Gourmet hot-dog cart rolls into town

SURE, Culver City gadabouts are cooing over the passatelli in brodo at Fraîche or are eagerly awaiting the opening of Father’s Office for their burger fix, but devout dog fans are lined up at the cheery red and yellow cart parked on the pedestrian-only stretch of Helms Avenue. The draw? Grilled-to-order “grass-fed dogs” served up with heaps of caramelized onions on soft, buttery buns.

Chalk it up to a former Chez Panisse meat forager (a fancy name for meat buyer). Sue Moore’s hot dogs are made from free-range, grass-fed beef sourced from Hearst Ranch in San Simeon. Moore, co-owner of San Francisco-based Let’s Be Frank, got the idea for the “dogs gone good” while working at Alice Waters’ renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. “Alice is a big grass-fed fan and was buying two head of cattle every other week,” Moore says. “I wanted to use all the trimmings because this stuff was so good.”

Moore teamed with Larry Bain, formerly of Acme Steakhouse in the San Francisco Giants ballpark, to develop a nitrate-free grass-fed beef frank. “We went through dozens before we came up with the best flavor combo,” she says. The winner was a dog lightly spiced with garlic and paprika in a lamb casing. Judging by the website ( photo of Waters noshing on the signature frank, she deemed it the winner too.

While Ol’ Blue Eyes belts out “My Kind of Town” through the iPod speakers perched on her cart, Moore scoops up a dog and settles it into a lightly grilled bun. “What about Larry’s homemade pickled Padrone peppers?” she asks a customer. “It’s the last of them, so after today it’ll probably be bread and butters -- if I can find the time to make them.”

This spring they’ll park a cart on the Santa Monica Pier for the outdoor concert and movie series, doling out beef franks, a pork brat and a half-beef, half-pork “pup dog.”

Two years ago, Moore and Bain set up their first cart outside AT&T Park on game days, another in Crissy Field on weekends. When Moore drove a cart full of dogs to L.A. for “a dog-crazy friend’s party” in the fall, she heard the Helms Furniture District was renting street vendor space. Four months later, she and Bain drove a cart to L.A. (for now, she mans the L.A. cart; he runs the San Francisco operation). Why L.A.? “We’re a weather-permitting business, and, well, it rains a lot in San Francisco,” she says.

-- Jenn Garbee

Small bites

* New York transplant BondSt restaurant has opened in the Thompson hotel with executive chef Eric Gordon preparing Cal-Japanese dishes and sushi chef Hiroshi Nakahara at the sushi bar.

Thompson Beverly Hills, 9360 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 601-2255,

* Coffee roaster LA Mill has opened its Silver Lake coffee “boutique,” with a Providence-designed menu and specialty drinks created by the house “coffee savant.” The “other” caffeine fix: Pinkberry says one serving of its newest coffee fro-yo flavor has about the same caffeine as a cup o’ joe.

LA Mill, 1636 Silverlake Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 663-4441,

All Pinkberry locations,

* Mixologist Albert Trummer has left Fraîche to open his own New York bar, Apotheke, and says he plans to open a Los Angeles cocktail lounge within the next year.

* Kokomo Café in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax has lost its lease and will close on Feb. 1. Fried catfish fans can still get their fix when the restaurant reopens in the former Eat Well Beverly coffee shop in February.

7385 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 933-0773.