Do Evanston kids aspire to a youth of crime, followed by an adulthood of flipping burgers? And how many more weiners can you sell if you give your shop an outlaw theme?

Those are among the questions in play since that Jim Andrews, owner of the now-shuttered Chicago hot dog stand Felony Franks, has expressed an interest in opening a new shop in Evanston.

Based on coverage of Thursday night’s 2nd Ward meeting from the Evanston Review, it seems clear that some Evanstonians think the shop glorifies the thug life and will lure youngsters into it.

I supposed you’d actually have to talk to a bunch of kids to know for sure.

Andrews obviously figures the outlaw theme packs in the customers, or he wouldn’t go through all the aggravation it’s caused him at the Chicago location.

A video profile of Felony Franks from the Wall Street Journal, posted in October 2009, not long after the Chicago restaurant opened.

But I have to wonder about the impact on the ex-offender employees of having their private shame put on display for all the customers to see. That part rather creeps me out.

A small business that makes it a practice to give ex-offenders a second chance? Great idea.

One that exploits their outsider status for commercial gain? Not so sure.

And given Evanston’s special use permit requirement for take-out restaurants, there’s a strong chance a few angry neighbors will be able to persuade aldermen to kill off the idea in whatever neighborhood Andrews might try to locate here.

Update 7/18/12: The Evanston Review reports that Felony Franks’ owner has crossed Evanston off his list of possible new locations, after the chilly reception he got at the community meeting.

Related story

But what aabout the food? (Serious Eats Chicago)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. No thanks, Franks!

    I don't think this is the type of establishment that Evanston should be trying to attract. If the alderman get behind this, then I am moving out for sure.  It will show that the city is up for grabs.

    1. Franks a lot!

      "If the alderman get behind this, then I am moving out for sure."

      This is just a place that may sell weiners, burgers and fries. No big deal. If you don't like their marketing plan, buy your weiners elsewhere.

      Our community deserves much better value-added economic development projects than a Felony Franks or Ann's Ward Nine Bar.

  2. A few choice phrases…

    From the Evanston Review coverage:

    “How do I explain that going to jail is bad but a (Felony Franks) is good,” she said.

    I don't know Leslie, how can you possibly explain that to your children? That is a really tough one. Are her children exposed to any form of media? It shouldn't be that much of a cogntive leap.

    Bill, there are two sides of the coin here. These folks are gaining employment and becoming empowered to escape the desperation that likely led to their criminal activities. It's typical faux-progressive Evanston to try to stamp out a novel idea that might require us to talk to our children once or twice.

    Honestly, anyone who thinks working in a hot dog shop is "glorification" of criminal life needs to take a serious second look. I certainly hope Ms. Lule has higher aspirations for her children than working a hot dog joint, but who knows I suppose.

    Before anyone rips into me about being critical of food service — I'm not. But clearly there is a potential lesson to be learned here from examples of older folks working jobs that are typically occupied by teenagers.

  3. Problem is less with the name than with type of business

    The thing that troubles me about this is that–according to the article–the City Manager is out explicitly recruiting ast food outlets to move into Evanston.  The second ward already has an oversupply of this type of business.  Both McDonalds and the old KFC were centers for crime.  The city has already given subsidies to a fried chicken place down the block from where this guy wants to locate.

    If we really want vibrant economic development, try recruiting high-tech computer systems design or small high-tech manufacturing. Both of these sectors are growing and pay decent money and Evanston is well-situated to attract these types of companies.

    One thing these companies like are good public infrastrcture and amenities like bike lanes, recreation outlets, nightlife and safety.

    The city needs to actively recruit these types of companies–not hot dog stands.

    If Felony Franks want to open here, fine.  As long as they follow the same zoning rules as anyone else and don't ask for goverment handouts, go for it.

  4. Evanston has a restaurant that exclusively hires ex-convicts

    Evanston already has a restaurant that hires felons and ex-cons and it's located in the Sixth Ward on Central Street.

    Curt's Cafe at 2922 Central – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Curts-Cafe/292545890824749

    Curt's Cafe has been open since May and it appears things are going well.

    So other wards should have no problem with Felony Franks. Let's put it in the 2nd Ward at Evanston's Plaza since the city created a TIF that will spend millions of our tax money to benefit the owner of that shopping center!

    Better yet, place Felony Franks in the vacant building the city bought across the street from the Evanston Strange Lofts on Church Street. Perhaps the smell of hot dogs will smother the stench from the Veolia garbage transfer station condo residents are complaining about.

    More info about Curt's Cafe –


  5. Evanston Needs more Regulations and Oversight

    Indeed, a Felony Franks in Evanston would be the last straw for our Community.

    Before our morals become further degraded maybe City Council should consider:

    1. Eliminating sales of Playboy magazines at the local news shop on Chicago & Main

    2. Impose cleavage restrictions – how much is too much?

    3. Require young men to pull up their pants (at least to the bottom of their waist?)

    4. Restrict TV channel access to "morally acceptable" programs deemed viewable by an "Evanston Culture Panel"

    5. Fine any and all Hummers that travel on Evanston streets

    Good luck Felony Franks – Welcome to Evanston !!!!

  6. It should come here!

    I think Felony Franks should come here. Let's be honest we are in a recession and this could be a good revenue for Evanston… Also the name WOULD NOT effect the youth. Let's also be honest Evanston is going downhill compared to about 20 years ago. It should come here.

    1. “Let’s also be honest

      "Let's also be honest Evanston is going downhill compared to about 20 years ago."

      I moved to Evanston in 1975 and I have been hearing that moronic statement "Evanston is going downhill" the entire time I have lived here.

      I agree with you that Felony Franks should be allowed to open here under its original name, but please spare us your insufferable Barney Fife-ish soliloquy.

  7. As a 3rd generationian

    As a 3rd generationian Evanstonian, I find the backlash against a small business man trying to do good for those that have criminal backgrounds disgusting.  It is a name.  The business should be judged on the quality of it's food and service. 

    Here is a man that is tring to bring employment and it's added sales tax revenue to a town in desperate need of both – without hitting up the city for funds and people are upset.

    Get over the name and enjoy the diversity that is Evanston and thank God for someone that is trying to help out those that are trying to get their lives back together.

  8. Really?

    Again, Evanstonians show much more concern about the name of a restaurant than they ever do about the amount of crime in this town. What gives? It' a darn hot dog stand, people. It's not going to make that much of a difference in our lives. Unike something else that no one wants to talk about.

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