It must be a unique pleasure of living in the Bay Area to stumble into some idiosyncratic little place with an inadvertent cultural-mélange menu unlike any other. One such must be Royal Frankfurter (811 - 4Th St at Lincoln in San Rafael). I confess, I was headed for the Thai takeout palace just next door and walked into this place by accident, never even having noticed the narrow stall before this, and yet it looked like it had survived the Prohibition.
I was about to beat an abashed retreat when something stopped me in my tracks and dragged me back to the counter with cash in hand to place my order. I am not sure whether it was the Lower East Side ambiance that grabbed me or the Hot Dogs for Dummies menu, but before I knew it I was ordering a Lap Chong (yes!) (all-pork, dried sausage per the menu) dog backed by jasmine tea.
I still cannot get over finding this diminutive gem. Where else would you find a hot dog stand run by a courtly old Asian couple, where the wife takes orders and her calls of "Old-Style German for the lady" or Lap Chong for the gentleman resound at high volume through the tiny space directed at the husband by the grill not two feet away. Where else would you see a menu with not a thing priced over $4 and reading, more or less:
Royal Hot Dog (all beef)
Old German (1/3 pork, 2/3 beef)
Polish Kielbasa (1/3 beef, 2/3 pork)
Louisiana Hot Link (ingredients unknown)
and, of course the Lap Chong,
which latter I absolutely had to try served as a hot dog. When I inquired how preferred condiments, the advice came to dress it with onions and mayonnaise. I opted for the strong Chinese mustard over mayo (served from a gallon plastic jar as if it were Guildens), and I must say that it was very, very good.
I hesitated before writing this review, I have to tell you. The place has been there, apparently, for quite a while without Chowhound patronage, and has its own quirky clientele. Should I risk ruining it for them by inviting throngs of my kindred stomach worshippers? Will lines get entirely out of hand? Will prices climb above $4.50? What do you think I should have done?