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Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

Franks Diner Provides Unique Experience

Kenosha's historic eatery is worth the trip

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Upon entering Franks Diner, your senses are blindsided by the savory smells of onions and potatoes frying. And then you get the sense of being inside an early-20th-century train car. (Franks is built around a small rail car.) A shout from the cooks—“Order's ready!”—or bold talk between servers and the regulars makes you imagine yourself in an America from decades ago. Franks has been in Kenosha since 1926 and was owned by the Franks family until 2001. It since has passed into the hands of Kevin Ervin and Julie Rittmiller, but little has changed.

If you do not have the time, or a thick skin to handle the staff, don't bother showing up to eat. It may sound harsh, but this is what makes Franks so great. I, for one, enjoyed the lack of pretense that is common in many chain restaurants. It was refreshing. The menu states “Be Nice or Leave,” along with “Stay in Line.” You must wait your turn for a table in a line behind the counter.

Gary, a graduate student who has worked there for years, advised me on what to order and took very good care of me. It was also enjoyable to watch him command the diner like a conductor in an orchestra.

It is all a part of the experience of tasting some of the best diner food Wisconsin has to offer. Located in downtown Kenosha, Franks is humble and easy to miss. Ask the locals and they will tell you all about it; the fact that it was featured on Food Network, the memories they made there and, most of all, the beloved “garbage plate.”

Order a garbage plate, despite the name. It is made out of five eggs, hash browns, your choice of meat, onions, peppers and your choice of cheese. I couldn't even finish a fourth of it. The homemade toast was rustic and buttery. The lady next to me told me to bring it home and pick at it later.

Feeling adventurous? Try a fried Twinkie. It was greasy, sugary and topped with cinnamon. Delicious. Feel like Hercules? Take on the Carthage College Red Men Challenge: a full garbage plate, toast and tower of pancakes.

You go to Franks for the story as much as the food. Even if you're not the diner type, try it once for the experience. I left Franks full and, I'll say it, with clothes smelling like onions. I can't wait to go back.

It's no surprise: Franks accepts cash only.

Franks Diner

508 58th St., Kenosha

(262) 657-1017

Credit Cards: None

franksdinerkenosha.com