Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to questions we’re repeatedly asked since opening up four months ago.

How long have you been here?

We officially opened May 18, 2011. We were open for breakfast and lunch until Memorial Day. Thereafter, we’ve been a lunch and dinner place _ 11 AM to 8 PM, Monday through Thursday, 11 AM to 5 PM Friday and Sunday. We have always been closed Saturday.

Why aren’t you open on Saturday?

It’s our Sabbath day. We’ve been keeping the Sabbath for more than nine years and we agreed we would not give it up for the restaurant. For more details on this topic, check out this story that ran in the Denver Post.

Where are you from?

We’d love to tell  you somewhere exotic like Kingston, Jamaica, mon, or San Juan , Puerto Rico, or heck, the southside of Chicago. I grew up in Aurora, Colo., and Frank in a small town in north central Illinois. We live in Denver.

Are you having fun?

This is a relative question. If you mean fun as compared to:

Dina: Blowing birthday money at a Nordstrom’s shoe sale? No.

Frank: Drinking a beer and watching the White Sox? No.

Or fun as compared to:

Dina: Visiting an auto parts store? Yes.

Frank: Watering the lawn? Yes.

Actually, we have the most fun when customers walk in the door. Having a full house, the phone constantly ringing for pick up orders and deliveries is really a blast. Yes, the hours are long, but when we’re busy, they fly by.

How’s it going?

We’re not studying yacht brochures just yet, but sales are moving in a positive direction and we are optimistic about our prospects. Other operators have told us to expect a roller coaster ride in our first year and that’s what we’re experiencing. Even though you’re the only customer in the restaurant when you ask this question, you may have just missed a crazy lunch rush or several take-out orders.

What is your signature dish?

That’s a tough one. We have eight signature sandwiches and three special dinner plates, two of which also come in vegetarian versions. The spicy jerk chicken is a leader, but the smoked beef brisket is no slouch. The Puerto Rican rib eye sandwich had developed a strong following and we’re building a reputation for our Friday Fish Fry. The burgers and hot dogs are always popular.

How far do you deliver?

About a one to one-and-half mile radius from the restaurant. So, roughly from 17th to Bruce Randolph avenues, from Welton and Downing streets to Cherry Street in Park Hill. But everything is negotiable.

Are you hiring?

Our goal is to hire folks who can replace us _ cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, delivery drivers. But we’re not there yet. As Frank says, we still need a thousand more people to buy a steak sandwich from us. But you can send us your resume for future reference. _FranksKitchenCO@gmail.com.

Is your food any good?

It always surprises us that people ask such an obvious question. We understand that new customers want to know if they are going to like what they buy. So they ask. And, of course, the answer is, yes, our food is outstanding. But there is only one way to truly find out.

我發言的所有者

Sorry. No one here speaks Chinese. (And yes, we regret keeping our predecessor’s phone number for our restaurant.)

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Green Acres

Down on at the Farm

Farm living

Frank and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary Aug. 22. To commemorate it, we returned to the setting of our very first date, the Cherry Tomato in Park Hill.  Frank took me there on a Friday night and we got married exactly one year later. If someone had told me then, on that first date, that in 13 years I’d be running a restaurant with Frank, I would have thanked him for the nice dinner and conversation, said goodnight, and politely declined any other invitations to hook up until he got the hint.

When I was growing up, I would come home from school and watch reruns of old TV shows _ Petticoat Junction, Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, etc. One show I never wanted to watch was Green Acres. I could never get past the theme song. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the sitcom was about a couple of New Yorkers who ditch the city for farm living. High jinks ensue.

The show starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. In the opening theme song, Eva laments leaving a Park Avenue penthouse to live on a farm. I could never get past that line. What woman in her right mind would leave a penthouse, on Park Avenue in New York to live on a rundown farm with a bunch of yokels!  I’d shudder and click the remote, or turn off the TV and do my homework.

Frank loved that show. Thought it was hilarious.

One day, when we were still cleaning and preparing to open Frank’s Kitchen, I was on my hands and knees scraping the grout in the restroom that it hit me: I am Eva Gabor. I have left my Park Avenue penthouse for the farm. Only it wasn’t a penthouse but a Mission-style desk, cushy chair, MacBook and the relative comfort of a freelance writer’s career. I had left it all to help my husband pursue this dream. Only this was no rundown farm, but a little neglected restaurant in need of major repair. This was my Green Acres.

