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Old-Fashioned Fare

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Frank’s Classic American Grill
6309 Market St.
Bottom line: Good burgers, great service and homemade custard!

BURGER MATTER: At Frank’s folks can indulge in one of ILM’s better burgers. Photo by Trent Williams

BURGER MATTER: At Frank’s folks can indulge in one of ILM’s better burgers. Photo by Trent Williams

Frank’s Classic American Grill sits on a well-traveled spot on Market Street now, having left its Monkey Junction location months ago. Though it fills a space that’s been questionably successful for other entrepreneurs; Frank’s has the potential to make a nice run in the space, even if traffic patterns aren’t friendly.

Specializing in burgers, hot dogs, and cheesesteaks, with soups du jour, salads, wings and nightly entrées to round out the menu, Frank’s is a haven of comfort food. I don’t always try to judge a restaurant by what its advertising claims it does best, but I’m a sucker for a good burger. Thus, I tried both the regular burger and the Frank’s burger during subsequent visits. They differ in size, not preparation, with the titular burger coming in at twice the beef of the regular. There’s also a double Frank’s burger, but that was more than I cared to tackle. The eight-ounce Frank’s burger proved ample.

I loved them both.

Each came on a perfectly steamed bun, as the hand-pressed burgers were beefy and flavorful, letting salt and pepper release the simple flavor of the meat. Thinly sliced onions and crisp dill pickles added much-needed contrast to the texture. I very much appreciated the choice of cheeses, and alternated between cheddar and Swiss. Each added a different sharp dimension to their respective burgers.

I highly recommend skipping the catsup and ordering a side of Frank’s homemade barbecue sauce to top off any burger. Admittedly made from a catsup base, the sauce is thick and smoky, with peppery overtones that proved far more interesting than anything marked Hunt’s or Heinz.

I found my palate a little less fond of the Frank’s super dog, an all-beef variety served with a plethora of toppings. As a matter of personal taste, I didn’t like that the dog overpowered the bun (perhaps because it had been steamed a bit too long), The ratio of meat to bread seemed badly skewed toward the carnivorous and the moist bun fell apart in my hands.

The finely diced onions served atop Frank’s Super Dog were nice and delightfully pungent, but instead of coming with the aforementioned cheddar or Swiss, the hot dog came with a regrettable cheese sauce, likely from a cheddar base, the bland sauce seemed to be one of those pump-action jobs most commonly used for movie-theater nachos. There’s a mile of difference between cheese and cheese-food product.

One important rule I have for any burger joint: French fries count. One can’t serve a good burger without serving a good potato beside it. While the actual French fries at Frank’s tasted a little pedestrian, the ribbon cut fries were not to be ignored. Frank’s slices an entire potato ‘til it is chip-thin and fries it. The potato took on the flavorful oil (I never did get an answer on which kind, but I’m putting my money down on peanut) and each bite burst with the rich fatty flavor adopted by the potato. With pieces running the gamut, from crispy to chewy, it provided something for everyone’s preference.

Frank’s is famous for another reason: frozen custard. Available in varying flavors and multiple sizes, the custard hasn’t been advertised yet on their website; however, I decided to give one of their sundaes a try, and opted for the Peanut Butter Log. A vanilla custard, served with both hot fudge and peanut butter sauces, the log tasted decadent. Rich and creamy in every bite, the homemade style of the custard was diminished a bit by the mass-produced sauces. Still, each of the three remained delicious in its own way, and I wouldn’t risk changing such an excellent dessert by experimenting with an in-house peanut butter sauce.

I must confess I found the interior a bit Spartan. The spacious dining room and long wooden bar were pleasant enough, but the walls lacked decoration, thus losing personality. It struck me as strange because the service and food are clearly personal. One interesting use of the wall space comes in the multiple chalk boards painted into the walls. But, with so many of them, I found the staff could easily miss one here and there; they didn’t all boast the same list of specials for the day.

Regardless, the staff remained conscientious and very friendly. During a visit to pick up to-go burgers, I was approached by literally everyone working the floor to make sure I’d been helped. Their attention created a homey atmosphere with the sort of beloved neighborhood bar-and-grill feeling we all enjoy. They just need to hang a few pictures on the wall.

I plan on returning to try a few of Frank’s dinner entrées. They boast American classics like fried pork chops and BBQ, liver and onions, and country fried steak. They also offer salads for the lighter eaters. The bar offers a Thursday night trivia game, which I hope to enjoy at some point, and Friday night comes courtesy of karaoke, which I hope to avoid. Nothing personal, but there’s no meal so good it can make me indulge in a night of karaoke.

Frank’s Classic American Grill is a good old-fashioned family fare. They feature one of the better burgers in town and they’re well worth a look, even if you only stop in for dessert.

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