456 E. Main St.
As you first enter the cavernous shotgun room, you’re greeted by a wall-art aquarium installation, a net full of fluorescent stuffed animals and objects that glow in black light. Booths run down an exposed brick wall on one side, and a mirrored bar spans the other. There is a stage in back, with zebra throws, that hosts various music acts on the weekends.
The art is diverse, and the most prominent piece, the huge frog mural, is a leftover from the prior incarnation as Franky’s. It depicts the former wait staff and regular customers in amphibious caricatures. “See the frog waitress with the microphone? That’s Julie,” said my companion. “She was always singing.”
The breakfast and lunch menus are also throwbacks from Franky’s, and the previous owner of Franky’s has returned to cook up some of the old classics.
For breakfast, the turkey hash, soyrizo and eggs Lorraine, featuring scrambled eggs with bacon and cream cheese, are old familiars. For lunch, the black forest ham sandwich and curried chicken sandwich are items Frank’s patrons might remember, and there are still several vegetarian and turkey options.
The dinner menu, however, is a (sea)horse of a different color, featuring steak, seafood and Italian dishes. According to the waitress, there are nightly surf ’n’ turf specials. The dish from the dinner menu that hooked my interest was the lobster ravioli with a sauce that marries house-made marinara with European butter. But, alas, we were there for a lazy Sunday lunch, so soups and sandwiches were in order.
The light from outside was streaming through the large front windows and The Police, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac were alternating in the CD player. Our waitress was quick to bring menus and drinks. My companion liked his coffee, said it reminded him of mornings a decade ago at Franky’s.
We ordered the Rueben, the patty melt and the Dume delights salad. The dressings are made in house and the waitress recommended the Caesar.
While waiting for our lunch, we walked toward the bar to look at a three-dimensional art piece that changes as you pass it like one of those paintings with eyes that follow you.
Several people sauntered in from Main Street and walked through to the parking lot out back. Mario, one of the owners, walked through the door exhaling a puff of smoke and greeted us quickly as he passed our booth.
Our salad arrived first: mixed greens, crescent slivers of purple onion and our choice of protein, the curried chicken salad. On the side of the greens were groupings of crinkle-sliced red beets, sliced mushrooms, red kidney beans, tomato slices and chopped bits of blanched asparagus.
We tasted the creamy Caesar dressing first and it was truly unusual! It resembled a half Caesar, half Creole remoulade blend with a squeeze of citrus. I quite liked it, but the ingredients in the salad were a strange mixture together. The greens and crunchy bits of asparagus were great, but kidney beans with red beets and raw mushrooms reminded me a bit of a waxy bean salad recipe from the ’70s.
The curried chicken salad featured chopped chicken and spices. I would have loved the addition of celery or sweet apple bits to give it some crunch.
Our sandwiches arrived hot off the grill. We chose a side of french fries for one plate and the New England clam chowder to accompany the other.
The clam chowder was full of minced clams and quartered red potatoes with their skins. The twist was bits of diced green chili that lent a slight Mexican flavor. The soup was sweet and hearty, and each bite chock-full of ingredients. It wasn’t a briny stock that tastes like the sea, but a lightly sweet broth with plenty of clams in each bite.
The shoestring fries were saffron-hued and crunchy. The grilled turkey pastrami on the Reuben sandwich was thicker than regular pastrami and quite hearty. The flavors were good but we couldn’t taste the thousand island dressing, which would have balanced out the sour of the kraut. The purple onion slices weren’t grilled well enough and still had a bite.
The patty melt was also on rye and featured chargrilled patties topped with cheddar cheese. It lacked that juicy, melty quality that makes a patty melt what it is. Both sandwiches were substantial in the ingredients they offered but lacked the finesse that might make them addictive.
Our waitress was great about coffee refills but upon the clock striking 2 p.m., she deposited our check on the table without even asking if we wanted dessert.
Dume Room’s food feels as though it’s suffering an identity crisis. It’s two-thirds diner a la Franky’s menu, and one-third seafood and steak house. The menus almost echo the hodgepodge nature of the old and new blended décor.
Those who miss Franky’s will be pleased to revisit their old favorites, and those who miss Dume Room in Malibu will be thrilled to visit the new locale, but I will be curious to see what this new entity becomes in its own right.