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Wall art complements unique dog styles

Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace has as much to offer your eyes as it does your stomach.

Opened this year as the fourth restaurant in Elizabeth Lessner’s growing local business, it features artwork by her brother, Thom Lessner, for its interior decoration.

In addition to Chicago-style hot dogs, Dirty Frank’s offers items such as cheddar fries, slushies and macaroni and cheese. This matches the spirit of Thom Lessner’s artwork, which depicts the colorful rock stars and baseball players of the 1980s.

“If you think about how ridiculous cheese fries, tater tots and hot dogs are, it’s just as ridiculous as the paintings on the wall,” he said. “Like with David Lee Roth, I love that guy so much. He’s so ridiculous and outrageous, but I love him for it, and hot dogs are basically the same thing. They’re disgusting, but they’re so awesome.”

Like Elizabeth Lessner’s other restaurants, Surly Girl Saloon, Betty’s Food and Spirits, and Tip Top Kitchen, the design of Dirty Frank’s had to be both memorable and cheap.

“We were working on a shoestring budget, so we weren’t able to get exactly what we wanted all the time. We had to improvise a lot and build things from scraps we found in thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales,” Elizabeth Lessner said in an e-mail.

Each of Elizabeth Lessner’s other restaurants has something in common with one of her family members.

“Betty’s is bold, feminist, daring, mischievous and fun, very much like my sister,” Elizabeth Lessner said. “Surly Girl Saloon is often described as my alter ego. My brother [Tim] co-owns Tip Top Kitchen and helped design it, so it resembles a lot of his tastes and style.”

So when it came time to decorate Dirty Frank’s, it was natural to turn to her younger brother Thom. He is an artist and musician who used to be a staple of the Columbus art scene and now resides in Philadelphia, working at the artist collective Space 1026.

At first, Thom had problems with the large space and the freedom to do anything he wanted.

“Options freak me out,” he said.

But after two anxiety-filled days, his sister came to the rescue.

“My sister was like just get a grip, get over yourself,” Thom Lessner said. “I believe in you. I want this to be you — this is your restaurant, too. She hired me to make it look like how I wanted it to and not to do it for anybody else, which is such a cool thing.”

One of the issues that he dealt with was the difference between designing a room for a family audience and designing a piece for an art gallery.

But only his bloody painting of the rock star Andrew W.K made him waver when he was deciding what to put up in Dirty Frank’s.

“I don’t have kids and I don’t have a family that is cautious about that kind of stuff,” Thom Lessner said. “But I understand that it could be, and I understand it is a business and you adapt to people’s taste. Put out your own thing but also make it marketable, and you’ll have a good business then.”

Dirty Frank’s is located in downtown Columbus at 248 S. Fourth St.
If you are having trouble finding it, Thom Lessner said, remember it is the one that “looks like a 14-year-old boy’s teenage bedroom.”

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