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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge: Lunchtime at Frank's Deli

Logo for Frank's Custom Catering and Deli

Somewhere between the Gone with the Wind reruns of this particular May is an inviting spring; I’m sure of it. With the warm weather’s lamentably overdue arrival, Bozemanites will swoop down like lusty songbirds on the town’s commercial patios and terraces. Some of the better, sun-dappled offerings can be found at Starky’s Americana, the Garage, the Crystal Rooftop, the Baxter Hotel, and Weebee’s. Perhaps not as familiar is the fenced courtyard at Frank’s on East Babcock.

But Frank’s presents all the trimmings: just a hop-skip-and-jump from Main Street, plenty of southern exposure, seating for a couple dozen, even a cabana-like bar with a wood-fired pizza oven. Thanks to the establishment’s successful voyage through Montana’s rocky, liquor-law waters, a cabaret license makes Frank’s a “wet” establishment, all the more inviting on a summer’s eve… or “working lunch,” if you prefer.

Better yet, Frank’s has Frank. Here’s the run-down on Mr. Winkler’s vaulted culinary experience and background:
     A graduate of the nationally eminent, Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York? Yes.
     Served an apprenticeship in Bern, Switzerland? Yes.
     Has dual citizenship with Switzerland? Ja.
     Worked for the Ritz-Carlton down in alligator country? Yes.
     Studied with celebrity-chef Wolfgang Puck? Yes.
     Catered to Metallica? Yep.
     What’s this about a running a hot dog stand here in town? That one’s true.
     A ten-year resident of Bozeman and an infamous barfly? No comment.
     Offers catering services? Uh huh, Frank’s Custom Catering will do anything from a pig roast to a fancy YC brou-ha-ha (an event catered by Frank's, shown at right).
     And the deli serves wood-fired pizzas? On nice evenings in summer only.
     Is there really a European-influenced, fine dining restaurant in Frank’s basement? Yes, but it’s also seasonal.

Photo of an event catered by Frank's.We started this whole venture because of the lunch patio, remember? Let’s stick to the program, people.

All good things come at a price, and the cliché certainly applies to Frank’s Deli. This eatery’s utilitarian, stainless-steel-and-whitewash atmosphere presents an arguable comparison to the “Soup Nazi” restaurant made famous by Jerry Seinfeld and Co. No, there’s no scowling chef waiting to trounce all over your precisely-prepared order (Chef Winkler, shown below, is boyishly pleasant), but customer service is not a house attribute. Lengthy lines are the norm at noontime, and the food prep time can be staggeringly, horrifically, ungodly slow. Frank’s is widely held among downtown working stiffs as a no-go when you’re on the clock.

The deli menu is lengthy with salads and sandwiches, the latter led by juicy cheesesteaks, comprising a famous cast of Winkler concoctions—many with unofficial fan clubs—like the Korfu and the Malkovitch (both are beef cheesesteaks with Greek and Cajun influences, respectfully), the Rangoon (chicken cheesesteak with a cocunut curry sauce), and Navin R. Johnson. Regarding the last option—another chicken cheesesteak and my most dearest of Frank’s many dear sandwiches—who caught the reference to the old Steve Martin movie? It’s the Jamaican jerk seasoning with an optional knee-slap. Marinaded to savory perfection, it’s my “special purpose” when I head for lunch at Frank’s.

Photo of Frank Winkler with friend.Patient patrons have just two options on bread, French or ciabatta. I favor the latter, but so does everybody else, so Frank runs out often (dare I say, “too often”?). Each and every sandwich comes wrapped in butcher paper. Oh, you want to eat here? Still wrapped in butcher paper. No chips, no pickle. Then, it’s ‘help yourself’ to a fountain drink, bottled tea or lemonade and wait for your order to be called by a loudspeaker Rhett Butler.

When it comes to the actual price, guests have but one option: expensive. Almost all of Frank’s sandwiches run in the range of $9-$11. That pulls hard on the Montana purse-straps, let me tell ya. But after waiting in line on a recent visit, I opted for a beer to straighten out my curls. As of 2009, that’s a thirst that Frank’s can quench. Wine, too, but I’m not sure why one would pair a nice red with a deli sandwich. Say what you will about the French bread, it still seems a stretch.

Another no-fluff staffer at Frank's reported yesterday that it’ll be “two weeks, at least” until the wood-fired pizza oven is warming up evenings on the patio, but go ahead and start dreaming ahead now. Chef Winkler takes his wild mushrooms seriously, and the pizza of the same name is the go-to item. The roasted garlic is just sweet enough to match the earthy mushrooms, resulting in almost as charming a couple as William and Kate. Truly lovable, if you can bear all the rigamorale.

At the corner of Babcock and Wallace, that’s the program, or it’s “No Frank’s for you.”  -BM

Beverly Ridge's bio picture.Beverly Ridge is the area's first regularly featured restaurant reviewer.  A native of the valley and a veteran of the food service industry, she's a virtuoso on all things epicurean.  She's also made it a personal mission to protect Montana diners from the fleecing imposters, the lazy sourpusses, and the just plain rotten.

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