Nov 4, 2015

Feeling perfectly frank in Plainfield, Ill.

(Editor's note: We would like to report, sadly, that Frank's Night Out has apparently closed permanently as of Dec. 31, 2016. So many of the good ones go too soon. Thanks for the memories, Frank's!)

I like to think of myself as being pretty savvy when it comes to finding unique, enjoyable places to drink and dine during my travels.  Sure, I’ve been known to blindly stumble upon an occasional great find, but I try to do my research on any place my travels may potentially take me.  But sometimes, however, The April beats me to the punch.

This was the case when, after lamenting the fact that I was unable to visit the famous Hot Doug’s gourmet dog establishment one last time before it closed, The April discovered Frank’s Night Out in Plainfield, Ill.

Plainfield is about as far west as you can get and still be considered a Chicago suburb, but I was familiar with the area, so I knew it had potential.  We added Frank’s Night Out to a weekend itinerary that included The April’s first ever baseball game at Wrigley Field.   

As we approached the location displayed on Google Maps, I have to admit my initial optimism was put to the test when we had a hard time finding the storefront amidst all the sprawling generic shopping mall facades lining Illinois Highway 59, the main thoroughfare through suburban Plainfield.   
A taste of paradise in strip mall hell.
But suddenly, there it was.  And conveniently near a Binny’s Beverage Depot, too.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Upon walking in, Frank’s looks a lot like a cleaner, newer version of your standard Chicago-style hot dog joint.  The counters were immaculate.  The brown wooden tables and chairs in the seating area were spotless.  It all makes sense, I guess, considering Frank’s is a relative newcomer in the long line of classic hot dog/burger/sandwich shops in the Chicago area.

Once you reach the counter to place your order, however, you quickly realize Frank’s Night Out has a pedigree much closer to Hot Doug’s than Wiener’s Circle.  The Chubby Burgers, Italian sausages and gyros on the menu may be appealing, but it’s the expansive menu of hot dogs -- ordinary and the unexpected -- that will get your attention.

Unlike Hot Doug’s, for comparison, Frank’s focuses all of its creations on the classic Vienna beef hot dog.  But after that, Frank’s gets just as creative with its flavors and combinations  This, of course, is what attracted The April to the place and how she hooked me in.  We focused our order on the maximum number of dogs we thought we could -- and shared an order of hand-cut French fries to ensure we got the full experience.

As I tend to do, I wandered around aimlessly while we waited for our order, taking pictures for blogging purposes. I couldn't help but be impressed by the old-school Burger Time arcade game in the corner (it also played Dig Dug and Galaga ... I could have wasted quarters here all evening).

Once our order number was called, I eventually made it back to our seat along the wall of Frank’s Fans, and we went to work on a variety-filled tray of four specialty dogs.

Ah, but where to start?  In the top-left corner we have the Korean Kimchi dog with barbecued beef layered on the dog and hidden under Asian-style slaw drizzled with sriracha mayo.  The Deep South dog is in the top right corner … that’s the one covered in macaroni and cheese and tomatoes.  Below that we Thai One On with slaw, avocado, goat cheese and more sriracha mayo.  And bottom center is Frank’s take on the standard-bearer Chicago-style dog.  

To be honest, they were all excellent in their own right, although we found the Korean Kimchi and Thai One On to be too similar … we should have went for more variety in our choices.   Surprisingly, I liked the Deep South better than The April; likewise, I think she liked the Thai dog better than me.  You just never know.  My only disappointment was that Frank’s did not have the Holy Mole dog they show on their online menu that day.  I’m a sucker for anything mole.  Hopefully, they’ll bring it back if I ever happen to eat there again.

Our final conclusion after trying all of these varieties of hot dogs:  it’s still hard to beat a good Chicago-style hot dog, and Frank’s Night Out delivers a very respectable version.  

So, if you ever find yourself in the far western suburbs of Chicago, or if you’re driving up Interstate 55 and have a craving for a good hot dog and can’t wait until you get to the Windy City, pull into Plainfield and give Frank’s Night Out a try.  But be prepared to make some tough choices regarding the menu.   

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