We hear a lot of people say that you can judge a restaurant by the length of time it has been in business. While this may not always be the case, there is certainly something to be said for longevity. During the planning of our visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, we noticed a landmark eatery that just screamed out to be sampled. Since it was located in the downtown area, it made a perfect fit for our walk-able plan. What we discovered was a 93 year business that made sure no one left hungry. We didn’t know it, but we were in for Massive Plates at Franks’ Diner.
We want to thank Visit Kenosha and Franks’ Diner for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
In the 1920s, the Jerry O’Mahony Company, in New Jersey, was producing prefabricated diners that could be shipped all over the nation. Anthony Franks saw a golden opportunity and ordered the delivery of one to Kenosha. What started as a long galley shaped eatery, was enlarged in 1935 to make room for additional diners. With a constant flow of hungry diners, the kitchen needed to be expanded in the 1940s. For 75 years, the Franks family operated the business at 508 58th Street, which is just a couple blocks off of the streetcar route.
Breakfast – “Oh Yeah”
As we entered the diner, we could feel the nostalgia. The long counter laid out almost the entire length of the original restaurant. The fry cook was hard at work preparing a variety of dishes for the customers who beat us there. Over the murmur of conversations, we heard a phrase that would bring many smiles to our faces that morning. “Oh, yeah!” Those who have visited Franks’ Diner recognize this saying, and immediately picture the person who uses it. We will leave that little mystery for you to discover during your morning meal.
Double the Space
We decided to sit in a booth, which means we had to move to the addition that was added in the 1930s. It was cool to see the original stenciled name along the side of the car. With some hot coffee to satisfy us, we took some time surveying the menu. We struck up a conversation with a local sitting nearby. He pointed out that he enjoys the massive plates at Franks’ Diner on a regular basis. When I asked for a meal suggestion, he immediately mentioned the “Garbage Plate“. The name intrigued me, so I scanned the contents of this unique dish.
I knew Crystal wasn’t going to pick that for her breakfast, and I was right. Instead, she went for Franks’ Homemade French Toast. Made using their homemade bread, she had them include a serving of their strawberry topping. To get some protein in her meal, she included a side of two fried eggs. Little did she know, the meal she ordered would be enough for two people. Of course, I would be busy with my own massive plate, so she was on her own. I did sneak a small taste and found that the use of their own bread really knocks this one out of the park.
Massive Plates at Franks’ Diner
Let’s get back to our conversation with our fellow diner. When he made his suggestion, he did add a small disclaimer. He noted that the Garbage Plate comes in half or full plate. His suggestion was that I looked like a half plate guy. After reading the description, I realized he had hit that nail on the head. My order arrived and dwarfed Crystal’s French toast. The dish begins with 3 eggs (5 for a full plate). These are mixed into a concoction made from hash browns, onions, green peppers, and 1 meat choice, which for me was their ground sausage. I tore into the dish with zest, but by halfway I knew I was fighting an uphill battle. While I gave it a decent try, it became apparent that this was a fight I would not win.
The massive plates at Franks’ Diner have drawn a lot of attention from celebrities across the country. In earlier days, the Three Stooges, Lawrence Welk, and even Liberace dropped in to spin a stool. In more modern times, a variety of newscasters have tested the chow, as well as Mark Ruffalo of Avengers fame. As we sat in our booth, I noticed a signed poster of a famous foodie hanging nearby. It seems like Crystal and I keep finding ourselves crossing paths with Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. In Little Rock, Arkansas, we had our visit postponed a day, so that he could tape an unexpected episode at a local restaurant. (You can read about The Root Cafe here.) We feel like we must be picking the best stops to be dining in such good company. You’ll definitely want to add your name to the list of diners who tested the massive plates at Franks’ Diner.