ver-the-Rhine currently houses a late-night walk-up taco window in the form of Gomez Salsa (now open daily for lunch and Sunday brunch) and a couple spots for late-night pizza, but what if it’s 1 a.m. and you’re craving a different type of food from a window? Soon, OTR — and Cincinnati — will get its first walk-up french fry window, Fryed, from entrepreneur Lindsey Metz.
“Honestly, it was a late-night alcohol-induced thought, originally,” Metz says about the business venture. “When I woke up the next morning, I was like, that still sounds like a good idea.”
As is the case with many drunk people, Metz really wanted fries at that moment, but she couldn’t find a place that sold them. “I tossed the idea (for Fryed) around to friends and they were like, ‘I would definitely eat french fries,’ ” she says.
Metz, who lives in Over-the-Rhine, kept seeing posters for an accelerator program called MORTAR, founded last year by Allen Woods, Derrick Braziel and William Thomas (they also oversee the rotating pop-up shop Brick OTR). She took it as a sign to apply for the nine-week course, and in July she got a call announcing that out of 50 applicants, she was one of 15 chosen for the summer program.
MORTAR’s stated mission is to offer non-traditional entrepreneurs an opportunity to launch their businesses in their own neighborhood and positively affect their community. Metz explains that the accelerator teaches “the importance of knowing who you are,” along with offering business support and brand-development strategies, legal advice from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and one-on-one mentoring from SCORE, a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground.
Besides food, MORTAR’s summer entrepreneurs are also building businesses in areas such as lawn care, clothing and nonprofits. The nine-week course ends in a couple weeks, and Metz and her classmates will each give a Shark Tank-like pitch to judges and potential investors in an attempt to win funding. Not too shabby for someone whose only background in food service was an eight-year stint at College Hill Coffee Company.
MORTAR’s connections and resources have been helpful to Metz, and so have strangers. “I thought it would be more difficult to get people on board,” she says. “I was really shocked about it. It’s just been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I’m kind of waiting for something bad to happen. But so far, so good.”
She’s currently looking for a small space in OTR and thinks she’ll wait until the spring to officially open her window. But she is in the process of ramping up fry production to sell at events and breweries like Rhinegeist, because they offer “drunk people on demand,” she says.
When the time does come for Fryed to go full-service, here’s how it’ll work: Customers — drunk and sober — will be able to pick the size of their fries (snack, single and shareable), their style (thin, thick or sweet potato), seasonings and various dipping sauces. As a result, Metz has immersed herself in condiment R&D. She’s mastered Sriracha ketchup, a spicy chipotle mayo, a lemon-garlic mayo and a ranch, and she plans to offer a fancier dip of the day or week to complement the fries.
Until recently, Metz hadn’t made her own fries much, but she purchased a counter-top fryer from Amazon and has been experimenting with a few batches. “I haven’t made anything terrible that I know of yet,” she says. “That’s the hard part. I don’t like onions, but other people obviously like onions. So it’s hard to figure out when I’m the only one creating it how what might taste good to other people, doesn’t taste good to me.”
On Labor Day (Sept. 7), Metz and some of MORTAR’s food entrepreneur grads will present their labor-of-loves to the public during an event called Morsels of Mortar, held at Mortar’s headquarters (1329 Vine St., OTR). Metz will showcase her fries alongside cheesecake bakery Jazzy Sweeties, Aunt Flora’s Cobblers and Findlay Market’s vegan/vegetarian Jamaican soul food stall, JameriSol.
Metz, who works for the workforce development program at the YWCA, never envisioned Fryed happening, so she’s a little baffled by the whirlwind attention. “I like planning, but I don’t like thinking too far in advance and moving away from what’s happening now,” she says. “I had someone reach out already about opening a Kentucky location. Holy moly, let me get one location. Tom + Chee blew up. I don’t know if Fryed would do the same, or if I would want to go out of Tristate area, so we’ll see what happens as it happens.”
Her immediate goals are to start spreading the word about her fries — “if you make them, they will come” — getting ready for her pitch night, serving fries at Morsels and OTR’s Build the Block Party (Sept. 19) and just absorbing her unexpected and life-changing career path.
“This is really crazy,” she says. “It’s really ridiculous. I have no idea what’s happening, but I like it all. I’m ready for it.”