The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Elaine T. Cicora. Photography was provided courtesy of Eisenberg Gourmet Beef Franks.
Sauerkraut, sport peppers, mustard, chili, onions, pickles or good ol’ ketchup: No matter what you put on your summertime dog, it’s only as good as the ingredients that go into it.
That’s the guiding principal behind Eisenberg Gourmet Beef Franks, hefty quarter-pound dogs crafted from a secret family recipe that emphasizes pure, meaty flavors and eschews corn syrup, MSG, phosphates, fillers and byproducts. Made from select cuts of domestic, USDA-approved beef, with a savory flavor profile that transcends regional preferences, these skinless franks have been carefully designed to be delicious – firm, juicy, with a pleasant snap – whether grilled, steamed or boiled. No surprise, then, to learn that they are best sellers in movie theaters, country clubs, arenas and golf courses across the country.
Fortunately for Northeast Ohio’s dog lovers, Eisenberg’s gourmet franks are also available at Heinen’s; the grocer is the company’s only retail partner in the region.
There are good reasons to seek out these franks. The Eisenberg family has a long and venerable history in the meat industry, dating back to 1967, when founder Marvin Eisenberg purchased Chicago’s Kelly Corned Beef. “At the time, Kelly was basically one employee and a storefront,” says Cliff Eisenberg, Marvin’s son and retired CEO of the family business. But humble beginnings notwithstanding, Marvin had the insight and determination to achieve his vision: to develop a premium corned beef product that he could sell to restaurants and delis throughout the Midwest.
Cliff joined the family business in 1986; his brother, Howard, came on board a few years later. Together, the second-generation siblings expanded into sausage making and launched their line of Eisenberg gourmet franks in 1993. They did so with an eye toward emerging opportunities.
First, says Cliff, “We saw that hot dogs tended to be a regional product. And we also saw that, in the 1980s and 90s, those regional businesses were being acquired by Fortune 500 companies, and the quality was suffering.”
Secondly, and perhaps even more perceptively, the brothers also sensed that the country’s palate was maturing, and that Americans were on the verge of awakening to more elevated flavors and high-end quality.
Convinced that the time was right to introduce a premium product into the category – an all-beef hot dog made without phosphates, fillers or additives – Cliff and Howard got down to business. “We attempted to elevate the product,” he says. “We worked on developing a flavor profile we thought would transcend regional preferences, to create a hotdog that people would love to eat, whether they were in California or New York.”
Believing that most hotdogs were overly sweetened or overly smoked, in order to hide their less-than-appealing tastes, the brothers removed corn syrup and sweeteners from their product and let the natural flavors – garlic, paprika, and of course the beefy goodness – shine through. “We wanted something better,” says Cliff. “We wanted people to say, ‘Wow! This tastes really good!’ And, knock on wood, it worked.
“That’s what has made this product so viable.”
In 2010, Cliff’s daughter Dana became the third generation to join the business; today, Dana works as manager of business development. While Eisenberg was purchased by Massachusetts-based Home Market Foods in 2017, the family recipes, values and involvement have remained constant, she says. “Home Market Foods has the same high level of quality and customer service as Eisenberg. Everything has been status quo.”
That commitment to quality and the customer experience is something that Eisenberg also shares with Heinen’s, where the relationship goes back nearly a decade. “We had learned that Heinen’s was looking for a premium hot dog to sell individually, in the deli case,” recalls Cliff. “They began by carrying our super-premium quarter-pound Black-Angus hot dog; and because that was doing so well, they came to us for a packaged product they could put in the refrigerated meat case. We worked very hard to come up with something unique for them,” he adds. “The result is a package of eight jumbo, premium-quality, quarter-pound franks that can only be found at Heinen’s.”
“We’ve been really thrilled with our relationship with Heinen’s,” Cliff concludes. “Heinen’s has always positioned itself as a high-end operation, so we have been very proud to tell people they can find our products there.”
The two-pound eight-packs of Eisenberg Gourmet Franks are available in your local Heinen’s refrigerated Meat Case; the individual Black-Angus Sirloin Steak Franks can be found in the Deli.
Give Eisenberg’s delicious gourmet beef franks at try with this summer-inspired Grilled Street Corn Hot Dog recipe.