Cheap Eats: Lettuce B. Frank's food is delightful, inventive
The 21st century food world is taking all kinds of funky twists and turns as it revolves on its get-ahead axis.
Food blogs become memoirs or cookbooks, then movies. Mobile food carts and trucks start two-timing it with brick-and-mortar eateries.
The latter is the road traveled by David Potwin, a talented chef whose sidewalk cart, Lettuce B. Frank, was featured last year in this column. It’s spring, so Potwin is once again hauling his “farm to foil,” gourmet-casual cuisine on the University of Rochester Medical Center campus and soon at the Brighton Farmers Market.
Earlier this winter, he opened a tiny eatery/takeout business that has a symbiotic relationship with its next-door neighbor, The Cinema theater. A doorway allows customers to pass back and forth.
The bistro is pleasant enough that eating on-site is not bad either, though between the whir of the kitchen equipment and the noise from street traffic, it’s a little hard to hear. There is reading material (cookbooks), plant material (seedlings in the windows and buckets of herbs near the kitchen) and quirky wall hangings.
Not only do you get to eat relatively healthy food in a venue that has been dominated by popcorn and mass-produced candy, but also much of it is locally grown. (Don’t worry, popcorn and candy fans, you can still get your fix.)
Lettuce B. Frank’s food is as delightful and inventive as this unorthodox partnership. There are four basic categories to the ever-changing menu: bites, sliders, melts/flatbreads and desserts. I don’t care how you handle the first three, just be sure to save room for the fourth.
Little bites or appetizers ($4 to $5) might be as carnivorous as pork meatballs stuffed with mozzarella, as vegetable-friendly as a pie with zucchini, squash and Parmesan or as all-vegan as carrot and chickpea fritters served with Potwin’s house-made catsup.
A few “bites” on top of a large, crumpet-like English muffin (the brand is Wolferman’s) become a slider. While sliders imply tiny bites, these are anything but. My three black bean-cheddar-jalapeno fritter bites on top of a muffin with garlicky mayonnaise ensured there would be no snacks later that afternoon. (Confession: A couple of small snickerdoodle cookies helped — they are three for $2.)
The food was so different and comforting at the same time that I went back for lunch the next day, this time to try a whole wheat flatbread pizza topped with smoked turkey and American cheese for $8. Thin crust, not too much cheese, a fresh hit of juicy pear every second or third bite, and terrific basil-walnut pesto mayonnaise.
Lettuce B. Frank Bistro
Address: 957 S. Clinton Ave. (next door to The Cinema).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Phone: (585) 708-9815.
Accessibility: Small step at entrance. Customers who need a ramp can arrange to enter through The Cinema.
Good to know: Vegan, vegetarian and carnivore choices available. Street parking only. Restrooms are inside the theater. Food from bistro is allowed inside theater. Wine and beer coming soon. Pickled vegetables from Small World Foods sold on premise.
Mother’s Day Brunch: The bistro is serving a special Mother’s Day Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Lettuce B. Frank Mobile Cart: The mobile cart serves from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday in front of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Saunders Research Building at 265 Crittenden Blvd. It will be at the Brighton Farmers Market on Sundays starting later this month. Check website for other events where Lettuce B. Frank mobile cart will be serving.