Restaurant review: Dirty Frank’s West offers a lotta room and a lotta damn cheap fun

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From the March 20, 2014 edition

How many times have you driven by Dirty Frank’s Downtown and — even in miserable weather — seen that “I knew it” line out the door and decided to dine elsewhere? If you haven’t, I’ve done it enough for the both of us. That’s why I’m a fan of the far-more-spacious and almost-never-a-wait new Dirty Frank’s in Westgate.

At first glance, its unglamorous neighborhood isn’t particularly endearing. But it’s really not that far off the eatin’ path, and once you easily claim a seat and realize how this amusing hot doggerie has been embraced by build-it-and-we’ll-come locals, you’ll know Dirty Frank’s West is in exactly the right place. Plus, DFW is so refreshingly not-trying-too-hard-to-be-cool cool, that — if you’re like me — you’ll wind up wishing you could take it home with you for a nightcap.

With its worn-in woody “mid-century modern” look and large bar gussied up by mirrors and vintage wallpaper murals, it’s sorta time-warpy in there. See, DFW sports the kind of rare makeover that deeply honors its past — as both an old coney joint and a dive bar — while simultaneously proclaiming a new identity.

Fans of the original Frank’s will feel right at home. This means, like its Downtown sib, DFW’s walls are plastered with Alex Katz-flat portraits of ’80s rock icons and athletes. This is the delightful work of Philadelphia-based artist Thom Lessner (Liz’s brother), and it’s something to be thankful for.

Be likewise thankful that your original Frank’s menu favorites appear here, along with a few Westside-referencing items. From the former is the pineapple-juice-and-hot-sauce-spiked neon green pint of silly fun called Hot Rod Slush ($3); it’s even more tickly with a blast of tequila ($4 extra). From the latter group is the self-explanatory West Broad Stagger (can of Burger and shot of Old Crow, $4). There’s also an up-to-date slate of priced-better-than-most-places draft beers.

Foodwise, the properly salty, dinery and meat-inflected Hilltop Bean Soup is one of many great deals ($3). I liked its mix of beans and vinegary background, and I loved its three lagniappe jalapeno-flecked hush puppies.

Getting to the wiener of the matter (most are $3-$3.50), Mari Ann’s Westgate Dog exemplifies DFW’s aesthetic and appeal: Chicago-style steamed poppy-seeded buns, Chicago-style tube-steaks from famed Vienna Beef, and over-the-toppings (shredded cheese, semi-chewy soft pretzel bites, “bar” cheese sauce and good dark mustard).

As with most wieners here, you can — and should — get your Mari Ann butterflied and crisply “charred” for free and/or upsized (for a worth-it $.75) to a smoky and salty Polish sausage or a juicy and peppery bratwurst. Pro-tip: DFW’s first-rate, must-have handcut fries ($2!) outscored the cream sauce Mac & Cheese ($3).

Other crazily crave-able frankfurter combinations include the irresistible Cowgirl Carmen (shredded cheddar and meaty coney sauce playing off the corny crunch of Fritos); trash-tastic Classy Lady (cheese sauce and crushed potato chips); and the classic West Virginia Slaw (coney sauce plus onions contrapuntally creamed by fresh-tasting slaw).

Among DFW’s other myriad combos are “Premium Dogs” like the recommended Whoa Nellie ($4), with real beef brisket and barbecue sauce. There are also bacon-wrapped weenies goofily listed under “Viva Baconia!” like a torta-riffing The Sonoran ($4.50), with dense refried beans, green salsa, tomatoes, cheese, mayo and onions.

Rest assured, though, that whatever you might order from cut-loose and damn-cheap DFW is bound to be a lotta good, messy fun … without a punishing wait.

Photos by Meghan Ralston