Flux Restaurant & Bar
12 Main St., Lisbon Falls
In the late fall of 2019, while searching for a post-foraging snack (and beer for mom), my then 13-year-old son and I stumbled upon Flux, a restaurant and bar in Lisbon Falls. We shared a couple delicious small plates, then returned home to Portland for a proper dinner with my husband and some friends. You know what swept the globe a few months later…
Now it’s the fall of 2021, and we’re back! The hubby is out, the girlfriend is in, and she and I are now both non-drinkers. I mean, if the pandemic didn’t change you, did you even experience it?
Flux’s shiny retro façade tricks you into thinking it’s a traditional diner, an illusion that’s dispelled as soon as you step inside. Upon arriving for our Saturday night reservation last month, we saw the bustling open kitchen, a long bar with seating to the right, and several dozen tables (all filled!) in between. Perhaps sensing our unease about indoor dining, they graciously sat us at a corner table.
Our first pleasant surprise: Flux offered not one, but two tasty craft, non-alcoholic beers, both from Connecticut’s Athletic Brewing Company: Run Wild IPA and the Dark & Gourdy pumpkin porter ($5).
My son, girlfriend and I all ordered appetizers from the extensive specials list. The Calamari Salad ($17) had to be eaten first, while hot. The super-crunchy tentacles and tubes were served over grown-ass adult (not baby) arugula, with a sweet and slightly spicy plum/pepper jam. The candied jalapenos and shaved Parmigiano further set this dish apart from the usual red-checkered-tablecloth version.
The House Mozzarella & Peperonata Toast with Heirloom Tomatoes ($16) was blissfully simple. The Pâté de Campagne ($17) was not. Accompanied by house-pickled fruit and vegetables (green strawberries, celery, beets and fiddleheads), toast points, mustard and fruit jam, this inventive charcuterie — studded with Maine blueberries and pistachios —was slightly over-spiced for some of our tastes, but had a perfectly balanced fat-to-meat ratio.
Moving on to mains, we had Tuna Niçoise ($32) from the specials menu. The albacore, seared rare, was accompanied by saffron potatoes, egg, tangy pickled flat beans and olive tapenade. It hit all the happy notes, and even the over Instagram-ed watermelon radish (sigh) played a delicious role.
Being a fried-chicken slinger, I had to try the Crispy Chicken Sandwich ($17) on the regular menu and make it spicy for a buck extra. Battered with a koji-cultured buttermilk breading and layered with sauerkraut, onions, lettuce and rémoulade sauce, the cutlet was wicked crispy, though it got a bit lost amid the multitude of components. Still, each bite left us wanting another, and there were fries — crispy, delectable fries.
The Beef Short Ribs ($34), also from the regular menu, gave the chef an opportunity to wield some Korean flavors. Served with house-made kimchi, ohitashi spinach and “lettuce wraps,” we skipped the wrapping and enjoyed each component separately, getting every morsel of the spicy, tangy meat off the bone.
Lastly, the Cheesecake ($9). Having spent 15 years in New York, I’ve had my share of cheesecakes and rarely had anything exciting to report. This, though! Perhaps lightened by gelatin, it was giggly, creamy and ethereal atop a delicate pecan-praline crust. Enriched with dark chocolate ganache and drizzled with dulce de leche, it was, like so much of Flux’s menu, truly an elevated classic.
Flux serves dinner Thursday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.