I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I didn’t feel like I was missing out. In fact, I looked forward to opening the restaurant and working side-by-side with Frank to make this a success. Suddenly I understood how a woman in her right mind could leave her big city penthouse and luxury living to follow someone she loved in a big adventure.

Please, though, no high jinks.

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Help Needed

My son, Dorian, will return to college in another month. And when he does, I’m planning to cry my eyes out. This is not “empty-nester” syndrome. I will be losing my best worker at Frank’s Kitchen.

A big help

Replacing him will be expensive, if not impossible. As a member of the family in this family-owned, mom-and-pop restaurant, Dorian has been a volunteer. He opted to help us out rather than take a real, paying job this summer with another employer. He has come to work with a positive attitude, reassuring his parents whenever they started wringing their hands with worry about the restaurant’s future.

He’s run deliveries in the rain. He’s endured the afternoon sun walking for blocks and putting menu fliers on people’s porches. He’s swept, mopped, chopped and washed more dishes in two months than he has his entire life. He’s been great with customers, talking the Far Easteners into staying for a cheeseburger, convincing hung-over customers a Crested Butte egg sandwich would ease their pain. He taught me how to make milkshakes and assisted Frank in filling orders. He’s learning how to cook burgers and the Puerto Rican steak sandwich.

Milkshake tester

Dorian has helped us create criteria for future employees: positive attitude, a sense of hospitality, good customer relations, initiative and a willingness to work hard. And we know now as employers, we’ll need to offer good training, the right tools, clear instruction, definitive expectations and encouragement.

Dorian turns 19 years old today.  I always believed the goal of a parent is to work yourself out of your job. A child is born needing you for his survival _ food, clothing, shelter, etc. You know you’ve been a successful parent when your child is an adult and they don’t really need you for anything anymore. I look forward to that day when Dorian is living on his own, and has his own career. It never occurred to me that there might come a day when I would need him more than he needs me.

Happy Birthday, Dorian.

Love, Mom-and-Pop

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East vs West

Opening a new restaurant in an old restaurant location can be risky business. You have to overcome either a poor reputation or a stellar one. In our case, we seem to be battling both.

For more than 30 years, 2600 High St. was home to the Far East Chinese restaurant. Our landlady, Lisa, ran the restaurant for the first 20 years. From everything we can gather, she did a good job. She bought the building and the adjoining mechanic’s garage. In the last 10 years, she rented the space to a tenant who continued to operate it as the Far East.  I suspect that towards the end, he stopped caring; given the condition of the restaurant when we took over and from some stories I’ve heard from former customers. Not everyone had fond memories of the Far East, but for others, their memories are golden.

Die-hard fans grew up with the Far East. It was the place to hang out when they were in high school; it was one of the few Chinese restaurants that would deliver to black neighborhoods back then. They don’t recall the restaurant’s declining years when orders were reheated in a microwave or the dirty dining room.

Old

The restaurant closed in late September, eight months before we opened. But many former customers are still shocked to find something new in its place.

New

I’ve started calling them the Far Easterners. I can watch them through the window. Once they realize this is not the Far East, they’ll walk away or drive off.  Curiosity will get the better of some and they’ll venture inside. Sometimes they’ll say hello, marvel at the change, pick up a menu and then say goodbye.  We understand; when you are in a mood for shrimp fried rice or kung pao chicken, nothing else will satisfy.

Sometimes they’ll order, but it’s a safe investment just to try us out _ a small order of French fries, a single hamburger, or one order of the wings. Our Hot Wings are the closest thing we have to the old Far East menu, which had featured fried wings. Ours are cooked to order and dipped in the super hot, habanero-based Island Fire sauce, or dipped in the house-made teriyaki sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Every single person who stayed and ate cleaned his or her plate and told me they enjoyed it _ even the guy who was in a big pout when he realized the Far East was gone but his girlfriend talked him in to staying. He pouted the entire time he ate, but chewed the chicken wings down to the bone.

We’ve had a few neighborhood kids come in and spend their allowance on shakes and fries. Frank said maybe we’re starting a new tradition. These kids will grow up with Frank’s Kitchen and have fond memories of it when they become adults. I just hope, that if something else is here in 30 years, they’ll give the new owners a chance.

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Our Dads

Breezy

Skeet and Breezy are two men who have never met, but would like each other if they ever do. They have a great deal in common, besides being in-laws.

