CLOSED: Let's Be Frank (Toronto)

While the gourmet burger craze has swept the city over the last five years, it's only recently the haute hot dog options are starting to pop up. Beside El Mocombo, on the diverse Spadina stretch, is Let’s Be Frank - a cheerful combination of restaurant, bar and overall cool place to hang out (Bring Your Own Vinyl Tuesdays for the music lovers perhaps).

Their location is ideal for the late night crowd (they’re opened past 2pm). So, when you’re feeling the munchies and want it paired with a tall pint of beer, Let’s Be Frank is there. For those who need a stronger drink, cocktails are also available. The Sour Dog ($7.99) is an easy drinking, eye puckering concoction of gin, lemon juice and syrup, whimsically garnished with a sour key.

With over a dozen options on the menu deciding on what to eat may be difficult. Luckily, they offer almost all their dogs in three sizes (3.5” slider, 6” regular and 8” big dog) so you can taste from the plain naked dog to the generously dressed pulled pork po’boy.

The pulled pork ($3.99/$7.95/$8.95) is a meat lover’s friend with the juicy frank topped with more meat, zingy BBQ sauce (care of Dine Alone Foods), tangy coleslaw and some hickory sticks to add some crunch. I’d suggest trying this with the “bed of fries instead of a bun” option, which you can do with any of their dogs for free. For those who want to skip carbs or meat, you can also substitute the bun with romaine lettuce and the beef frank with a veggie wiener instead.

A favourite of owners Christa and Julie (and me) is the Katsu Dog ($3.49/$6.95/$7.95) where the crunch from the deep fried panko coated dog goes so well with the soft bun, sweet katsu sauce, wasabi mayo and fresh green onions. It’s satisfying but not overly heavy feeling, although I would have liked more wasabi incorporated into the mayo as the slider didn’t provide that heat as expected.

The corn dog ($2.49/$4.99/$5.99) is where you can savour the succulent Nathan’s Famous beef frank in its fully glory. Simply covered in a corn batter and deep fried it's covered with a liberal squeeze of the slightly spicy BBQ sauce. Our table saw possibilities of combining the katsu and corn dog. Just imagine having the crunchy panko fried frank as the base, a smear of thicker gooey mac n’ cheese in the middle and then covered with the sweet corn dog coating. What an amazing texture combination that frank would be!

If you have a sweet tooth, Frank also offers the Ivana Banana dessert dog ($4.49) where a deep fried banana stands in for the wiener and it’s covered with gooey peanut butter, Nutella and a light jelly. Although I’m not a fan of the peanut butter and jelly combination, this was actually quite nice. But, the banana itself could be larger to stand up against all the condiments.

Some snacks you could have include the hot dog “wings” ($5.99 for 6 pieces) which are bite sized deep fried hot dogs tossed in buffalo sauce and served with a thick blue cheese dip and veggie sticks. For me, these were a tad salty given the hot dog is already so flavourful and perhaps served full size on bread may be better.

Let’s Be Frank also offers various sides to round out the meal. Of course, the tried and true fries are available. But, there’s also a saucy mac n’ cheese or hot dog gravy poutine (both $4.99 for small and $6.99 for large) for those who want something more substantial.

What impressed me most was hearing about the perseverance Christa, Julie and Simon had with starting Let’s Be Frank. The partners dreamt of a place where they and their friends could meet-up for drinks. But, they wanted to serve no-fuss food as well and what could be more fun than hot dogs?

Mac Daddy ($4.49/$8.95/$9.95)
Although it only opened in late 2014, this business was a five year endeavour all starting with a catastrophic festival attempt (think no tent in pouring rain, dropped chili with no backup and tons of unused food at the end of the night). But, like true entrepreneurs they learned from this experience and went on to do more festivals, purchased a food truck and did a pop-up restaurant before settling in their permanent location.

To top it all off, they all had regular full-time jobs (Simon has now since quit his to focus on Frank)! I can only imagine the dedication and hard work required to put in 50+ hour weeks and then start prepping for busy weekend festivals right afterwards. As an aside, the best part of attending media events (other than sampling food of course) is hearing about each restaurant’s history and meeting the people behind the brand. I have the utmost respect for restaurateurs as it’s definitely an industry that takes dedication and skill to be successful in.

Korean BBQ dog ($3.99/$7.95/$8.95)

So will the haute dog trend start in Toronto next? Only time will tell, but until then, I’m sure there’s a contingent of people who don’t care and just like wrapping their hands around a big juicy frank.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complementary, but rest assured as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 460 Spadina Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!