Franky’s Place
456 E Main St
 Ventura
648-6282
$2.75 – $10.95

Franky’s is back! — along with former owner Kris Pustina-Haldane, now acting as  manager; adorable Julie, the singing waitress (look for the pink frog), who openly discusses her stage fright; the famous funky anthropomorphic frog murals; and, yes, a familiar menu.

Franky’s serves breakfast and lunch and, due to several requests by returning regulars, has reintroduced some old favorites to the menu.

Breakfast is served from 7 to 11 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both menus feature some signature favorites like Chicken Limousine for lunch and Eggs Lorraine for breakfast. They no longer serve croissants (instead you have a choice of sourdough, wheat or rye toast), and they do feature great vegetarian (like the Tofu Boat and Main Street Sandwich), chicken and turkey options, but have also ventured into unfamiliar bovine territory by offering four beef burgers.

The interior is warm and familiar. Dark wood booths nestle against a brick wall, and a smattering of tables fills the floor. The back kitchen area has been opened up, which makes for a lighter, brighter Franky’s.

Our first visit, we ordered the Chicken Limousine (curried chicken salad served in a wheat pita pocket) and the Southwest Burger with a grilled Ortega chili. Each entree comes with a choice of soup or salad, and we chose to try both of the daily soups offered, which were vegetable and turkey chili.

The Chicken Limousine was my companion’s favorite for the many years he frequented Franky’s, so he dove into his pita unabashedly. “I think they forgot the apple,” he pondered. The chicken salad was warm and rich with a mild curry spice, bound together by mayonnaise and melted mozzarella, but I, too, tasted no apple, felt no crunch. I dug into the salad and searched, and eventually found some tiny bits of chopped apple, but they simply disappeared into the warm savory chicken salad.

Later, (manager) Kris visited our table and when my companion mentioned the apple, she confirmed that the person who made it that morning had cut the pieces too small. This seemingly small mistake changed the taste and balance of the recipe completely.

The grilled Ortega on the Southwest Burger lent a layer of flavoring. The ground beef patty was moist and the whole-wheat bun, hearty. The soups were each a simple, fresh accompaniment to the sandwiches.

Our breakfast visit to Franky’s started with cups of Ventura coffee, the turkey hash, Ham Lorraine and the french toast. You have the choice of whole wheat, sourdough or rye, and we tried the rye french toast out of sheer curiosity.

The Ham Lorraine eggs were light-yellow and fluffy, and I could see large chunks of turkey ham throughout them though I personally didn’t see, nor miss the bacon bits. The turkey hash was a bright eye-catcher, covered in orange cheese, bright-green onions and tomatoes.

My first taste of the Ham Lorraine was wonderful. It’s very rich (lots of cream cheese mixed into the peppered scrambled eggs). The squares of turkey ham were a dense, hearty counterpoint to the fluffy, whipped eggs, a fun play on a crustless, inside-out quiche. They came accompanied by cubed potatoes, which had a lightly beautiful crunch, inside softness, and were well-seasoned.

My companion noted that one should immediately dive into the turkey hash when it first arrives because as it cooled, the cheese layer on top became less pliable. As I tasted the seasoned ground turkey with potatoes, secret sauce, tomatoes and cheese, I was disappointed. The cheese was indeed thick, the ground turkey was well-seasoned but a bit dry, and the tomatoes were a bit anemic. It was about as opposite to the fluffy, moist Ham Lorraine as a dish could be.

Our waitress showed up halfway through our meal with a ramiken of fresh fruit she’d forgotten to deliver with the rye french toast. She’d sliced it all that morning. The pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes and strawberries, were a perfectly ripe highlight. The french toast had the slightly medicinal, almost peaty, taste of rye, which was perfect with the fresh fruit. I steered clear of the maple-flavored syrup and just enjoyed the fruit and toast. Each different fruit made for a whole new flavor combination.

So our premiere visits to the newly reopened Franky’s Place were mixed – some bites were delicious and others not quite there, some exciting new flavors and some missing old ones. But seeing my companion and others connect to the familiar faces and menu items was nostalgic and fun — a bit like hopping back in time. 


For more of DK Crawford’s writing, visit www.thefoodsavant.blogspot.com