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Fish lunch founders in Cicero

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CICERO — A reader suggested that we check out Frank’s Plank Road Café just north of Syracuse in Cicero.

But first we had to find it.

Don’t look for it on the Plank Road because it’s on the Brewerton Road — 8350 to be exact. We entered 8350 into our GPS. A quick exit from Interstate 81 and we were guided by satellite to a parking lot on the corner of Routes 11 and 31.

We suspected we were in the right place only because there was a neon Coors sign hanging in one of the windows. We walked to the front of the building and couldn’t find a sign there either indicating it was Frank’s.

Finally, we entered the building and a server confirmed that, yes, we were, in fact, at Frank’s Plank Road Café.

We were the first customers for lunch on a recent weekday just before noon. Several patrons had already taken up residency at the bar. The wall that separated the bar from the dining area was plastered with handwritten signs promoting daily seafood specials.

We had heard that Frank’s had a reputation for really good seafood. The lunch menu seemed to confirm that, and there were plenty of other choices as well.

Soups. Salads. Burgers. Grilled cheese, egg and olive, prime rib, turkey breast and corned beef sandwiches. BLTs. Phillys.

We decided to go for the seafood, starting with a crock of New England clam chowder ($3.95).

It had a fairly thick consistency with a decent amount of clams, lots of potato cubes and overtones of bacon, and was noticeably but not overly salty.

We also tried a crock of French onion soup ($3.95). The best part of French onion is the browned, bubbly cheese crowning the onions and stock and overflowing the sides of the bowl, right?

The cheese was sunken down into the crock — not enough soup and crouton to hold it up — and the cheese itself was bland, provolone, we suspected. But the broth and onions underneath were sufficiently flavorful.

Chili lime shrimp ($7.95) was a pretty tasty dish, a couple of dozen thumbnail-sized breaded shrimp, deep-fried and tossed with a commercial sauce that tasted like Thai-chili sauce. A slice of lime on top was the “lime” part. Crisp, seasoned fries were good, but we could have used more than six of them.

Golden fried perch ($9.95) arrived at the table lukewarm and overbreaded, with a strong, fishy smell. There was a good amount of crisp seasoned fries on the plate, which was appreciated because a good amount or the perch was left unconsumed.

Coleslaw came with the perch, served in a side dish that was placed on the table by the server with her thumb in it. We wouldn’t have minded the thumb so much if the coleslaw was good, but it was dry and totally flavorless — like shredded cabbage with some shredded carrots and nothing else.

The grouper plate ($10.95) is available with the fish prepared grilled, Cajun or blackened. We ordered it grilled. Best we could tell, it came out broiled, which wasn’t even an option.

We wouldn’t have minded, if it tasted OK. But it was watery, as if previously frozen. It looked unappealing, sitting in a small pool of water with dots of butter/oil floating on the surface. And it was totally tasteless. Even a pinch of parsley and sprinkle of paprika didn’t help the presentation or the flavor.

It came with two nicely piped piles of yesterday’s mashed potatoes. There was no butter on them or on the table for us to rescue them.

And the dish came with the same bland coleslaw as the perch.

We were told that the apple pie was made in-house, so we ordered it.

It may have been baked in the oven from a frozen state, but we doubt it was made there from scratch. Telltale machine fluting on the crust was a giveaway. So was the gelatinous look of the apples and syrupy-sweet filling.

Lunch for three cost $42.12 before tip.

The men’s room was pretty rough around the edges. The vestibule smelled like fish on the way out.

We don’t plan to rush back to Frank’s Plank Road Café.

TIDBITS

Fans of Angelo Landi’s former restaurant in Potsdam, Angelo’s Fresh Seafood, will be glad to know that Angelo is now the sous chef in charge of the kitchen at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Annapolis, Md.

The 9,000-square-foot restaurant opened Monday in Annapolis Mall and is projected to serve 300 to 400 guests on weekdays and over 500 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Maggiano’s menu features both classic and contemporary Italian-American recipes. The majority of the food is made from scratch at each of the Maggiano’s restaurants.

The Maggiano’s Little Italy chain comprises about 50 restaurants in 20 states.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.





Frank’s Plank’s Road Café

8350 Brewerton Road (Route 11)

Cicero, N.Y.

699-9119

A small family-owned restaurant specializing in seafood.



HOURS: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday

Bar closes at 1 a.m.



RATING: 1½ forks

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