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Ever since Dear One of Munch's office moved Downtown, DOOM has been making weekly devotional visits to Franktuary in the basement of Trinity Cathedral on Oliver Avenue.
"You should Munch it," DOOM said.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the sausage gets made.
Franktuary opened in 2004 -- the brainchild of three recent college graduates who wanted to give a portion of the profits to a local ministry. It was originally known as Hot Dogma, until some cranky lawyer from the Dogma Grill hot dog shop in Miami decided to file a lawsuit, saying that name was trademarked and customers might get confused. As if.
All Munch knows is that Franktuary is a way better name anyway.
The place is small, crowded and decorated with more than a touch of whimsy. There's a comfy couch in the corner for reclined hot dog consumption and paintings depicting great moments in hot dog history. A hot dog in God's hand on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mona Lisa holding a hot dog. You get the picture.
Menu items include the Pittsburgh (hot dog with smooshed pierogie and cole slaw) and the hypocrite (veggie dog with chili).
Munch had no trouble recruiting co-workers for the journey. Yell "Franktuary" in a semi-crowded newsroom and all of a sudden Munch is the Pied Piper. So on a windy day, Munch led a contingent of co-workers eager for some fine dining.
Needless to say, said co-workers brought their appetites. The party of five Munchers sampled six different hot dogs and one wrap, along with several side dishes. The menu offers not only all-beef hot dogs and vegan veggie dogs, but also salads, chicken wraps, soups and fruit shakes.
Munch ordered a Mexican veggie dog ($3.75). Much like its meaty brethren, the exact contents of a veggie dog are somewhat elusive. But Munch does know that it was zesty and delicious, topped with mango salsa and guacamole and swaddled in a pillow-like cushion of Italian bread. Munch inhaled it, along with a tasty side order of pasta fagioli.
Voracious Eater Co-worker of Munch ordered both a Buffalo hot dog ($3, with blue cheese dressing and Frank's buffalo wing sauce) and a Southern Belle ($3, generously topped with chili and cole slaw). He spoke particularly admiringly of the Southern Belle: "Messiest thing I've ever eaten."
DOOM tried the aforementioned Pittsburgh dog ($3.75), praising the natural casing for both the taste and the satisfying crack when pierced. Laden with pierogies and cole slaw, the hot dog was overstuffed (re: unable to fit into DOOM's mouth) but still delicious.
Franktuary Newbie Co-worker of Munch opted for the Chicken Italy wrap ($4.75), featuring fresh ingredients and a dressing that was surprisingly light and surprisingly flavorful. Continuing the Italy theme, Co-worker Who Will Drop Anything for a Free Lunch ordered the Italy hot dog ($3.75, with fresh mozzarella, tomato, garlic, basil and olive oil). CWWDAFL loved the hot dog, but saved her highest marks for the accompanying creamy horseradish sauce, likening its addictive properties to street drugs.
Let it also be said -- because it is a pet peeve of Munch's to walk into favored lunch spot only to be confronted with Pepsi and Nestea -- that Franktuary has an excellent drink selection, featuring not only fresh-made fruit shakes but also a great selection of bottled sodas, including local ginger beer and mint juleps from the Natrona Bottling Co.
Franktuary's motto, which thankfully was left pristine by menacing Floridian lawyers, is "Franks Be to God." Well, just let Munch say, "Franks Be to Franktuary" for giving Pittsburgh a much-needed fresh and funky Downtown lunch spot.