Frankie Mohawk's, at the corner of Franklin and Mohawk, in a primo spot across from the Convention Center, has the potential to be a great quick lunch stop for the office crowd.

Perhaps to appeal to that crowd, the lunch menu, which has a small but varied selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers and vegetarian entrees, is titled "Express lunch menu." After our experience there last week, we recommend that the proprietors cross off the word "Express."

We arrived about 12:45, when the lunch rush should have been winding down. The place was half-empty. Yet we waited 20 minutes to even place our order and another half-hour for our food.

The problem seemed to originate in the kitchen, because although the server was busy, she was also relatively attentive. She kept swooping through the room making apologies and offering explanations for the hold-ups. And because few dishes on the menu (and nothing we ordered) required actual cooking, the substantial delays were difficult to understand.

We waited several minutes at the hostess station to be seated, then were placed at a tiny table for two in an aisle in the center of the room although the dining area was half-empty. We moved ourselves to a more comfortable table for four near a wall and admired the surroundings, which marry old-time charm with sleek, modern touches and are quite elegant. We don't visit a lot of places with lunches under $10 (and, in the case of Frankie Mohawk's, well under $10, most in the $6 to $8 range) that have white tablecloths and a fresh carnation on each table. The dinner entrees are in the $15 to $24 range.

We admired the surroundings for 20 minutes before our drink and lunch order was taken. They were out of the chowder of the day ($2.95 cup, $3.95 for a bowl) and the carved fresh meat of the day was a fish sandwich.

When my iced tea arrived about 10 minutes later, it was sweetened rather than unsweetened. Normally I would just drink it and shut up, but curious about how the error would be rectified, I flagged down the server and asked for a replacement. Some 15 minutes later, a new, much smaller unsweetened tea was brought to the table. It was fine.

A couple who had arrived before us and seated themselves, but whose order was taken after ours, threw down a few bucks and told the server they had to get back to work. They were nicer than we would have been, saying they'd give the place another try. After the server left the room, two young women at the third remaining table said plaintively, "We'll take their food!" That broke the ice and we began laughing with other patrons about the continued delays and repeated excuses from the server. The three people at the table directly behind us, who had received their lunches (two at once, then the third five minutes or more later) said the food was good and offered us a crust to tide us over.

After we had waited 40 minutes, the server came by and announced that she was buying us lunch. We refused, saying we just wanted our food without any further discussion. Ten minutes later she delivered most of it.

For the most part, the food was fine. When he ordered, John had asked to have the sun-dried tomato mayonnaise left off his Florenzia sandwich ($7.50) and the server said that could not be done, leading us to believe that it was more of a turkey salad preparation than a regular meat and condiments sandwich. When it arrived, we found that it could have easily been made without the mayo. The sandwich, of sliced deli turkey, baby spinach, fresh mozzarella and a touch of red onion, was made on fresh ciabatta bread and was a tasty combination.

The rye used to make the Mohawk tuna melt ($6.95) was close to being burned on the outside, but otherwise good, with a thick layer of tuna topped with melted cheddar and red onion.

Both sandwiches were served with chips, rather than crosscut fries, as requested (99 cents more). When we reminded the server about the fries, she brought one order of fries out 10 minutes later as we were finishing our food, so we asked to have them boxed up. Although she did take some percentage off the bill -- she said 50 percent but it seemed more like 30 percent, from our calculations -- the fries that never arrived were still on the bill.

A co-worker who went to Frankie Mohawk's for dinner the night before our visit had great food and good service, but said there were very few customers.

Frankie Mohawk's will probably draw its customer base from nearby office workers, and will rise or fall on its lunch business. It has been open since late October and seems to have experienced problems getting food out of the kitchen in a timely (much less "express") manner ever since its opening.

To succeed, Frankie's has to address these issues immediately.




2 pennies (out of four pennies)

"Service needs work."

WHERE: 166 Franklin St. (854-2210)

HOURS: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday; dinners are served from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.