Restaurant Review: Frank & Carl’s
In the best of times, the Columbus restaurant scene is brutal. Sure, we’re good eaters, and homogenous, familiar chain operations actually do pretty well here. But for the independent, it’s a constant balancing act…on a tight rope, suspended over a big ol’ cliff of debt and desolation.
Now COVID-19 has changed the rules, requiring not just balance, but agility. So, now it’s more like an obstacle course on that same tight rope.
And that’s the context in which Frank & Carl’s entered the local dining scene up at Bridge Park. Although situated in a space that permits hospitable seating, the sandwich shop made its debut during a pandemic in the only way it could: as a delivery and carryout operation.
Fortunately, sandwiches are the ultimate carryout food. They’ve formed the foundation of lunchbox sustenance for generations of Americans. Eat it in the car, eat it outside, eat it at home: in sandwich-land there’s no fork needed – it’s primed for surviving COVID-19.
For the CovidCareful, finding a menu online is a good starting point. That way, you can order in advance, and avoid standing around in a mask. The website has an easy-reading menu, you can pick from an organized array of subs and bagels, all of which have cute names.
Frank & Carl’s serves sandwiches that strike a likable compromise between artisan and comfort. The toasted sub buns have the requisite softness of comfort foods, the fillings have the lux generosity and quality of finer fare. The resulting combos are layered so all the parts hang together without slipping out the sides and making a mess. That’s a nice feature, as there’s nothing worse than biting into a sandwich and having half the filling slide away and escape out the back.
The Ma Fratelli ($8.50) seems like an obvious starting point, as it’s stationed at the top of the website’s menu. It’s a heady, layered collection of dewy cured meats: pepperoni, salami, capicola and ham. Provolone provides a milder cheese background, with slices of banana peppers, tomatoes and vinaigrette-touched lettuce coming in for the crunch. It’s filling, and a little fancy. That sets the precedent for things to come.
There are likable similarities in the Roger Roger ($7.50). It’s built on a foundation of pepperoni and capicola. This time, though, there’s a noticeable sharpness from a good smoked cheddar that’s worthy of some cheese appreciation. It adds depth to the mix, along with a spicy mustard for a one-two punch.
For the veg-centic (or meat-avoiders, however you like to label things), there’s always Harvey ($7.75). It’s a combo of provolone, cucumber, avocado and velvety red peppers with lettuce, tomato and mayo. The end result is as successful and sustaining as the meatier options.
You can build sandwiches using bagels too. They’re good; soft like the bread, but characteristically denser and chewier. The Clubber Lang ($8.75) makes sense here, mostly because it feels like a moral obligation to order any food item that sports the name of an iconic Mr. T. character. So, it’s like a club sandwich, right? Yes: good-quality turkey and ham with nicely salty bacon, plus the tomato-lettuce combo, PLUS avocado and cucumber. The latter may not be a traditional addition, but it should be. Avocado gives it a rich luxuriousness. Clubber would be proud.
In the sides department, there are options for house-made bagel chips and pimento cheese. And if you don’t like any of the house sandwich offerings, you can custom-build your own. The team is flexible and agile enough to meet that need. That’s a good thing, because flexibility and agility are what it takes to open an eatery during a pandemic.
You can find it at 6558 Longshore St., but you can start your trip at its website frankandcarls.com and then connect yourself to carry-out and delivery options.
All photos by Susan Post