Photo by Austin McAllister
Fritl’z Lunch Box
173 Irving Avenue, Bushwick
On the short walk between the DeKalb L station and Fritzl’s Lunch Box, I passed a man on the sidewalk smoking a cigar on a sofa, as well as a narrow mural that depicted a youngster wearing baggy jeans, a backwards baseball cap, and a smile with a silver grill. It was painted on a darkened building with a sign that read, “YO! Braces.” Fritzl’s chalkboard, which advertised in careful cursive a wimpy-sounding cucumber-watermelon salad, seemed a bit out of place.
But, signage aside, there isn’t anything wimpy about the food at Fritzl’s Lunch Box (which is open for both lunch and dinner). Though the summer menu had its share of lighter fare, the restaurant air was thick with the aroma of smoked meat, and the deeply smoky, fatty and succulent lamb ribs hinted at the hearty fall dishes to come. A mix of lean, flavorful, house-ground beef cheek with fattier beef chuck made the hefty burger patties chewy and juicy with some big-time beefy flavor. Served on well-seeded sesame buns with chef-owner Dan Ross-Leutwyler’s own sweet pickle relish and “special sauce” (which seemed to be an aioli), they were also pretty cheap—just $8 per burger.
Vegetarian options included a surprisingly hearty sandwich of Brie, avocado, orange marmalade and alfalfa sprouts on whole-wheat toast, and the batter-fried eggplant slices stood up to an extra-spicy sweet-and-sour sauce that I wished was available to buy by the bottle. Even that salad from the chalkboard was a particularly robust pile of cucumber and watermelon cubes, decked out with creamy chunks of feta, crunchy pistachios and a mix of pungent fresh herbs.
Fritzl’s 19-seat dining area is narrow, modern and bright, and it’s set up so that the burly, big-bearded chef can peek out from the kitchen to greet customers if the server is busy with the tables in the backyard. A handful of easy-drinking beer- and wine-based cocktails make up for the lack of a full liquor license: a Gruner Vetliner with club soda and lavender syrup; a calimocho (the red wine and Coke combo that’s widely enjoyed in Spain); and a mix of house-brewed kombucha with Founders IPA. On the soft-drink front, the brown sugar limeade hits the perfect balance of sour, tart and sweet. All in all, the flavors at Fritzl’s aren’t wimpy— they’re brawny.