Sure, eating a hot dog in a restaurant named after a fictitious doctor who built a monster from corpses' body parts might be unsettling for some, but for those of us with a darker sense of humor, it's a feast of morbid fun in an old funeral parlor.
Riverwest's newest eatery, House of Frank N. Stein, 726 E. Center St., quietly opened a couple of weeks ago inside a former funeral home and the owners, Ismail Ozcan and Susan Van Schaik, are calling their new venture "the classiest hot dog restaurant in town."
It's classy all right: a massive space divided into four rooms with hardwood floors, stucco walls and beamed ceilings. The decision to keep things clean and simple is, in some ways, a good one, creating an environment that is so reminiscent of the former funeral parlor that you can almost smell the gladiola arrangements.
However, the spooky sparseness lacks warmth. Although there are a bunch of black-framed photographs of the original Frankenstein character as well as framed printouts of death-related quips like "I can plan my funeral over lunch," the space is way too austere. Where are the candelabras and the velvet curtains? How about a little music? (Death Cab For Cutie, Dead Can Dance, The Grateful Dead? Cannibal Corpse? Oh, let's not even get started ... )
At first glance, the menu looks great, featuring a large selection of hot dogs and sausages such as the frank 'n' chili ($3), frank 'n' mex ($3) and the frank vegetarian ($3). There's also Italian sausage sandwiches (both the real deal and the soy imposter), bratwurst, Italian beef, French dip, ham 'n swiss and vegetarian hummus, all between $3-$4.
Unfortunately, there's nothing special about the sandwiches -- except the super affordable prces. The hot dog tasted just like it does in our kitchen, as did the soy Italian, and the vegetarian hummus sandwich was simply chopped lettuce straight from the bag dumped inside a bun slathered with supermarket-tasting hummus.
Our chili, we think, came from a can, and the nachos looked like your usual stadium-style fare. Nothing we ate was bad; it just seemed like grub we could have easily whipped up at home.
On the bright side, Frank's bar -- which is massive and probably the best feature of the place -- serves a "bottomless" cup of coffee for $1.50. Van Schaik says they have applied for a liquor license, and feel confident they will soon offer the "Stein" part of Frank N. Stein.
"The neighborhood is very enthusiastic towards us and we see no reason why we won't get a liquor license," says Van Schaik.
Overall, there is something a little off about this place, but perhaps things will improve once beer is thrown into the mix. It's a good idea and has lots of potential, but unfortunately for now, The House of Frank N. Stein restaurant is like Dr. Frankenstein's monster: a strange combination of unrelated parts.
For more information, call (414) 264-4440.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.