Let’s Be Frank
Food trucks might have started with four tires and tacos, but the trend has taken an eco-friendly turn in neighborhoods across the country. One pioneer in changing the food-truck landscape was California’s Let’s Be Frank. What makes this hotdog cart different from other urban street food? Let’s Be Frank serves locally raised, grassfed franks with toppings sourced from local farms. Buns are baked at Acme, a local bakery that uses organic flour, and each dog is wrapped in eco-friendly paper.
Co-founders Sue Moore and Larry Bain launched their hotdog business with a single cart outside the Giants’ ballpark in 2005. Moore, formerly the “meat forager” for Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Bain, restaurant professional and member of the San Francisco Sustainable Food Systems team, have since expanded their enterprise with a brick-and-mortar shop near the Golden Gate Bridge and added a second food truck in 2008. Their mission to serve delicious dogs that support family farmers and ranchers who use humane, healthy farming practices now serves multiple locations in Northern and Southern California.
July is National Hotdog Month, and every Independence Day, Americans enjoy more than 150 million hotdogs—that’s enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times!—so we asked Moore about Let’s Be Frank and her sustainable hotdog success.
Why did you choose to focus on hotdogs?
SM: Everybody loves to eat outside in a casual way. We wanted to serve affordable, high-quality ingredients on the street and make locally sourced food readily available to more people.
What’s involved in making your signature franks?
SM: When you make a hotdog, there is a lot that goes into it. We worked with a third-generation sausage maker in Northern California, and it took about a year to perfect our recipe. We don’t use any fillers—just grass-fed beef with organic spices—so it takes a while to get the right consistency. For the toppings, we use local produce. Making the perfect dog was important to us to support a vibrant local-food community.
What other green initiatives do you take in running Let’s Be Frank?
SM: When you think about your operation, it’s more than the dog. You try and look at the whole picture. We use organic toppings and sell crafted sodas, like this amazing River City root beer in Sacramento. We use organic cleaners, compost our waste, and use recycled napkins and compostable paper wrappers.
What is your top dog? Any special ingredients?
SM: We make five different hotdogs and sausages. The Frank Dog, our grassfed dog, is by far our most popular. We make this stuff called Devil’s Sauce, which is a spicy Indian relish. A beautiful organic farm gave us a huge bag of Pedrón peppers, and we make huge batches of our signature sauce. There are so many ways to support local agriculture. I think the whole urban farming thing is the future.