Tucson community mourns Frank Santos of Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks

July 19, 2019
a man wearing a hat
By Jackie Tran
By Jackie Tran

The Frankie's South Philly Cheesesteaks founder passed away Friday morning.

Frank Santos, founder of Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks, passed away Friday morning.

Tucson chef Lindon Reilly posted the following on Facebook:

At 6:19 am this morning Frank “Frankie” Santos passed away. Legendary cheesesteaks and an amazing man and great friend. I will always be grateful for Frank and Deb and the times we had talking food and life and about their adventures in travel. Be easy my friend and safe journeys. Today my heart will be full of love and memories of you.

Frankie opened Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks with his wife Deb Santos in 2003.

Matt Russell, president and CEO of Russell Public Communications, shared the following about Frankie:

RIP, Frank Santos.

This South Philly native, cheesesteak authority, and fellow scrapple enthusiast was an icon on the Tucson culinary scene. Frankie was one of the most selfless men I’ve ever known and I treasured our friendship.

Please keep Deb in your prayers.

This article I wrote years ago actually got to the PR department at Tastykakes,” Russell said. “It created a stir, but Frankie came out on top. He fought for what he believed in. And he won.”


C.J. Hamm shared his personal times with Frankie:

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must say goodbye to one of my oldest and greatest friends in the Tucson food community. I met Frankie Santos when I was a young, single dad, living in a little apartment on Grant and Campbell. He had just opened Daglio’s with his partner Chuck whom I knew vaguely through hus family’s restaurant. He treated me and my young son buying sandwiches with quarters, like we were the most important guests his shop had that day… THAT was Frankie.. Always a class act, a gentleman and one of the most genuinely GREAT men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Over the years we grew much closer, to the point I would bring all my babies and my nephew there for their first steak. But beyond that we became real friends outside the business.

I already miss our long chats over a cold RC (RIP Kalil) and a whizz wit out & hot peppas. But I will also miss sneaking out from work for a martini and ALWAYS great conversation, and your constantly spot on business savvy and advice. I am so grateful for you coming to visit me this last May. It was a bittersweet visit, but one I will never forget.

My condolences and love to Deb. And the rest of the Santos family… and if you ever need anything, please call on me.

Goodbye Frankie my boy! Love you.

Read our January 2015 Nine on the Line with Frankie and Deb Santos.

Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks is located at 2574 N. Campbell Ave. For more information, visit frankiescheesesteaks.com.

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Article By

Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...

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