CLEVELAND, Ohio — Hot dogs have a reputation as a simple budget-friendly food that is most often eaten at barbecues and baseball games.
FrankieLynn Hot Dogs, an Old Brooklyn-based hot dog cart doing mobile events around Greater Cleveland, is amplifying the humble picnic food with the help of locally-made ingredients.
“FrankieLynn is, in my opinion, the best hot dog that Cleveland has to offer,” Rachel Ventura, the owner of FrankieLynn, said. “It’s just the community on a plate. It’s love in a bun.”
Ventura started FrankieLynn Hot Dogs in the summer of 2022, but the idea was a few years in the making. After giving birth to her second child in 2019, Ventura began to think about how she could incorporate her life as a mom of two with a means to make a living. With a long history in the service industry, she knew that something with food was the way to go.
The brainstorming led Ventura to the idea of a hot dog cart. She figured she could make her schedule adaptable, which would accommodate her family’s lifestyle. Her husband is Lloyd Foust, a chef currently working at the Old Brooklyn Mustard company, so his hours can be unpredictable. FrankieLynn’s home base is at the Old Brooklyn Mustards building, so it’s a true family affair that was a natural fit.
Almost everything sold on FrankieLynn’s hot dog cart is made in Cleveland. The all-beef hot dogs that Ventura grills to order come from J&J Czuchraj at the West Side Market. The franks are put on Nolan’s hot dog buns, which are also totally vegan-friendly. Ventura also offers gluten-free buns made by Art of Bread, based out of Cleveland Heights.
The toppings include Cleveland Ketchup, Old Brooklyn Mustards, Bold Pickins relish, and Cleveland Kitchen roasted garlic kraut. The only item not sourced locally is the Field Roast vegan frankfurters, but Ventura has hopes to find locally-made vegan hot dogs in the near future.
As the ingredients suggest, FrankieLynn is doing a lot more than boiling hot dogs and selling them on the street. “That’s just not who I am,” Ventura said. “The labor of love is in there.”
It wasn’t hard for Ventura to source ingredients for FrankieLynn — she just turned to local businesses she loved and friends she has made in the local culinary space over time. “What a really cool way to showcase it on something so recognizable and loveable as a hot dog,” she said.
The four iterations of FrankieLynn franks sell for $9 apiece, and Ventura isn’t skimpy with the toppings on her hot dogs. The cart also sells a Lil Frankie, which is a smaller hot dog, for $5. Outside of franks, the menu also includes Hartville potato chips and beer onion dip for $3.50
FrankieLynn can function outside of its cart. The business got its start as a pop-up in local venues like Old Brooklyn Cheese Shop and Martha on the Fly before she acquired the cart. Ventura hopes to make the most out of the warm weather while she can, but plans on keeping FrankieLynn in operation during the winter season. Likely, it won’t be as busy as in the summer, but Ventura keeps customers updated by posting her schedule on FrankieLynn’s Instagram page.
Ventura gets asked constantly by customers if she’d ever want to expand FrankieLynn and open a brick-and-mortar hot dog restaurant. For now, she’s pretty content with the manageable nature of the cart but doesn’t know where the future could take her as her kids get older.
Ventura’s sons are often spotted hanging out at the hot dog cart and giving their mom a hand, which is an unexpected perk of the job. “It’s been such a fun thing because I never knew what I was going to do as a mom with a job,” she said.