered by offering to go buy myself a smog dog and then try each of the two dogs in succession. Mr. Del Maestro was more than willing to put his food up to the trial, so I promptly made my way to Frank’z.
After arriving at Frank’z, as they started preparing my dog, I quickly ran to the nearest cart vendor at Ryerson and dropped a toonie for a smog dog. Two minutes later I was back inside Frank’z, endoggened, and my Frank’z frank was ready and waiting. Both dogs were sampled plain – no mustard or relish to disguise the flavor of the meat. Frank’z offers three different types of buns, and I went with the sesame/poppyseed bun as it was most similar to the smog dog’s bun; I ordered the dog barbecued (as opposed to grilled or steamed) for the same reason.
The Smog Dog: It’s a standard Toronto cart vendor hot dog, maybe veering a bit on the low end in terms of quality. (Ryerson-area dogs have noticeably dropped in quality since Ernie’s hot dog cart closed down.). It’s salty, has a greyish-pink colour, and the vast amount of time it’s spent steaming in the cart has stolen a lot of the flavour of the dog and dried it out a bit to boot. It’s passable for a lousy two bucks, but nobody’s going to award one of these any prizes.
The Frank’z Frank is firstly much larger: eight and a quarter inches as opposed to the six inches and change for the smog dog. This is a notable improvement over the earlier Frank’z dogs, which were about seven inches. Mr. Del Maestro proudly informs me that the dog is one hundred percent shoulder beef, which is good, flavourful meat for sausage, and it isn’t salty at all – in fact, the beef flavour is so wonderfully strong and hearty I almost wish it had been peppered. It’s a natural-casing frank, so when barbecued the outside turns crackly and delicious. It’s a vibrant deep reddish colour and looks appetizing. And this is a remarkably succulent hot dog: even though I ordered it barbecued – and thus the casing split open while cooking – when I bite into it meaty juices explode into my mouth. And meaty juices are good.
In short, the new Frank’z hot dog is a tremendous achievement over the old, sucky Frank’z hot dog. This is a hot dog worthy of a restaurant rather than a cart vendor, and a dog that justifies a slightly higher price. If you went to Frank’z in the past and thought poorly of it, I strongly encourage a second visit – these new hot dogs justify a return trip.