A new kind of Breakfast Club

Published 10:22 am Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Rios Brothers and the staff at Frankie’s Breakfast Club. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

The Rios Brothers and the staff at Frankie’s Breakfast Club. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

The newest addition to the cuisine scene in Benton Harbor is Frankie’s Breakfast Club, located at 325 W. Main St. From the sound of it, the family-owned restaurant has received a warm welcome from the surrounding community.

“A lot of the business people that are established now, they tell me, ‘We’re going to be coming here because we want to support you so that you can stay,’ said owner Pedro Rios. “So, I think they are teaming up, trying to help each other, so that this community does grow.”

Rios and his eldest son, also named Pedro, share that sentiment, expressing the desire to support their new neighbors as well.

“That’s the neat thing about it — whether Benton Harbor grows or not — because people are supporting each other here,” said the younger Rios. “If I want some art, I’m not going to go to Hobby Lobby. I’m going to go to this guy right here, and buy it there. And give him more business, and everybody does that, not just me.”

The culture of mutual community support doesn’t stop at the Bicentennial Bridge.

“We’re getting a lot of people from St. Joe, the courthouse, businesses down there, and they like our food. I think they are, in part, supporting Benton Harbor, too,” said the elder Rios.

Frankie’s Breakfast Club, named after another of the elder Rios’ sons, offers an extensive menu full of traditionally-prepared American breakfast favorites, including eggs to order, breakfast sandwiches, omelets, skillets, pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Lunch offerings include clubs and other sandwiches, burgers, salads and soups.

Diners who seek something a little spicier can order Mexican specialties like huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos, and many of the ingredients for these dishes are made in-house, like the chorizo and salsa verde.

“We opened on Dec. 6th. It was a Friday, and business has been better than we expected. As of now, the only way we’ve promoted it is with that little marquee out there on the side of the road,” said the younger Rios. “And it’s been pretty busy. We haven’t even done Facebook.”

One reason that Frankie’s Breakfast Club has been so busy may be the desire on the part of the owners to give customers what they want.

“We try to do as much as we can. We try to deal with the customers, talk to you, ask ‘How are you doing? My name is Pedro,’” said the elder Rios. “We want to get to know you guys and ask you what you would like because we’re here for the community. There’s no way that I can come here and say, ‘This is what I’m going to sell. If it works, fine.’ No, we need to know what the needs of the community are. So, we ask customers what they think, what they like, and so far, they’ve liked everything. They were waiting for a breakfast shop in Benton Harbor.”

Additional reasons for Frankie’s early popularity may be the family’s adaptability as well as the wealth of restaurant experience that they have gained as the owners of Rios Premium Mexican Cuisine.

“We have one in Stevensville, one in New Buffalo, one in Michigan City and one in Portage right now,” said the younger Rios. “This was going to be the fifth one.”

“At the last minute, we said, ‘Nope, it’s not going to work,’ explained the elder Rios. “So, we decided to just do breakfast, and implement a few of our items that we sell there, the most popular ones, like burritos, tacos and quesadillas, for the lunch menu.”

“We went to serving breakfast here because there’s not a lot of traffic here in the evening,” said the younger Rios. “There are no cars coming through here after 6 p.m.”

While the restaurant currently serves breakfast and lunch every day from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., that may change in the future.

“We may stay open later, depending on what happens,” the elder Rios said.

And, when the snows have disappeared, the owners plan to expand the dining options.

“We will have as much outside dining in the summer as we can. We have a patio over on the side of the building where we can fit six or eight tables,” said the elder Rios.

One source of inspiration for the elder Rios has been Tony Mamouzellos, owner of the Galley Grill in Stevensville, Mich.

“The people at the Galley Grill in Stevensville have helped us so much. They have good food, Greek food. I asked the owner if he could give us some input from his restaurant and how he’s doing it, and he took us right in and helped us out,” the elder Rios said. “Tony helped me as a person to be able to take that decision to go with breakfast, and I’m happy we did.”

“For me, it’s always exciting to open up a new place,” the elder Rios said. “And, we have wonderful staff at all of our locations.”