Goodbye and Thank You

The end happened as quickly as the beginning. Just three years ago Frank was sliding a check across a table to our future landlords and we were in the restaurant business.

On Sunday, sitting on the patio of Frank’s Kitchen, the buyer’s accountant was sliding a check over to Frank. It was a down payment to our asking price. And just like that, we closed our restaurant.

For all our stunned customers, friends and supporters let me tell you how we got here.
I was not lying when you came in and asked how is the business and I said doing well. After about a year and half it was paying for itself. It probably would have turned the corner in the third year, especially if we obtained a liquor license.

It was in the pursuit of a beer and wine license that we came to a realization about who we are and the kind of life we wanted to live.

The alcohol licensing was going to take six months. We probably weren’t going to be able to serve beer and wine until November. Our lease is up in December. We needed the warm spring and summer months to recoup the investment in the license and product. That meant we would have to sign a new lease, most likely for five years.

The thought of another long-term lease made us both sigh, heavily. A little too heavily.  That’s when we knew. We have worked extremely hard and for long hours day in and day out since we opened. Frankly, we’re tired and did not want to keep going. Some people have the restaurant business in their blood. We had to admit we did not. This was no longer what we wanted to do with our lives.DSCN1578

We listed the restaurant for sale on Craigslist.com.

Joe Van Dyke, aka “Jammin’ Joe,” a blues guitarist and restaurateur from Virginia was our first serious response to the ad. Jammin’ Joe has owned and or operated several restaurants in his life. He carved out a pretty good reputation for barbecue back east and wants to do the same in Denver. He liked our restaurant and accepted our price. He plans to open in early July.

Thank you everyone who supported us in our endeavor. We appreciated it more than you know.  And thanks to our awesome employees. A few are staying on with Joe. May God bless all of you.

Shalom,
Dina (and Frank)

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Shout Outs from the Classic Car Show

ImageThank you everyone who helped us put on our first Charity Classic Car Show last Sunday. It was a great way to celebrate our second year of business.

The Ol’ Skool Street Rollers are boss! About 20 of these gentleman from the car club showed up and showed out with their cool cars and hot rods! They turned our little corner of High and 26th into the place to be in Whittier on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

And a very big thank you for all our wonderful customers, both the regulars and the new faces that came out.  You helped us raise $1,000 for the Renaissance Children’s Center _ an amazing childcare program for children from homeless and disadvantaged families. The center is operated by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

We went into business to make money for ourselves (and we’re still working on that!) but it is a great feeling to be able to use that business to help others.

Here’s a little slideshow we put together of the day.

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Hot Cars, Hot Dogs, & Cool Jazz

May 18th marks our second year in business. It’s time to celebrate.

We are hosting a thunderbirdcharity fundraiser and classic car show from 11 AM to 2 PM on Sunday, May 26. Members of the Ol’ Skool Street Rollers are bringing 20 to 30 of their hot cars to Frank’s Kitchen. We going to block off to traffic High Street to make room for as many cars as possible.

We’ll have live music and grill hot dogs and hamburgers in the parking lot. We’re donating all parking lot food sales to an awesome charity _the Renaissance Children’s Center in Lakewood.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless founded the childcare center in 1999 to provide kids from homeless or low income families with a safe place to learn and get the support they need.Young student at work painting a picture

We will give a portion of the entire day’s sales to the center, as well as any cash donations people want to make.

Come out and celebrate with us, get a bite to eat and help a child.

Can you believe it’s been two years already? Seems like just yesterday we we’re signing the lease…

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Breakfast, anyone?

The faded greImageen sign  with the coffee cup logo in our parking lot tells the story. When we opened Frank’s Kitchen in May, 2011, we were a breakfast-lunch joint. We opened at 7 am and closed at 3 pm. We did that for two weeks before pulling the plug on this idea. New to the neighborhood and with little, well, actually, no advertising, no one knew we were here. By the second week,  neighbors were finding us, but showing up after 12 o’clock or as we were locking the doors at 3.

We made a quick decision to ditch breakfast and offer dinner as it seemed that was more of what the neighborhood wanted.

But we haven’t stopped thinking about breakfast. We used to serve egg burritos with cheese and housemade turkey chorizo.  We baked oatmeal and offered egg croissant sandwiches. This was when the Crested Butte sandwich was born _ two eggs, over easy, on a bed of hash browns, pastrami, lettuce, tomato and topped with Swiss cheese. on toasted rye.

We had a two-group espresso machine and  whipped up lattes and cappuccinos. We served Mr. Espresso coffee, oak-roasted beans from a northern California supplier. We’ve since swapped the espresso machine for a Coca-Cola fountain machine and kept only the Crested Butte on our menu.

What if we brought all that back, along with pancakes and waffles?

What do you think? Should we bring breakfast back? Is this what the neighborhood wants? What is a good time to open? 7 AM? 8 AM?

Tell us what you think. Please cast your vote!

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Dollar Taco Nite

How did it start?  After being open for seven months, we wanted to boost dinner sales, so we picked Wednesday as a night to do an evening special. We kicked it off with our Southwestern Meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes and went on to do a wide variety of dishes, from eggplant Parmesan to chile relleno chicken. Some nights were very successful _ the calzones. Others fell flat _ veal and grits. After nearly six months, Frank, on a whim said: “Let’s just do dollar tacos.”

