Consider the lowly hot dog. Too often, it is a kind of throwaway food, a conglomeration of unmentionable leftovers encased within a translucent sheath. It gets boiled or charred, stabbed with a sharp stick and jammed between two layers of doughy bread, whereupon it is squirted with ketchup or yellow mustard, and splashed with a substance inexplicably called relish.
Somehow it still manages to be almost irresistible.
And when the hot dog, or "frank," as is the usage preferred at Gourmet Frank's, a new joint along the canal in Broad Ripple, is prepared with a bit of forethought and a commitment to the best ingredients â ¦ well, resistance, as they say, is futile.
An intrepid companion and I stopped by Gourmet Frank's last week. It's in a new building at 916 E. Westfield Blvd., across the road from Ambrosia and The Corner Wine Bar. You have to walk down a narrow passageway to the canal side of the building to find the place. At last: A business on the south side of the canal that has actually shown the good sense to place its front, rather than its derriere, on this casual waterway.
It must be said that, for such a small place, GF's feng shui is a bit wobbly. Napkins are off to one side, the cash register seems like an after-thought and there's no master menu on the wall, which makes choosing from among a really tantalizing array of dogs and sausages a little more difficult than it should be.
But wurst lovers are in for a treat. In addition to classics like the Chicago Vienna Beef ($5.25) and Hebrew National ($5.25), there are also Italian Pork Sausage ($5.25), Kielbasa ($5.25), Santa Fe Turkey Sausage ($6), a Wild Salmon Link ($5.75), Apple & Gouda Chicken ($5.25) and a Soy-Vegetarian Link ($5.25), to name a few.
There are also sides, including grilled peppers and onions ($1), chili ($1) and GF Special Fries ($2.99).
I started with the Chicago Vienna Beef prepared Chicago-style. At GF's that means with tomatoes, mustard, electric green relish, sport peppers and onions (no ketchup!). I missed the cucumbers but was pleased that celery salt - the genius of the Chicago dog - was included. This was a three-napkin feast. The Vienna beef was delicious, seared on the griddle and served with a quality bun that held up to all it was obliged to carry.
I couldn't stop there. I also ordered the Apple & Gouda Chicken, a rather mild tasting brat that was smothered in a cheese sauce the cook said was spicy - which seemed a bit of a stretch. Served with onions and brown mustard, this selection had possibilities, but would require some experimentation with various toppings to really shine.
My companion opened with the Santa Fe Turkey Sausage with the works and, as with the Chicago-style dog, found the maximal combination of toppings the equivalent of a culinary fireworks display.
He also tried the Wild Salmon Link. This was milder than expected - certainly not to be confused with smoked salmon - but enhanced by spicy mustard. It was a lighter selection, less filling, which was not unwelcome after the Santa Fe.
We split an order of GF Special Fries. These were large waffle-cut fries, dusted lightly with red pepper and large enough to tear apart and eat two or three bites at a time. Unfortunately, ours were undercooked and a little greasy.
Open just a month, Gourmet Frank's still seems rough around the edges. But they get the celery salt right - and sometimes that's all that matters.