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Ringside Franks and Shakes restaurant review, Sandy Springs

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In our current age of culinary recycling, otherwise affordable classics routinely get the “chef treatment” — they are re-imagined, gussied up and sold at a premium. However, sometimes there is something to be said for the classics done classically right.

The latest of these comfort foods to earn the foreboding title of the next “trend” is the hot dog, made all the more believable by the opening of HD1 earlier this year. But there is nothing trendy about the unassuming Ringside Franks and Shakes, opened this fall on the border of Sandy Springs and Buckhead.

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson

Behind Ringside is Jeremy Kelly, who, after 12 years with the Fellini’s chain, enlisted Fellini’s/La Fonda owners Mike Nelson and Clay Harper to partner with him on his new venture. I’m not privy to Nelson and Harper’s level of daily involvement with Ringside, but I never set foot inside without seeing Kelly in the kitchen or behind the counter. He is quick to help newcomers navigate the menu, and it takes only a few moments of speaking with him to notice his passion for his ingredients.

Having sampled nearly all of the hot dogs served in the Atlanta area, I know firsthand that very few shops actually make their own dogs in house. Most are imported from New York, such as Sabrett’s or Sahlen’s dogs. Although Kelly does not make his own, he at least keeps it local by sourcing most of his franks from Wienerz Butcher Shop & Deli in Marietta.

Aficionados will appreciate the all-too-important “snap” of the natural casings on Wienerz’ beef franks. Ringside grills the dogs and buns prior to serving, giving them a nice char and extra layer of flavor.

Chicago Dog- Neon relish, tomato, pickle onions, sport pepper and celery salt. (BECKY STEIN/special)

Chicago Dog- Neon relish, tomato, pickle onions, sport pepper and celery salt. (BECKY STEIN/special)

Ringside’s menu is a simple build-it-yourself job, where you pick your frank and assemble the toppings of your choice from there. Portions are hardy, and one dog should be plenty for most diners. You begin with an all-natural beef frank ($3.75), beer bratwurst ($3.95), spicy chicken sausage ($3.95), or the veggie frank ($3.95).

Kelly also regularly rotates a special frank onto the menu, such as the currently featured Vidalia onion brat ($4.25). Many of the standard toppings – ketchup, mustard, diced onions and relish – are complimentary, and Ringside boasts at least 11 premium toppings ranging from 35 to 75 cents.

Although the official menu has no “specialty” dogs, Kelly took note of some of the more popular toppings combinations and posted an additional handwritten menu over the register to help the undecided. Prominently displayed is the always-popular Chicago dog ($5.35), a beef frank topped with neon green relish, diced onions, tomatoes, pickled sport peppers, a dill pickle spear and celery salt. This heaping mound of toppings was a messy one to eat, but should satisfy the most discerning of Chicagoans.

Beer Bratwurst- onions and spicy mustard. (BECKY STEIN/special)

Beer Bratwurst- onions and spicy mustard. (BECKY STEIN/special)

Another winning combination on the list is the beef frank topped with the startlingly bright purple jalapeno slaw and pimento cheese ($5.25). Not surprisingly, the combination of the house-made chili and coleslaw ($5.25) made the menu of crowd favorites as well.

While I enjoy a sloppy stack of toppings as much as the next person, I found that I enjoy the more sparsely topped dogs, as the flavor of the franks tends to shine through. Try a beef frank topped with spicy mustard and New York onions ($4.10). The onions, cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce, complement the frank well and do not overwhelm the taste or feel of the meat.

Perhaps it is my carnivorous bias shining through, but my wife was much more enthused about her veggie frank topped with ketchup and diced onions ($3.95) than I. Although the flavor was close enough to the real thing, without any natural casing it lacks the texture of the other franks. However, it works as a veggie-friendly substitute for those looking for it.

With only four flavors to choose from, the milkshakes feel like an afterthought; more of a footnote on the menu than the signage would have you believe. Both the chocolate and strawberry shakes ($2.99) that I tasted were good, and certainly worth a try, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Sides are also sparse, limited to Zapp’s potato chips ($1.75), coleslaw ($1.95), chili ($1.95) or fries ($2.00). The hand-cut fries arrive crispy and lightly seasoned with a subtle sweetness to them that contrasts the saltiness without being too sugary.

