Street Food Profiles: Let's Be Frank in Los Angeles and San Francisco
Note: Since this street food trend is blowing up, we're going to spend every week spotlighting a different vendor. This week in Street Food Profiles, we scoot to the West Coast.
Name: Let's Be Frank hot dog cart
Vendor: Larry Bain
Location and hours? San Francisco: Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays at the Crissy Field Warming Hut (near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Los Angeles: Wednesdays through Sundays at Helms in Culver City.
What do you sell? Frank Dog, Brat Dog, Bird Dog, "Hot" Dog, and "Not" Dog, along with beverages and chips
For how many years? Four years in San Francisco and two years in Los Angeles.
Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? Fun, flexibility, and a way to connect directly to the public.
Who are your typical customers? Any special regulars? Lots of moms who want a guilt-free hot dog for their kids. In San Francisco, about 35 percent are regulars and the rest are tourists whereas in Los Angeles, about 65 percent are regulars, including lots of movie stars, young and old.
Describe a typical day from start to finish. It's all about bun management. Our buns are baked fresh daily, which means we need to make a good guess on volume expectations two or three days in advance. We adjust our bun order daily.
Onions are sliced, dogs are cut and bagged, buns are sliced, the truck is loaded and finally tows the cart down to the site. The griddle is fired up, the steam trays are set to "steam" and the beverages are chilled down. There is a line by time we are ready to serve and on a sunny day, the line never stops. As the sun begins to set and the wind picks up, the cart is broken down, the truck is loaded up and back to the commissary we go to clean up and get organized for the next day.
What were you doing before this? I owned and managed a few restaurants, and also founded and ran two non-profits that work in the food justice and hunger realm. I still work with the City of San Francisco and the National Parks Service on food policy.
What makes your food so special? Can anything like it be found in the city? Our dogs are made from locally raised cattle that are fed nothing but grass their whole life. No hormones or antibiotics. We then get the meat to a third-generation sausage-making plant where our franks, brats, hot dogs and bird dogs are produced.
Yes, there are other hot dog carts, but none with such a commitment to local, sustainably raised meat—and none with grass-fed beef dogs.
How would you define "street food"? It has to be served from a mobile unit. It has to be easy to eat, using just the implements we are born with (hint: hands). It has to be fun, yummy, and appealing to kids of all ages.
The best street food city? Mumbai
Your comfort food after a long day? French Fries at Nopa in San Francisco.
Advice for an aspiring vendor? It's hard work and the city and state governments seem to make it even harder.