Food review: The Good Frank lives up to its name

By Columbus Alive
From the August 29, 2013 edition
  • Photos by Meghan Ralston

The first time I caught up with Tyrone Jackson was at the packed Columbus Flea a couple of weeks ago. Jackson’s Good Frank hot-dog cart — where he griddles his company’s own brand of all natural sausages and vegan weenies (the former are not vegan and source Ohio pork and grass-fed local beef and lamb) — was swamped. It was sweltering out. Expecting to witness a panicked face as my eyes traced past a long line of hot dog-craving customers to Jackson’s rapidly moving hands, I instead saw this: as he cooked, Tyrone Jackson wasn’t just smiling, he was dancing.

Considering the bumpy journey Tyrone and wife/business partner Marcella have been on (their breakthrough Good Frank operation has always been a thorough collaboration) his happy feet and their frequent grins should be expected.

This Jackson hot-dog odyssey began in 2005, when they borrowed idle hot-dog carts owned by Tyrone’s mom to start a soon-to-be successful quick-bite and catering business in Nashville, where the couple met at historic Fisk University. But banking issues and a “violent discovery” of what actually went into the commercial wieners they were hawking caused them to shut that venture down. The two then embarked on an intense quest that would lead to enlightenments into our “broken food system,” vegetarianism, financial dire straits and a fresh beginning as urban farmers in Columbus, where they’d moved in with members of Marcella’s family.

Seeking a better-tasting veggie dog to eat at home led to more revelations and the creation of their own vegan frank (a version of which Dirty Franks now proudly serves), classes at masterful Thurn’s, (where the Jacksons learned a lot about meaty sausage making), and another go at the hot-dog business — only this time selling their own high-quality products. The rest is history still-in-the-making.

In the near-future, expect The Good Frank to: feature Japanese-inspired dogs and homemade biscuit/breakfast sandwiches; permanently park a cart in lower Clintonville; and grow its farm-to-mobile-restaurant school for economically distressed pupils (some of whom currently help out with the cart).

Here’s a taste of TGF’s cart-wiches (note:TGF’s cook-’em-yourself links are sold in specialty shops like the Clintonville Community Market).

Ajumama Dog($6) — TGF’s huge, juicy and garlicky beef and pork Stadium Frank (think knockout knockwurst) has a pronounced natural casing “snap” that leads to a soft, fine-grained interior; the stout sausage is harmoniously married to a chunky and spicy cucumber kimchi sourced from TGF’s pals (the dog’s eponymous Korean food truck) plus hot-sauced mayo. This forceful and inspired must-eat arrives — as do all TGF sandwiches — on a bun given a quickie toast up.

Mary’s Heartbreak ($6) — Another must! Two nice and puffy rolls hold seared, moist slider burgers handmade from mild-tasting, grass-fed, Delaware County ground lamb and pork. Toppings are mustard and a terrific, probiotic “living kraut” made in Columbus.

California Coney ($5) — Rich, meaty-thick, beanless and beloved-in-LA (Tyrone’s hometown) “brick chili” tops TGF’s almost-famous, natural-casing-and-paprika-popping red frankfurter (made from grass-fed Ohio beef). Shredded cheese, onions and mustard complete the messy but irresistible munch.

Bacon-wrapped frank ($5) — TGF’s all-beef wiener gets expertly sheathed in extra-crispy bacon — this eats exactly as good as you’d expect (try it with TGF’s in-your-face-spicy “sweet chipotle onions”).

Urban Farmer ($4) — Made with pinto beans, this soy-free vegan dog that started it all is compressed, has a dense chew and is subtly seasoned. It’s flattered by chipotle onions and mustard.