What are they, exactly?  Basic tacos  _ seasoned ground beef, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and shredded cheese. They come in a soft corn tortillas heated on the grill or hard shells warmed in the oven. That’s it. A buck each, and that includes the salsa. Very simple.

What was the customer reaction? The response was fantastic. We had a sellout our first night. It was better than all the other weekly specials put together. We had stumbled upon a real keeper.

Why just for dinner? Well, again, the idea is to boost evening sales and get people to think of Frank’s as a place to get dinner, not just lunch. So we start at 5:30 PM. Not 5, or 4:30 or 5:15. Starting at 5:30 gives us enough time to prepare after our lunch rush.

How many tacos does the average person order? Three or four. First timers are sometimes hesitant and may order just one or two. If they dine in, they often come back to the window and order a couple more. And then we have folks who come in and order enough tacos for the family or a group of friends.

What’s been the biggest order?  We once had a request for 40 tacos.  We strongly encourage customers to call ahead  if they want large orders like that so we can make sure we prepare enough meat and toppings.

Dollar Tacos

Most people order three or four.

Do you prefer to sellout? We try to have enough tacos for the 2½-hour dinner service, but we also don’t want to have much left over at the end of the night. It’s a balancing act. We anticipate more for the first and 15th of every month, but you just never know.

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Resolve

I have this picture of my older brother, Dean, in the restaurant.

Two-year-old Dean and his birthday cake

Turning 2

It’s under the Plexiglas on the countertop along with some other photos and a copy of the menu placed there to hide the holes in the Formica.

I wanted humorous, food-related pictures to make customers smile. I like this one of Dean. It’s cute and famous in our family because my father won an amateur photography award for it.

I also wanted a photo or some recognition of Dean at Frank’s Kitchen because he was very instrumental in helping us open the restaurant.

Dean came out to Denver from Washington DC for our mother’s 80th birthday party in November 201o. Frank and I had recently signed the lease for the restaurant and decided we would tell my family during Mom’s party. (Held at the El Dorado room of the Avenue Grill, which I highly recommend).  I thought we’d wait for the right moment _ after Mom and Dad had had a few drinks _ before breaking the news, but I had barely taken off my coat when I heard folks congratulating Frank who was already passing out our new Frank’s Kitchen business cards. Dean was particularly impressed and said something about wanting to help us with the new venture. I made a mental note to get with Dean sometime after the party. But I never did.

In fact, I don’t think I ever spoke to him again after that weekend, other than trading a few emails and text messages. The day after Christmas that year he called my mother and told her he was dying of liver cancer, he had made his peace with God and he wanted to come home. He never made it back to Colorado. He passed away Jan. 2, 2011 in a Maryland hospital. He died in his sleep, his partner, Tim, holding his hand. He was 53.

We learned Dean had increased his life insurance so he could leave some money to his four surviving siblings. Frank and I put ever dime we received from Dean into the restaurant. I think that was what he would have wanted us to do. It was an unexpected gift, a blessing in the middle of our heartache.

Someone asked me the other day if I had any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been one to make those. Our focus in 2012 is the same as in 2011: to make Frank’s Kitchen an established, neighborhood restaurant and a viable, income-producing business for us and for future employees. We are resolved only to give it our best and in doing so, honor my brother, Dean Phillip Cowan.

Dean

Rest in peace, my big brother. I miss you.

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The Weeks in Review

In the News

The past four weeks were amazing. We had four positive reviews in four local publications _5280, Westword, the Denver Post and the Onion.

The first review caught us by surprise, but we were more suspicious by the time the final reviewer showed up. Restaurant reviewers never announce themselves to make sure they get treated like everyone else. But I did uncover the reviewer from the Post. He came the night of our first Wednesday Dinner special _ the Don’s Southwestern Meatloaf.

Westword magazine sent its photographer that night and a few family members came out in support. Some of our regulars showed up, as well as new customers interested in the meatloaf.  It turned into one of those crowded crazy nights in the dinning room with lots of chatter and laughter.

The Post’s William Porter ended up in a seat right in front of the takeout window where I hang out.  I caught him taking notes and deduced he was a restaurant reviewer. I asked him and he confessed. He had already been served and eaten, so there was no opportunity to give him any special treatment.

So, if I had some advice on how to attract reviewers, I’d share it. All I know is: be ready. You’ll be ready if you do at least two things: Treat every customer equally well and be as consistent as possible with the food quality.

Equality _ There are more than 3,500 restaurants in Colorado. Metro Denver customers have a wide range of options. Times are tough. Wallets are thin. We’re grateful when people choose to spend their hard earned money at Frank’s. We want every customer to enjoy his or her experience and leave satisfied.

Quality  _ The reviewers made multiple visits but didn’t try everything on the menu, but we like to think they would have enjoyed every dish, no matter what time or what day they visited.

We’re humbled and thrilled with the positive press as well as reviews by everyday people on Yelp.com.  In our first six months we earned a ranking of 4 ½ stars out of 5 stars on Yelp. We credit all the good news to staying focused on our main goal  _ to be a friendly, neighborhood joint offering a real value on real food. Or as Laura Shunk from Westword wrote: “food for the soul.”

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