Before Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Community Arts Center, our cadre that had dwindled to a pair appeared for our reservation at Franco’s Lounge downtown on West Fourth. It was my first time. I was pumped. I’d heard such great things, especially about the duck tenders.
I am fond of appetizers, and generally would prefer to make a meal of them. Smaller portions, bigger flavors. My like-minded companion and I ordered a spread of appetizers, deciding on four. Of course, the duck tenders with raspberry sauce were the first selection. Then after much sighing and discussion that we would prefer to order all, we chose the fried pickles, the Tamari grilled shrimp and the Tomato and Pesto Bruschetta.
The fried pickles were astonishing, the Tamari Shrimp was deliciously smoky, perfectly done. And since Franco’s is legendary, and since most folks I’ve talked to have only fine things to say, it is with reservation and a bit of sadness that I report my first experience with Franco’s was more than a notch below expectation.
The Bruschetta was what they call peasant bread thickly sliced and topped with sauce and cheese and it was served warm. To me, this is bread pizza or cheese bread. Bruschetta is generally thinner toast served with cold meats, tapenades, and/or veggies. The much praised sauce that came with the “bruschetta” was nice, but didn’t blow back my hair the way I wanted it to. Also, there was not enough pesto involved in the dish to merit pesto as part of its name.
The duck tenders, however, were true stinkers. Dry and spongy and, to my mouth, inexcusably flavorless, especially when we were presented with about eight small, slender tenders that cost $9. The portion of raspberry sauce was generous and flavorful—a nice fusion of sweet and spicy—but could not excuse the general unpleasantness.
Having made my living in restaurants for two thirds of my working years this far, I am often loath to complain about anything. The duck merited a mention to our server. Instead of whisking away the platter and replacing it with a better prepared one, our server explained to us that “that’s how the tenders are supposed to be,” and asked us if we didn’t like the raspberry sauce.
She said she would “talk to [someone]” about it, but when she unceremoniously cleared our table and presented our check, there was no evidence that that had been any talking.
Here are the things that are excellent: Franco’s tap beers, the atmosphere, and half of the food
we ate. The draught selection is diverse and exciting, spanning IPAs to Wheats to Lambic. The place is tiny and intimate and simply lovely. Our server was friendly enough, but did not handle our dissatisfaction with any sort of grace; nor was she especially attentive.
So to Franco’s, I give 2.5 capers for food, 2 capers for service and 5 capers for atmosphere. That makes Franco’s a 3.17 caper stop. I will try again, but probably not soon.