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SAVOR Say 'oui' to Francois Frankie
by Andrew Davis
2023-05-17

This article shared 1990 times since Wed May 17, 2023
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The last time I went to the French-American spot Francois Frankie was before the pandemic (2019, to be precise) and its brunch was one of the most impressive I had the pleasure of experiencing that year.

So how would things be four years later when I visited the restaurant again for lunch? (It currently doesn't have brunch, as it's only open 5-9 p.m. on Saturdays during the weekend in addition to its weekday hours. That's such a shame, as I still remember that corned-beef hash. However, the staff attributed the lack of a brunch to its location, which is pretty much a "dead space.")

Well, let's start with that undeniable talking point: the centerpiece carousel bar. Francois Frankie is only one of two restaurants in the country with such a conversation-starter, and this one takes 66 minutes to make a complete revolution. Also, Brittany Steiner's cool art of the fictional character Francois Frankie is still there.

But let's talk about the menu offerings.

Starting with drinks, I went with the Francois Goes to Hollywood (which I considered a good omen, as I saw a news item earlier in the day about a movie being filmed about the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood). This drink, however, is probably headier than the movie will be, as the cocktail is a mix of Prairie Gin, creme de Noyaux, orange liqueur, lime, orange bitters and sparkling wine. (As the manager said, "When you're paying that much for a drink [$17], you have to make it boozy.") My dining companion and I agreed that the concoction wasn't like anything we'd tasted before—but we still both loved it.

However, if that's not to your liking, there are many other options—some exclusive to the spot (like the Frankie Strawberry Basil Smash and Rye the Carousel) to classics like the Moscow Mule, Paloma and French 75 (of course). And there are definitely wines and beers to be considered.

As for the lunch menu, it's full of comfort items—and the most exotic thing there is probably the escargot. While I've had that dish (at other restaurants), we decided to try items that our charismatic server/bartender, Hugo, recommended.

Regarding appetizers, we opted for crispy Brussels sprouts and roasted baby sweet potatoes. The sprouts, with roasted garlic and lemon-vanilla coulis, were absolutely delicious (although the smell of sprouts makes the vegetable no one's friend when traveling with them). The same must be said about the potatoes, served with whipped ricotta, black truffles, salsa and radish.

Other app choices include mussels and frites, smoked chicken lettuce wraps, fried calamari and French onion soup gratinee. And for those who want salad, people can choose Francois chicken Cobb, salmon Caesar or a house-smoked salmon quinoa bowl.

But we wanted entrees that were meatier. My friend went for the Amish chicken with smashed potatoes. The chicken was cooked extremely well, managing to be tasty and succulent. I also really enjoyed the steak sandwich a la Frankie—a culinary option that is served with hanger steak, caramelized onion and giardiniera, served on a baguette (and with French onion broth to dip the sandwich in). Again, there are other choices, of course—think cheeseburgers, shrimp ratatouille, saffron bouillabaisse and croquet Monsieur/Madame.

By the way, we also decided to indulge in dessert. Look no further than that cozy standard: the warm chocolate-chip skillet cookie with vanilla ice cream. But there are also pies and other sweets to tempt the taste buds.

And just so you know, there's also a chilled seafood and meat section that includes jumbo shrimp cocktail, fresh shucked oysters, hanger steak tartare (with dijonnaise and giardiniera on toasted sourdough) and avocado crab Louis.

Again, the menu doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel. However, what is prepared here is done very well.

By the way, I sometimes comment on the atmosphere. While there weren't many people at Francois Frankie's on this day (as we visited during the off-time), it was still lively—in part, because of the music. With a soundtrack straight of a '70s blaxploitation movie (or an episode of Starsky and Hutch), the diners who were there seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves while their senses of hearing, smell and (most importantly) taste were being sated.

Note: This visit was arranged.

Francois Frankie is at 222 W. Randolph St. Visit www.francoisfrankie.com . To read more about the Chicago restaurant scene, visit future3733.substack.com .


This article shared 1990 times since Wed May 17, 2023
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