During our trip to Western Michigan earlier this year, we checked out a number of the small towns in and around the Holland, MI area where we were staying. One of the small towns was Zeeland, MI, located about 10 miles from Holland. It was early when we arrived so many of the small shops in the town were closed. We decided to have breakfast at the only restaurant in downtown Zeeland that was open that day - Frank's. Frank's, as we found out, is an institution in Zeeland and has been open for over 85 years.
In 1924, Italian immigrants Frank and Mary Dionise set up shop in Zeeland selling fruits and vegetables. The Dionise's lived above their store with their five children and when business slowed down during the Great Depression, Frank added ice cream, candy, roasted peanuts and cigars. During the Depression, Frank opened on Sunday's - something that was not tolerated in the Dutch community. But Frank reasoned that a number of bachelors and/or widowers in town had no place to eat on Sunday's. And in order to be open in Zeeland on Sunday's, Frank had to sell food. At first Mary made sandwiches for the patrons, but in 1940 Frank installed a flat top grill to serve burgers. He quickly garnered the reputation for having some of best burgers around.
Frank's became a teen hangout soon thereafter. In 1960, Frank and Mary retired and sold the business to their son, Frank, Jr., and his wife, Pat. Frank, Jr. installed pinball machines and other arcade games and Frank's became the hot place to be in Zeeland. Things changed over the years as Frank's isn't the teen hangout any longer, they're no longer open on Sunday's and they open at 4:30 a.m. Monday thru Saturday for breakfast.
Frank Dionise, Jr. was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the mid-80's and his son, Dan, came in to run the business. Dan met an untimely end to his life in 2008 and his mother Pat and her grandson, Shane Hammer, run the business today.
We got into Zeeland just after 9 a.m. and found a place to park just down the street from Frank's. It was a cool and blustery morning and we soon found that we were woefully under-dressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirts with no jackets . We entered Frank's, found a table in the brightly lit little restaurant and we noticed right away that we were, by far, the youngest people in the busy restaurant. Two large tables of older men were filled in the back. A couple three of booths near the men were also filled with older men having coffee. We sat at a table in between two tables of older ladies having morning coffee. Our young waitress, Jess, came over to greet us. Actually, SHE was the youngest person in the place, but we were certainly the youngest customers in the restaurant.
There were a number of old pictures on the wall along with a number of Coca-Cola signs and memorabilia. The lunch counter looked like it was something directly out of the 40's and 50's with an art deco decor and stools with Frank's logo on top. In fact, the tables all had Frank's logo on the top of them, as well.
We looked over the menu at Frank's and, of course, they tout their burgers as being the "best around". But they also had regular breakfast items such as eggs and omelets, French toast and pancakes, as well as regular sandwiches like BLT's, chicken sandwiches, and grilled ham and cheese. But it was just after 9 a.m. and I wanted to try a burger. They have a number of burgers on the menu at Frank's and some of them were rather intriguing. One burger is called the Olive burger as they put an olive spread on the burger. They also have a sauerkraut burger where they put kraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing on the burger. Frank's features a Philly burger with sauteed onions, green peppers, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. And they also have something called the Ranch burger with American cheese, ranch dressing and tomato on top. But they also had a mushroom/Swiss cheese burger and I immediately got hungry for one of those.
When she came back around to take our order, I asked Jess if it was too early to get a burger and she said she had to go check with the cook. She came back and said, "Yep! That's fine!" I ordered the mushroom/Swiss cheese burger and I still wanted to get an egg with some bacon to go along with it on the side. Cindy ordered a light breakfast of an egg sandwich with a side of hash browns.
About a minute after we'd ordered, Jess came back and suggested that I get the breakfast brunch burger - something that was not on the menu. She said, "We put a fried egg and bacon on top of the burger patty." Although it was tempting, but I stuck with the mushroom/Swiss burger with an egg and bacon on the side.
Not long after we ordered, our food made it to the table. The burger was wrapped in some wax paper and was heaving with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. I couldn't pull the top bun off the burger because it was literally fused to the top of the burger by the cheese. The burger, itself, was hand-pattied and it smelled really good. There's just something about the smell and taste of a burger on an old flat griddle.
And the burger wasn't bad in the least. It wasn't the best I've had, but it was good. There was almost too much Swiss cheese on the burger, but it was still pretty damn good. It's easy to see why people in the area have been flocking to Frank's for their burgers for over 70 years.
Cindy's egg sandwich was pretty non-descript, but they did give her an ample amount of hash browns which she told me were very good. I made pretty quick work of my fried egg and munched on the somewhat crisp bacon, putting a piece of bacon on the burger to give it an even better taste. The burger was definitely above average, that's for sure.
With drinks for Cindy and I, the bill came to just over $15 bucks at Frank's. By this time, a number of "coffee-klatchers" were trying to pay their bill. I didn't want to wait in line, so I got out a $20 bill and handed it to Jess with our bill and thanked her. She did a good job waiting on us, even joking that we were probably the quietest people in the place. "It can get pretty wild in here sometimes," she said as she looked back at one of the large tables of men. "Those guys can get pretty darn loud." Frank's was a good little find in Zeeland. The burger, even at 9 a.m., was good and there was a great Americana/small town atmosphere to the place. We'd go back to Frank's if we had the chance.