Frank Macias at times seems a bit surprised by his success. All the while, he is confident in the skills and vision that took him down a road from food truck operator to restaurateur with a plan for the future.
The owner of Frankie Flav’z in Harlingen, Macias’s first job was flipping burgers at McDonald’s when he was 16. He bounced around from eatery to eatery until he was 22, when he switched gears to become an assistant golf pro at a small course in the Rio Grande Valley. It was there he got hooked on watching the Food Network.
It was during this period he met his wife Cindy. Her career as a nurse got Macias thinking about the healthcare field and he started taking prerequisite courses for the nursing program at Texas State Technical College. But his love of food was never far from his heart. When he began fixing nice lunches for Cindy, other nurses began asking if he would cook for them, too.
What started as fixing a few lunches every Friday quickly grew as his food gained a following at the hospital. “All of a sudden I was doing multiple floors and cooking lunches for doctors,” Macias said. “It started with about 20 orders every week and went to 120 orders. And most of what I was doing I learned from watching the Food Network at the golf course.”
The pursuit of a nursing degree was pushed to the side and Macias enrolled in the TSTC Culinary Arts program. From there, he teamed up with his brother-in-law, Chris Ramos, and decided to open the Frankie Flav’z food truck in 2015.
“I decided to open a food truck because there really weren’t any true food trucks here at the time,” he said. “A lot of people were opening food trucks but unfortunately many of them faded away.”
The popularity of his food truck grew and he was invited to Waco as an entrant in a large food truck competition. “We were lucky enough to be invited,” Macias said. “We didn’t place but it was great to put my food up against others. I met a lot of talented people and some of them are good friends today.”
Running a food truck is a tough business, and Macias knew he had to find other ways to make a living from his food. “There were weeks we didn’t make a dollar, just break even, break even.” In May 2017 he opened the Frankie Flav’z restaurant in downtown Harlingen, still with his brother-in-law, whom he calls his “backbone,” at his side. “We wouldn’t have made it this far without him.”
Macias designed the restaurant’s menu around the food truck’s most popular item, his El Jefe Cubano sandwich, added more varieties of Frankie Flav’z burgers and folded in appetizers, tacos and other sandwiches to round out the offerings. With his food truck reputation preceding him, business took off. “I didn’t know we would blow up like this,” he said. “I just wanted to make a good burger.”
Today, he is working on Frankie Flav’z Craft Burger House, a new eatery in Harlingen specializing in hand-crafted burgers with an expected opening date in mid-January. That’s when he will also expand the menu of the downtown location beyond burgers and sandwiches to include dinner plates like pan-seared teriyaki salmon and Korean glazed pork chops, along with other seafood and steaks.
“I think we are ready for it. Everybody likes a good burger but we want to branch out. With this menu we can do that.”
And Macias’s vision doesn’t stop there. “I want to mold it and build it into a chain,” he said of the burger house. “I don’t see why I can’t have three to five more in the next few years.”