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Earlez Grille: LA's best hot dogs for over 25 years relocates

New York Beef Dog| Just one of the few items on the Earlez Grille menu that is bound to leave your mouth watering. For over 25 years, Earlez Grille's hot dogs have been a staple in the Crenshaw community. What started off as a hot dog cart in the Crenshaw Shopping Plaza is now a successful restaurant and catering business. With the start of construction on the new Expo line, the restaurant is relocating.
Old Location 3630 Crenshaw| As construction on the Crenshaw/LAX Expo line begins, this location will be knocked down for the building of the new station.

Mapped Out| The map above shows the old location (A) is only a few blocks away from the new location (B).
New Location 3864 Crenshaw| The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is relocating Earlez Grille to the location above, which is expected to open February, 2014.

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By Andrea K. Martinez

It Started With A Cart

At just 16 years old, Duane was fresh off the plane from New York when he started working at his brothers hot dog cart business. He worked six to seven days a week to pay the bills, but what started off as simply a means of getting by, eventually turned into a successful restaurant and catering business.

It all began in the late 80’s when Duane’s brother, Carle, was walking down Venice beach and saw a few guys working a hot dog cart. Young and intrigued by the idea of starting a business, he saw it as an opportunity to start his own cart.

"[Carle] went to a welder, sat down, drew up the plans, and he built his first hot dog stand. He called it 'Cab Franks,'" said Duane.

For three years Carle ran the business with his girlfriend. Venice Beach was prime for tourists and people strolling the beach, but with the competition on the boardwalk, it wasn’t as busy as he thought it would be.

Just three short years later, when Duane arrived from New York, the two took the hot dog cart and set up in the parking lot of what was then called the Crenshaw Swap Meet. For 10 years, brothers Duane and Carle hauled the cart from the San Fernando Valley down the 405 Freeway and into the depths of the Crenshaw district to serve hot dogs to locals.

“At the Crenshaw Swap Meet, we worked our hotdog cart from 1986 to 1996. We were pulling that cart on the freeway six to seven days a week,” said Duane. “Pulling it one hour coming, one hour going.”

In December of 1992, the Earle brothers decided to advance their business when they opened up a restaurant in Leimert Park. Duane said the new restaurant took longer to get going because loyal customers couldn’t get used to the idea of a new place.

“Even though we had opened up a restaurant, customers were still stuck on my hot dog cart,” said Duane. “Because they knew they could get hot dogs at the cart, nobody was really going to the restaurant. It took years to convince them.”

Finally, in 1996, their hot dog cart days came to an end. They focused solely on keeping their restaurant running.

“The Leimert site gave me training on how to run a successful business,” said Duane. “Especially as a minority business owner, we dealt with every kind of issue.”

Despite the issues, Duane and his brother Carle surpassed the difficulties. Within the years at the Leimert location, they established Earlez Grille as a successful catering company.

Taking a closer look at the Menu
Take a look at just a few of the classic options Earlez Grille has to offer.

It was during this time that they also introduced vegetarian options to the menu. From Turkey dogs, to Turkey burgers and vegan chili, the brothers recognized the need to meet the changing demands of the community, an entrepreneurial quality which attributes to why they’ve been successful.

The decision to add a vegetarian menu made Earlez Grille appealing to more people. No longer did they face the limitations of not being able to feed those who were vegetarians at catering events.

“I can actually boast and say that we are the only restaurant in Los Angeles, that I know of, that is 50% meat-eater and 50% vegetarian. Even our pastries and drinks include vegan options,” said Duane.

The business continued to thrive in the area and eventually, after 17 years at the successful Leimert site, they moved to an even bigger place, on Crenshaw and Exposition, right next to the Expo Line.

Earle said one of the benefits of being next to the Expo was that it brought crowds of people all times of day.

The restaurant has been at the Crenshaw and Exposition site for seven years and is now relocating just two blocks down the street, after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) informed them they would have to move due to the building of the new Crenshaw/ LAX line.

The new stop will be the starting point of the project and will stand exactly where Earlez Grille is now.

Earlez Grille in the Community

Despite having moved around several times, Earlez Grille has never left the confines of the Crenshaw area. For nearly 30 years, they’ve been giving back to the Crenshaw community.

Duane recalls a time, while at the Leimert, where they closed off the block and had a party for about 2,500 people.

Duane says the most gratifying moments are when students in the nearby schools and universities tell him they’ve written school reports and projects on his journey as a business owner.

“I used to wake up every morning and I had to go work a hog dog-cart. I had to pay the bills and time just flew on by," said Duane. "But you have to stop and think about the people on the outside looking in. When children ask to write school reports about my journey...that’s when I realize I’ve made an impact.”

Relocation doesn't faze customers. | Two Customers, Jason and Howard, will continue eating at Earlez Grille despite its relocation, and look forward to the new opening.

What The Relocation Means for Earlez Grille

The closing of the Crenshaw Exposition site left the brothers without a restaurant until the new spot opens in February of 2014.

While most business owners would be distraught at the thought of losing their restaurant for months, Duane and Carle have kept positive throughout the transition.

“This new location is going to give us the jump we need. We’re going to move from a ‘ma-and-pa’ feel to a more corporate look,” said Duane. “It’s exactly what we needed.”

The best part of it all? The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is paying for the new site, which will have a newer, cleaner, and more modern look. Just two blocks down Crenshaw Blvd., the new location is in a thriving shopping plaza, which Duane hopes will bring more traffic to the restaurant.

“This relocation puts us in a more centralized area. Now we're really in the heart of Crenshaw!,” said Duane.

In the meantime, the brothers continue their catering business while they await the opening of the new Earlez Grille.


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