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If the pervasive trend toward upscale burger joints is a recessionary reaction, how come more restaurateurs haven't adopted the gourmet sausage model pioneered by Hot Doug's? Well, a Lincoln Park sausage shop with a surprising and until now obscured connection to one of the city's top chefs did just that.
Last month Alexander Brunacci, Lillian Velasquez-Brunacci, and a third partner quietly opened Lincoln Park's Franks 'N' Dawgs offering a number of sausages with elaborate global street-food-inspired adornments, such as a chicken Caesar sausage with romaine and black garlic and veal percik, a tube based on the Malaysian marinade topped with date chutney, carrot-ginger mayo, cilantro, and almonds .
If that surname sounds familiar it's because they are the brother and spouse, respectively, of Aussie-born chef Frank Brunacci, who while having no official connection to the business himself, consulted on the recipes during his free time from Trump Tower's Sixteen.
Alexander, an erstwhile marketing guy, has no restaurant industry background, but he has traveled the world obsessing over street food, and frequently bounced ideas off his younger brother, who in turn has upscaled certain dishes in the restaurants he's worked at along the way. In fact, says Alexander, it was he who turned on Frank to the aforementioned percik, which eventually resulting in the chef's signature duck percik.
The Frank 'N' Dawg's partnership tapped a former Brunacci underling to chef the place, Joe Doren, a veteran of both Sixteen and Blackbird. So far they're making a half-dozen sausages in-house, with more provided by Chef Martin's Alpine Brand Sausages, and buns by Nicole's Crackers.
Brunacci says they kept the connection to his brother on the down-low because they're still working out the kinks and they feared too much attention would inspire a rush they couldn't keep up with, not to mention trying to avoid any associations with the Trump brand. They're open now with occasionally irregular hours (they were closed yesterday, but open today in contrast to their listed hours) but are ramping up to an April 15 grand opening.
While not many are likely to confuse this with a Trump-endorsed project, Brunacci does anticipate the inevitable comparison's to Hot Doug's—they have a guest-chef-created monthly special after all, the inaugural one being a bacon-and-egg-topped number called the Foss Dog, or as the Lockwood chef calls it "The Foss Hog." But Brunacci says they're hearing more people drop comments about Kuma's.