Bayside locals might remember Frank’s Milk Bar and its colourful owner, Frank Economakos. (If you’re racking your memory, there was a big Che Guevara-style stencilled picture of Frank that hung above the entrance.) Around four years ago Frank retired and the milk bar closed down, with his portrait moved into a storage room. The shop became an internet cafe and the memory of Frank slowly disappeared.
That is, until Michele Curtis moved in.
Curtis is a chef and award-winning food writer responsible for the best-selling annual cookbook The Foodies’ Diary, which she co-authors with Allan Campion. After leaving Hampton cafe Food Smith, Curtis has found a place she can call her own at the spacious yet cosy red-brick Frankie’s Top Shop, named in honour of Frank (though his portrait still lingers in storage).
Inside this self-described part cafe, part foodstore and part corner milk bar, green-velour padded booths and wood tables face a large open kitchen. Curtis uses seasonal produce to put her own spin on breakfast and lunchtime classics.
“You don’t just want to just cook bacon and eggs for the rest of your life,” she says.
The menu tilts towards the healthy side. The fragrant and colourful smashed roasted sweet potato and turmeric, served with feta and poached egg, is a clear standout. Curtis, never slavish to trends, claims to have invented this in weary response to years of smashing avos. Though she’s not entirely free of that either: the light, golden sweetcorn fritters come served with a poached egg and guacamole.
Lunchtime at Frankie’s includes simple and rustic options such as homemade pies and tart of the day, or a roast chicken sandwich on grain bread.
Curtis is a stickler for quality when it comes to drinks. She uses Dukes organic coffee and gets her milk from St David’s Dairy, which sources all of its produce from one farm in Gippsland.