When news broke recently that chef Micah Frank (who introduced beef tongue, seasonal pickle plates, and lake fish fry-ups to local diners at Mass Ave’s groundbreaking Black Market) was coming back to work with former partner Ed Rudisell at The Inferno Room in Fountain Square, fans of the culinary savant wondered just what he had been up to over the last couple of years. Was he still cooking? Was he still in Indy? Hadn’t he left Black Market to take a break from restaurant work and get his knees, battered from constant standing on the kitchen line, back in shape?
Thankfully, the news is good. Indy foodies can expect to start eating some of Frank’s classic dishes in early December. Like many restaurant professionals, Frank’s recent career moves have revolved around the pandemic, though his adventure took him to a harbor-side resort town in New England, not to the unemployment line. Having recently come on staff at Duos Indy and enjoying the mostly daytime shifts, Frank, like many chefs, lost his job when that legendary group of healthy-eating cafeterias ended its run in mid-2020. Frank took the opportunity to look around at spots where he might get closer to natural beauty—and water—scouring help-wanted ads in the Northwest and New England. He got in touch with the owner of Dockside Guest Quarters in picturesque York, Maine, a popular harbor town about 45 miles south of Portland. After a few conversations, he agreed to work the marina bar, cooking up steamers and fryers (local vernacular for clams), classic lobster rolls, poke bowls, burgers, and vegetable curries. It was high-volume work throughout the tourist season of May to October, with nearly 250 boats docking at the harbor. But the job also came with the attic room at the main inn, with its panoramic view of the water, which sounded like the perfect way for a chef to rejuvenate while conventional restaurants were shuttered.
It also gave Frank the opportunity to work in a knee surgery in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which he had long needed to repair the wear-and-tear of decades on his feet in the back of the house. In fact, it was just as his second season at the marina was coming to a close that Rudisell called Frank, who was due for a scope on his knee to judge the success of the surgery.
Frank was looking to come back to Indy at some point, but whether he could stand to work when he got home depended on that scope. And when results came back that his knee was 90-percent recovered, he told Rudisell he’d join him back in Indy, though in a slightly different venue than their original sleek seasonal farm-to-table eatery.
“I definitely want to keep the focus on small plates and the foods of Papua New Guinea that have been the mainstays,” Frank says of the menu at Inferno Room, where a seafood-forward, tropical fruit-inflected selection pairs nicely with the mai tais, daquiris, and zombies. “But Ed wants to take advantage of my skills with larger plates, so I’m thinking of platters of bone-in cuts of meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves, maybe with flatbreads so diners can build their own dinners.”
And what about some of the dishes he was known for at Black Market? “I’m thinking about some beef-heart kabobs,” he says, referencing the frequent appearance of organ meats on his Mass Ave menu. “I may revive the mozzarella sticks or duck buns with duck confit, maybe some stews with exotic spices.” Wherever he takes the Inferno Room menu, diners will definitely be rewarded with a chance to eat his food again in a dinner setting. And while he is still thinking of going back to Maine for next year’s tourist season, the idea of sticking around Indy most the year for the near future is a definite possibility.