Skeet

Both are in their 80s and are still feisty after surviving major surgeries. Both have been married for more than 50 years. Both fathered five children. Both served in the military during wars. Breezy was an Army/Air Force gunner in a B17 during World War II and Skeet, who was in the Air Force, did a tour of duty in Vietnam.  Both were long-term career men who put in more than 20 years on their jobs.

Both politically liberal. Both active in their communities and in their churches. Neither has been able to shake their nicknames. They are both men of integrity, both leaders, both the most excellent fathers a son or daughter could have.

We tried to think of something special to offer on Father’s Day this year at Frank’s Kitchen. We decided to bring the Kobe beef burger back to the menu for a week. On Sunday, customers can buy dad a Kobe burger and we’ll give his father a free drink and fries.

Kobe refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to a strict tradition in Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. To meet demand for Kobe in the United States, ranchers have crossbred Angus cattle with domestically-raised Wagyu. At Frank’s, our American-style Kobe beef comes from Snake River Farms  in Boise, Idaho.

It’s our first holiday promotion since we opened and one that means a lot to us. Here’s to our dads and dads just like them. Happy Father’s Day.

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Change, already

Every consultant, every how-to-business book, every restaurant owner I ever interviewed stressed the importance of customer feedback. We’re feeling that now. In the past week and a half, all we’ve been doing is listening to customers. Leaning over the counter and asking just about every person who comes in what do they think. What do they like? What would they change? And now we’re making a major shift in our business model.

Breakfast is out. Well, at least breakfast HOURS are out. We’re keeping the egg sandwiches and burritos on the menu. You can order them any time. Starting Memorial Day, we’ll be serving lunch and dinner. We’ll be open from 11  am to 7 pm
Monday through Thursday,  11 am  to 5 pm Fridays, and 10 am to 4 pm Sundays. We’ll be closed Saturday.

The majority of folks we’ve talked to say they are more inclined to buy food at dinnertime rather than breakfast. We’ve had some people say they came by after 5 pm and were disappointed to find us closed.

We are also still getting quite a few people calling after 4 pm or coming in the door even, looking for the old Far East restaurant, even though it closed seven months ago.  We think we can be another alternative to Chinese food, or pizza, or fast food.  Frank is working on a dinner menu with items to go for a set price. Maybe the smoked beef brisket, slaw and potatoes, or the jerk chicken with coconut rice and fried plantains. Or the weekly special may also make a good dinner to go, for two or family of four.  We’ll add those to the menu shortly.

We also have decided to reprint the menu with the tax included in the prices. Customers seemed surprised to find they have to dig back in their pocket for change for their $2 espresso. Now it’s a straight $2.25. We rounded the tax off  in 25 cent increments to keep it simple. We think the new pricing is much more streamlined. What you see is what you get. No surprises.

I’m not too nervous about these changes, as we are still early in the game. If customers like them, we’ll find out soon enough. We’re all ears and not afraid to adapt and change.

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Small Beginnings

Our first day of business May 18 started out with a word of encouragement from Sal, our meat deliveryman.

We were making coffee, cracking eggs, but no customers had come yet. I don’t know if Sal felt sorry for us, but he paused to chat after hauling in beef and chicken. Originally from Venezuela, Sal had been working for the meat supplier for 13 years. He told us stories of restaurant owners he knows. One was a dishwasher at an upscale restaurant now running a quick service Mexican restaurant chain. Another was a couple selling burritos out of a cart downtown who now operate three sit-down restaurants.  It takes time, Sal said. A year of more. You have to stick with it.

His words were heartening. Our plan has always been to go slow, open softly, get on a solid foundation, and then market like crazy. We’re neophyte restaurateurs trying to navigate a steep learning curve. Menu, flavor, presentation, portions, consistency, pricing, service and delivery _ we’re obsessed with getting it right.

The push right now is not about marketing or advertising. As a result, sales were sporadic our first three days of business. The second day was busier than the first which was exciting. We had our first repeat customer! But the third day was the slowest, which had us second-guessing our intention to gradually build business.

We have a photo hanging in the restaurant to remind us to stay with our plan. It’s of John Deere’s historic blacksmithing barn in Grand Detour, Ill. Frank shot the picture a couple of years ago while on a road trip to Illinois to visit his parents. Deere designed a better plow for farmers back in the late 1800s. Today Deere & Co. is nearly a billion dollar, global company.

"For who has despised the day of small things?" _Zechariah 4:10

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