Our two Buffalo Foodies today are brothers Frank and Paul Tripi (left and right, respectively), the men behind one our favorite food trucks: Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs. I will openly admit that when they were first announced, I was skeptical. I didn’t know what to expect from a hot dog truck that served Sahlens, I was hoping for Buffalo’s food truck scene to start branching out and doing new and exciting things. Luckily I was wrong because they serve some very creative hot dog variations with quality homemade toppings that you can’t find anywhere else. Everything from their rolls (specially baked to hold the toppings in), their awesome kimchi dog (my favorite, hands down) to their delicious french fries (along with their various dipping sauces) are carefully crafted and for a reason. It also helps that Frank and Paul are simply two really cool guys who work hard on the truck (it’s still just the two of them) and we’ve been lucky enough to get to know them over the last eight months. Even with their very busy schedules we were able to get a hold of them and ask about their favorite restaurants, bars and food memories from growing up. Here’s what they had to say….
Right now, where are your favorite places to eat?
Frank: Hands down, my favorite indulgence on the occasion that I have a night off is Bistro Europa. I like this spot for many reasons. First, there is no rhyme or reason to their menu. They basically make whatever they feel like on a given day, and you either want it or not. It takes a special place to pull this off, talented chefs, and the right environment- and for me Bistro Europa hits on all these cylinders. Also, they have an unexpectedly solid beer and wine menu.
Paul: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to try any of the new restaurants that opened in the past year. Oliver’s is probably my favorite restaurant in the City. However, due to my schedule, I have been doing more take-out lately. Saigon Bangkok on Niagara Falls Boulevard never disappoints. I generally start with the Vietnamese Pancake and then end my meal with either the Spicy Beef Vermicelli or the Thai Lady Prawns. On Sunday night, it is all about Sunday Sauce and a wood oven pizza or two from Siena.
Where do you like to hang out and grab a drink with friends?
Frank: My favorite place to drink used to be Mothers, but now on the occasion that I have off I go to the Lennox. This is my “new” Mothers-esque bar. It is dark, you can hide if you want, get a solid drink, and menu is served until 3am. My other favorite place to drink is Aroma on Bryant. Aroma is a bar I can go to alone or with a group and always have a good time. They have a good beer list, fancy cocktails if your into that, and a pretty extensive vodka and scotch offering which is more up my alley. These two bars are places I’m comfortable at and enjoy the most on the rare chance that I get a night off.
Paul: See Frank.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
Frank: Whenever I have friends visit I try to hit up all or at least one of the following places: I think a successful Buffalo visit would actually not start in the city at all. I think people should start in East Aurora at either Bar Bill or Arriba Tortilla. Now Buffalo doesn’t lack in the Mexican or Wing dept, but these two spots are top notch and hands down my favorite and therefore would be the best start to any friend visit. Next would be a casual dinner at either Bistro Europa for food or Cole’s for the old school bar vibe. Then it is usually a bar crawl from the 700 block of Elmwood down to Allen, ending at Allen Street Hardware. If everyone makes it successfully through the night, they are rewarded the next day with a Paula’s Donut.
Paul: We would start the day by going for breakfast at a Greek diner – likely Kostas or Panos. Then I would probably take them through Forest Lawn Cemetery and show them all of the history that exists in that place. For lunch, I would take them either to Bar Bill in East Aurora or Schwabl’s in West Seneca. Afterward, head down to Elwood to people watch and grab a couple drinks from the Blue Monk. And if these out of town friends were really special, I would then take them downtown to the Seneca Casino.
What are some food memories from your childhood?
Frank: This is a tough one for me, because in all honesty it was rare for my family to go out to eat, because my Italian mother cooked and prepared every meal for my family growing up. From Sunday breakfast, to Sunday Pasta, to just everyday dinners, it usually was the time in the day where we all gathered and just ate and caught up. I guess the special occasions when we did go out it was usually to Left Bank, which seemed to be the overall winner more times than not. I guess my childhood food memory is one of a lot of Italian boys, which is watching/helping my mom make her sauce for hours, just sit on low heat for hours, until it was time to crush a few pounds of spaghetti, ravioli, or stuffed shells, salad and crusty bread. Then go lie on the couch or an open spot on the floor and just digest/nap. These dinners don’t happen too often anymore, but they are the one’s I remember the most.
Paul: Growing up, I was raised to be smart, strong and independent. Nobody ever said anything about being thin. EVER. I was a (happy) fat kid. Sunday sauce was (and still is) my favorite meal of the week. I just remember eating very well as a kid – both at home and at restaurants. I am incredibly lucky to have a mom who is both a fantastic cook and baker. My father reminds me that I always ordered the most expensive item on the menu when we went out to eat. Admittedly, I do love a good filet. Many of the restaurants we frequented in their prime are no longer in business – Daffodils, the Hourglass, Calvanesos.
What would you like to see more of in Buffalo’s restaurant scene?
Frank: I’d like to start by saying what we Do Not need more of which is burger, wings, pizza, Chinese or Mexican joints. Way too many. Hardly any are original or worth your time. I’d like to see more boutique spots that specialize in ONE thing. This could be anything- just noodles. just dumplings. just fried chicken. just seafood. I think too many people/places try to do everything and that is where they go wrong. I’d like to see small, boutique eateries, that specialize in a very specific food item or cuisine. And more importantly do not stray from their specialty. I think if this happened, the quality of food offered would increase dramatically, and create a more intense and thriving food scene in Buffalo.
Paul: Korean & Thai, respectively. I had the opportunity to spend some time in Washington, D.C. last year and became obsessed with Korean food. Bibimbap changed my life (Don edit: amen brother). I wish it was more accessible here – and as delicious as the little food cart I discovered on K Street. .
I do enjoy most of the Thai restaurants in Buffalo. However, I’d like to see a little more variety in the style of cooking. I had one of the best meals of my life at Little Serow. Johnny Monis does a family style tasting of northern / northeastern Thai dishes that is insanely delicious.
We’d like to thank Frank and Paul for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’d like to visit their awesome food truck, follow them on twitter or facebook for their latest updates or check out their calendar on their website.