Franks Diner has always been a bit of a local sensation. When the prefab railcar-style establishment was pulled into Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1926 by a team of horses, townsfolk lined the streets to watch. In its time under founder Anthony Franks, it served the likes of the Three Stooges, Bela Lugosi, Duke Ellington, and Liberace.
The diner's second set of owners, a couple of regulars who took over from the Franks family in 2001 and ran the place until just last week, built upon that legacy, adding touches of their own that have propelled the small and crowded diner into the national spotlight.
And by national spotlight, I mean that you may have seen it on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives:
Franks is known for its garbage plates, big ol' hashes of potatoes, eggs, green peppers, onions, jalapeños, and choice of meat(s).
A Full Garbage has five eggs, a half has three, and you can get up to three meats in one — or go all vegetarian. I went for the Half Garbage Plate with sausage (above). Even at half, the thing is filling. Even at half, the thing is delicious.
Franks takes the time to do things right. All baked goods served there are made fresh on premises — it's a nice touch to know that even your toast gets the same TLC the main attraction did.
And that attention to detail really comes through in a dish like the French toast — again made from thick slices of the diner-baked bread. I know this probably comes as heresy to Franks devotees, but I preferred the French toast to the garbage plate. Though, given just the two items I tried here, I'd look forward to more research in finding my true favorites on the Franks menu.
The atmosphere at Franks matches the quality of the food, too. Even first-time visitors will pick up on it. It's that friendly brand of friendly sassiness — of tough love dished out when it's needed by the cook-owners. Patrons seem to abide by it and take it in stride. If you watch the video above, which shows then-owners Lynn Groleau and Chris Schwartz, you'll get the picture. It should be noted that Groleau and Schwartz sold the diner late last week to another couple of longtime regulars* who say they don't plan on changing a thing. Let's hope not.
* As it turns out, they signed the papers on the sale later the same day I visited.
508 58th Street, Kenosha WI 53140 262-657-1017; franksdinerkenosha.com