Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Franks - home of some of the best breakfasts I've ever had is reviewed by Robb Walsh.

Frank's Grill
Details: Steak and eggs: $6.50
Chicken-fried steak and eggs: $4.90
Two eggs with bacon or sausage: $3.95
Three pancakes with bacon or sausage: $3.05
Belgian waffle with bacon or sausage: $2.95
SOS: $3.50
Hamburger: $2.50
Where: 4702 Telephone Road, 713-649-3296.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Chicken-fried steak and eggs over easy is my strategic breakfast choice. Frank's CFS, which is served on a separate plate, is the extra-crunchy crumb-coated variety. It's served with very plain white cream gravy over top. I slice off a large wedge of the breaded meat patty and transfer it to the plate with my eggs and grits. I've also asked for grilled biscuits in lieu of toast. This special biscuit treatment is available only before 8 a.m. Frank's biscuits are very tall and a little dry and doughy in the middle, so griddle-toasting the half-biscuits with butter improves them dramatically. Like a conductor tapping his baton, I shake the Tabasco bottle preliminarily a few times over the breakfast ensemble. Then I begin composing forkfuls. Runny yellow egg yolks combine rhapsodically with different combinations of fluffy grits, crunchy CFS in cream gravy, and toasted biscuits. It's a lot of food, but if you're going to eat a big meal, you might as well do it while it's cool outside.

My dining companion, who has a sweet tooth, has opted for buttered Belgian waffles with bacon. The waffles are thick and crunchy and absorb every drop of syrup. It's a pleasant breakfast dish, though not in the same league with Frank's serious egg-and-meat combos.

Frank's offers a choice of grits or hash browns, or half and half if you can't make up your mind. My breakfast companion was thrilled to discover that the hash browns were gently crisped and remarkably grease-free. I was thinking they were too grease-free before she made that observation.

My tablemate giggled to find SOS on the list of side orders. "When's the last time you saw that on a menu?" she asked. "My dad loved that stuff. My mom used to make it for him sometimes when I was a little kid," she said. I seem to remember my mom attempting to re-create that boot-camp delicacy for my father as well. SOS, "shit on a shingle," was once common in military mess halls. It was officially known as creamed chipped beef on toast. If you've ever seen the brown gooey stewed meat on a toasted bread slice, it's easy to understand the creative moniker. But despite the revolting name, many military retirees found themselves craving the stuff.

Unfortunately for veterans, the SOS at Frank's is just a name for biscuits and gravy, which is made here by mixing sausage chunks with the bland cream gravy and pouring it over split biscuits.

A stack of three fluffy pancakes made up for the floury biscuits. The high-rising hotcakes were light and airy, with none of that dense cake texture that can make a short stack feel like a lead weight in your stomach. The bacon was sliced thick, cooked just crisp enough and spread flat with a bacon press.

While everything at Frank's Grill wasn't perfect on that first visit, we developed an immediate affection for the place. It's pretty easy to predict that I'm going to love a funky joint with lots of great food. But I was surprised that my picky friend was enthusiastic, too. Old diners that I love, like the Triple A on Airline, she finds depressing. So why did she like Frank's?

"There's a difference between cheery tacky and hang-yourself-in-the-ladies'-room tacky," she said cryptically. "This place is fun tacky."

I wish Houston businesses would adopt the four-hour lunch break so we could all eat hearty and nap in the heat of the day. But until that happens, the Marlin Roberts summer [Big] breakfast strategy [and skip lunch] is a great way to keep from falling asleep at the wheel.

Huge amounts, cooked while you watch in an extreme old-fashioned diner with a very mixed crowd.

No comments: