Felony Franks and other restaurants help ex-cons help you

If nobody hires ex-cons, then we shouldn’t be shocked when they return to lives of crime. So, for the good of Chicago, go pick up a couple of hotdogs at Felony Franks. James Andrews, who owns the West Side dog joint, makes it a point to hire people who have done time, seeing it as a service to a community that’s been struggling with crime for quite a while. There has been some pushback from the community, but Andrews stands by his mission.

The menu is pretty straightforward: hotdogs, sausages, steak sandwiches and French fries – the real deal, from raw potatoes. Orders are take from behind bulletproof glass (common in the neighborhood, unfortunately), but in the spirit of fun, customers are asked, “Are you ready to plead your case?” Also, an adaptation f the Miranda warning hangs on the wall, proclaiming your “right to remain hungry” – as if you’d want to!

If you’re jonesing for a “Misdemeanor Wiener” but don’t live in Chicago, there are restaurants around the country that help the recently released start fresh.

West Coast
Delancey Street: this San Francisco eatery is run by a foundation that helps ex-cons, drug addicts and the homeless get back on their feet.

East Coast
Mates Inn: the Trenton, New Jersey joint is on the state corrections department’s campus.

Andrews must be doing something right. Since opening, sales have reached $30,000 a month, and more than a thousand former inmates have applied for jobs.


Pyongyang gets a “taste” of capitalism

North Korea, the reclusive Communist state, is always reluctant to try something new. The government controls information tightly, as anyone who has read updates from the Korea Central News Agency can see. But, occasionally, a fissure forms in the barriers that separate the most remote country on Earth from the rest of the world. And now, the people who are slowly developing a taste for pizza and beer are taking a look at burgers and fries.

Pyongyang is now home to North Korea’s first fast food restaurant, where the locals can scarf down the same grub that’s made so many Americans overweight … though rampant poverty is unlikely to allow the nation supersize overnight. Named Samtaesong, the place pairs kimchi with burgers, fries and waffles. Beer, a local fave, is available on tap. There are plans to add croissants and hot dogs to the menu – a natural combo – and to open up other locations in the country’s capital.

The food isn’t cheap, according to the North Korean media outlet Choson Sinbo (which is based in Tokyo. A hamburger will set you back $1.70, which is more than half what the average North Korean earns in a day. Fortunately, Pyongyang is home to the country’s wealthiest citizens (so much for the Communist objective of financial equality), so they can afford to eat fast food.

There are other signs of capitalism encroaching on Kim Jong Il’s turf. He was reported to have visited a convenience store recently, though accounts stop just short of whether Apu invited him to “come again!” The Dear Leader did pick up five bottles of a Korean liquor known as “makgeolli” and other drinks.

Fast food, convenience stores … this is starting to prove something I’ve believed for quite a while. Future wars will not be won with armored divisions and air strikes. Instead, ambition, taste and style – the nuts and bolts of capitalism – will yield victory and create foundations for freedom around the world. While I hate to give Puff Daddy P. Diddy Diddy Sean John Combs his due, it really is “all about the Bejamins.”

A successful free enterprise, of course, requires that customers be willing to come back to more. Well, Samtaesong is already on the right track, having had its first satisfied customer, George Bottomley. But, that’s not such a big deal – his only reference point is the food back in Britain.