When Frank Harris got married and moved to Augusta from Chicago a few years ago, he learned many Augustans were not familiar with authentic Chicago cuisine. It gave him the idea for a business.
Last year, he and his wife, LaTina Harris, opened Frankie’s: A Taste of Chicago, at 201 Shartom Drive in Augusta.
“I used to have two places like this in Chicago. I never knew that Augusta didn’t have the same types of food as Chicago,” Frank said.
Frankie’s will soon move to 4314 Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown to provide more seating. The restaurant, which has two employees plus the owners, will expand to 10 workers.
“People want to sit down and enjoy our food, versus getting it to go,” LaTina said.
Harris said he didn’t consider opening a restaurant in Augusta until his wife tasted her first Chicago cheesesteak and made the suggestion. He was convinced after seeing the reaction of his stepchildren and others to food he brought back from trips to Chicago. Soon, he was taking orders for all types of items, from pizza puffs and rib tips to hot links and hoagies.
“Each time I went to Chicago, I’d bring back more and more. It just went from there,” Harris said.
New to the restaurant industry, LaTina Harris spent the past 25 years as owner and operator of childcare facilities. She still operates four after-school programs in Aiken County called School Time.
She learned how to cook in order to help the restaurant. They hired a Chicago native to come down and teach the staff.
Frankie’s also serves giardiniera peppers, for which customers place special orders. Frank travels to Chicago twice a month for inventory.
“We’re really trying to give people something different here,” he said.
Chicago natives, including soldiers at Fort Gordon, love to dine at Frankie’s. As a Mother’s Day gift this year, a woman’s family drove her three hours to dine at the restaurant, LaTina Harris said.
“Based on the feedback from customers, we really look to expand. We’ve had people come from Aiken and North Augusta and ask us to open a Frankie’s there,” she said.
The Harrises are rebuilding from an October house fire, but this hasn’t stopped them from moving forward with their restaurant expansion. They said they owe their success to their loyal employees, who have kept the restaurant operating while they dealt with their home.
Frank Harris said he is feeling at home in the South and enjoys Augusta’s weather and Southern hospitality.
“There’s a lot of nice people here,” he said.