For hot dog lovers in the area, Ringside Franks and Shakes offers an affordable and satisfying place for a no-frills, quality dog experience.

RINGSIDE FRANKS AND SHAKES
4441 Roswell Road, Atlanta, 404-303-8525
2stars5Food: As advertised: Snappy franks and good shakes without frills
Service: Friendly and prompt
Best dishes: Chicago dog, chili-slaw dog and fries
Vegetarian selections: Limited to the veggie frank and most toppings
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon.-11 p.m. Sundays
Children: Welcome
Parking: Sufficient, but can get tight as it shares a lot with Fellini’s and La Fonda
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: Yes, covered
Takeout: Yes

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26 comments Add your comment

Rodney

January 5th, 2012
10:47 am

Jon, this is a perfect example of why I read the AJC food blogs … I had NO idea this joint was affiliated with Fellini’s/LaFonda. I live very near Ringside and I have to admit I avoided it like the plague prior to today. I figured it was just another chain of something I’d not heard of.

But I’ll give them a try now that I know it’s local!

Grasshopper

January 5th, 2012
1:34 pm

That beer-brat is making my mouth water!

victor

January 5th, 2012
2:50 pm

Not a Chi-dawg if its not on poppy seed bun. The grill marks does nothing for the dry buns. 1 star is more like it.

skinny john

January 5th, 2012
3:03 pm

i have eaten there a few times and i can tell you, its the best hot dog in town. the fries were a nice change from the ore idas of the world, and the pimiento cheese dog is unbelievble. hope they stick around for a long time.

Victor

January 5th, 2012
3:24 pm

kiel h

January 5th, 2012
5:02 pm

been to ringside 5-6 times and it has been great every time. jon is spot on about the pimento cheese and coleslaw dog, i had it on the beer brat last time and it was ridiculously good. easily, it is the best hot dog in town.

With Vic

January 5th, 2012
8:37 pm

Not a Chi-town guy, but I’m with Vic, a Chicago dog needs to be on a poppy-seed bun. Jon, how would you stack it up against Barkers’?

MarieLetsEat

January 6th, 2012
7:06 am

Now that America’s Top Dog has sadly left us, Ringside moves up into my local top three hot dog places. Their fries really are good, too.

Rita

January 6th, 2012
8:13 am

America’s Top Dog in Chamblee has been closed for months!! How often do you check your reviews? The number in the paper today is of the original owner that sold the business last summer-he said the people that bought it skipped town and still owe him money…

MarieLetsEat

January 6th, 2012
2:47 pm

Rita, while the Chamblee store indeed closed some time ago, the second, Gwinnett, location of America’s Top Dog shuttered only on Dec. 23, just two weeks ago.

WhitHot

January 6th, 2012
4:54 pm

No one has had a hot dog until they have been blessed with a White Hot from upstate NY. Delicious.

dog gone it

January 6th, 2012
4:56 pm

I sure hope it is better than the varsity! I do not like the varisity. i will give it a chance. thanks for the info!

Theron Sapp

January 6th, 2012
5:05 pm

Nice review. One note: the headline is erroneous. Ringside is in the fine city of Atlanta, by about 500 feet. Not Sandy Springs.

CJ

January 6th, 2012
5:24 pm

Been here quite a few times and love it. Brats are great, toppings fantastic, and the people are very friendly.

Dave

January 6th, 2012
5:41 pm

Sounds pricey unless the dogs are really good quarter-pounders. And, Sabretts makes a really good hot dog.

Dave

January 6th, 2012
5:44 pm

And, if America’s Top Dog is a standard, Atlanta’s hot dog bar needs to be set much higher.

Fred

January 6th, 2012
5:53 pm

Rodney

January 5th, 2012
10:47 am

Jon, this is a perfect example of why I read the AJC food blogs … I had NO idea this joint was affiliated with Fellini’s/LaFonda. I live very near Ringside and I have to admit I avoided it like the plague prior to today. I figured it was just another chain of something I’d not heard of.

