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An Encased Meat Is No Prisoner: Felony Franks Returning in January to Oak Park

Hot dog joint owner wants to continue to rehabilitate felon employees.

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Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Ketchup lovers aren't the only criminals at Felony Franks, the shuttered hot dog stand that gives felons gainful employment as they reacclimate to life out of prison.

While the father-son team of Jim and Deno Andrews aimed to help those down their luck, their employees' pasts made Felony Franks a controversial subject. Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward), whose tactics are detailed in this Tribune opinion piece, forced the 2012 closure of the hot dog at Western Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. Fioretti just wasn't a fan of sausage humor, including Felony's Misdemeanor Wiener.

But come January, Felony Franks is set to return. Deno Andrews says he expects to open a new restaurant in the first week of the New Year at 6427 W. North Ave. in Oak Park.

"Technically it's right across from it's not that huge of a culture shock to be out of the city," Andrews said.

Along with business partner Stephen Lee, the younger Andrews wants to strip down the menu and focus on higher-quality items. They're making their own relish in house and even catering to a healthier crowd with salads. They're debating adding the traditional Chicago beef to the menu, but they will have hand-cut fries and Red Hot Chicago franks.

"Our goal is to serve really, really high-quality fast food," Andrews said.

There may be a franchising opportunities in 18 months, Andrews said. The Oak Park space will seat about 25.

There's also a renewed commitment to helping those incarcerated ease back into society. Andrews wants to hire financial planners who will hold seminars for his workers.

"Our mission is that we want to be able to help get this group of people back on their feet," Andrews said. "We understand that the restaurant business may not be their desire to spend the rest of the careers, often it's their last resort for citizens returning from incarceration, but it's important to give them some life training."

The Oak Park government and community have supported this venture, Andrews said, adding that he doesn't hold any animosity against the city of Chicago. He can see Felony Franks returning to Chicago, just not in Fioretti's 2nd Ward.

"I would go to an alderman who was a little bit more friendly to businesses," Andrews said.