Many people who grew up eating at Frankie’s say the hot dogs served at this 1937-vintage roadside stand are the best on earth. I would not say that. After all, I am from Chicago. Plus, I do love Blackie’s on the other side of Waterbury and Denmo’s down the road and Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield and Walter’s in Mamaroneck, not to mention the Sonoran dogs of Tucson, the half-smokes of DC, and also Dixie dogs and New Jersey rippers and Texas hots and Flo’s and Yocco’s and Zack’s. However, I definitely would consider Frankie’s foot-longs for any East Coast Top Ten list.
The dog itself is firm and chewy, slightly garlicky and very porky, grilled so there’s good snap to its skin. A fine frank, but it’s the bun and dressing that make it a pride-of-Connecticut favorite.
The bun is not all that different from the area’s best, except that it seems to be extra buttery and crunchy-brown on its outside surface and fleecy-soft, utterly fresh within. And the relish, ah, the relish: that is extraordinary. It is a dark, pepper-flecked mystery, hot but not ferocious, just sweet enough to tantalize taste buds and sing harmony with dog, bun, and mustard. Onions, sauerkraut, and chili sauce also are available, but I can’t imagine topping my wiener with anything but mustard and the splendid sauce.
I like Frankie’s hot dogs so much that I confess to not having explored the menu, which lists burgers and assorted sandwiches including Philly cheese steaks, fried vegetables of every sort, whole belly clams, fried shrimp, and chicken wings. The one other item I do recommend is the lobster roll, which is the most expensive dish on the menu, yielding little change from a $20 bill. It’s worth the price, holding a large allotment of big, warm pieces of lobster with just the right amount of resiliency. They are bathed in enough butter to quickly catalyze disintegration of the toasty bun that holds them. No, it is not just-picked lobster meat like you’ll find in the best places along the shore, but it is far better than you’d expect from a raffish wiener joint like Frankie’s.
Note: There are three Frankie’s in Waterbury and one each in West Haven, Bristol, Naugatuck, and Meriden.