But I’ll give them a try now that I know it’s local!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Really? You can’t try a freaking hotdog unless your puppet master gives it an ok? And Fellini’s? They aren’t even good pizza. Tell me how that dog crap that is next on the menu tastes. No don’t. I don’t care how you cook it or what you mix it with, dog crap will still be dog crap, DESPITE what some paid off food reviewer says.

jimmersn

January 6th, 2012
6:10 pm

drop dead fred, if you don’t have anything nice to say except some generic dog crap fetish commentary, then don’t type anything at all…….read on and shut up,

knowlesrules

January 7th, 2012
3:49 pm

I stumbled on this place a few weeks ago. It is fantastic. The brat and chili dog are well worth a drive. The owner is very friendly and helpful.

Rik Roberts

January 7th, 2012
4:01 pm

Fred, I was gonna say the same thing. If the idea of going in and checking out a place on your own is not appealing, then it shouldn’t make it more appealing to know it’s not a chain. Unless, of course, it makes you feel like some hipster locavore.

Chuck

January 7th, 2012
5:52 pm

Fred, Sorry, this is a wannabe, It’s not a Chi-dog without a poppyseed bun and Vienna Beef hot dog. The only place I know to get one is the Gazebo on I-85 and Exit 1 in SC on Lake Hartwell. And $5.35 ??? They cost under $2.00. at the Gazebo. Stop out and try a good taste of Chicago.

w in marietta

January 7th, 2012
6:12 pm

Enter your comments here

w in marietta

January 7th, 2012
6:16 pm

I bought some brats at that deli last year, was assured that they would be better then the brats I had when stationed in Germany…ate part of one and threw them rest away…go to Patek’s Meats for REAL brats/bacon/chops!!!

Bozo

January 8th, 2012
10:29 am

It’s a hot dog. Ho-hum.

Diego

January 9th, 2012
6:19 pm

Smashburger’s burgers are OK, have not tried their dogs but their music sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jedi Mind Trickster

January 11th, 2012
3:50 pm

Ringside is an awesome little place! For Fred, relax dude… People have their own ways to do things. If someone wants to see what a food blog recommends before trying a new place out, then so be it. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies. Clearly yours include bashing people’s comments on food blogs. Hmmm… but I can’t say anything, because I am doing that right now :) And for you Chuck. That Chicago style dog that Ringside offers made it because of the demand for it. It may not be an all original Chi-dog because it doesn’t have a poppyseed bun and they don’t serve it with your ever so small Vienna beef that has who knows what fillers in it. But guess what… ask them to drop a Vienna frank (which lowers the price too) instead of the amazing hot dog they would normally offer, and they will! It may not be Burger King, but you can get it as close to your way as you would like! And $5.35 for the Chicago Dog isn’t bad when you are getting a huge hot dog that is all natural meat that has no additives, preservatives, fillers and all the toppings that come on it. For most businesses to stay afloat, they do have to charge for some things in order to pay for everyday items, bills, taxes, pay the employees, and provide the free services that most individuals tend to overlook and take for granted in most restaurants. They offer plenty of free toppings while also giving you a place to park and sit, a clean eating environment, napkins to wipe your mouth, a restroom to use if nature happens to call during your visit, and great customer service from some hard working individuals! So if cheap is your game, enjoy your little Vienna frank from wherever… but paying a little extra for quality is sometimes worth it. And 5-6 bucks really isn’t much. Some places that can offer things for cheap could possibly be cutting corners in the areas where it matters. Not saying that anyone is. I have worked in restaurants for years and that is something I personally don’t want to risk. Check out “Kitchen Confidential” or “Waiter Rant” for some in depth views into the industry. But back to what this comment originally was all about… This place is super chill!!! Far from the “hipster” vibe HD1 gives off and personally, tastes are better overall too. The Bratwurst with sauerkraut and Veggie with jalapeno coleslaw are my favorites! And to treat myself even more.. a mixed chocolate/strawberry shake. Yummy! Love the relaxed atmosphere (great patio) and everyone is super friendly! Fingers crossed for Ringside!! Two thumbs up!!!