The fresh flowers dotting the picnic tables in front of his restaurant and the bright-yellow awning adorning the façade are among the visible updates to the gritty neighborhood that once held Kansas City's stockyards.
Clothier also is adding a few shades of pork to the old cattle grounds. His nine-month-old Franks (1623 Genessee) sells hot dogs - pork-and-beef hot dogs.
"We all remember that perfect hot dog from our youth," he says. But turning that idyllic childhood meal into the simplest lunch an adult can get in this part of the city requires some sophisticated butchery. For Clothier, 67, that means a pork-and-beef mixture tailored to each hot dog, footlong wiener and "über dög" (a 10-inch bat that weighs 6 ounces) on the menu. "There's a lot going on in that simple $2 hot dog," he says. Enough that Franks could have fed the hungriest industrial workers of another era.
He steers new customers toward the Chicago dog, topped with yellow mustard, onion, neon relish, tomato, dill pickles, a heavy sprinkling of celery salt, and the obligatory sport peppers.
"Everybody knows that you throw in a few sport peppers," Clothier says. "But usually you get a few bites with nothing and then it blows up in your mouth. I cut them and stretch them through the length of the dog. I want you to get all the flavors in every bite."
All that's missing is the traditional Vienna Beef dog - an absence no one seems to notice or care about. "I'll put up our pork-and-beef hot dogs against any all-beef hot dogs in the world," Clothier says.
Many of the toppings are his own recipes: a meat chili (also available by the bowl and in a frito pie); a special sauce made with a base of tomato and mayonnaise; and frijoles rancheros (pinto beans with jalapeño and onion).
"I was a navy cook for 12 years," Matthews says. He gestures his tongs at the walls of the enclosed patio that houses the restaurant's two half-barrel grills and says, "This feels like a galley kitchen."
Besides grilling on an aircraft carrier stationed outside Beirut, the 40-year kitchen veteran takes credit for opening the first espresso bar in Branson, Missouri, and he once helped staff a dining train routed out of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. But this is the first place where he has actually left his mark. The painting above the cash register, of a dachshund stealing sausage links from another dog, is Matthews' handiwork.
"This is like art," Matthews says of Franks. "It's a simple menu, but everything still takes a lot more thought to come together. Everything has a lot of feeling and technique. It doesn't just come out of the package and onto the grill."
Each hot dog is brined in a mixture of apple cider and brown sugar for 15 minutes. The dogs are then cooked on grates suspended over charcoal. The buns are brushed with a mixture of olive oil and butter before being toasted on a small griddle. (The butter-toasted buns are a nod to Dog-N-Shake, the Wichita institution where Clothier was introduced to chili cheese dogs.)
The day Franks opened, Clothier was expecting to do 20 or 30 lunch orders. He received 300. Near the halfway point of his two-year lease on Genessee Street, Clothier is already in talks to open a second location. He hopes eventually to open a half-dozen locations across the metro. But he knows it won't happen overnight.
"When you're starting up the perfect hot-dog church, it takes a little while to bring in new converts," Clothier says.
For those seeking porcine salvation, the three-hour weekday service starts at 11 a.m. sharp.