When Franklin owners Jason Baas, Patrick Finney and Michael Wilkinson saw the potential to create a more upscale, ambiance-driven spot for food and drinks in Faubourg Marigny, they turned to the same design team, Bockman and Forbes, that created the Bouligny Tavern’s elegant and warm mid-century look Uptown.
The result is a chic, international space with large-scale fine art and a mix of seating: bar stools, small tables and bench seats that work well for the single drinker or for intimate conversation between couples but also can accommodate larger groups.
Wooden screens help to define the space between the bar and back tables. A pale concrete countertop runs the length of the bar, while a gray upholstered ceiling adds softness overhead. Lights are fairly dim, and table candles make for a cozy, come-out-of-the-wind, tavern-like feel.
However, given that the Franklin is one of several upscale newcomers to the scene, some may question whether the city needs yet another expensive bar. The trend toward crafted, more pricey drinks is clear, and cocktails ranging from $10 to $12 are quickly becoming the norm.
Some see this rise in prices as a positive sign of the city’s development and increasingly sophisticated tastes, while others think the recent influx of outside money is changing the city’s drinking character and yearn for the days of cheap cocktails.
However, Baas is quick to point out that he’s a local and has lived in the Marigny for 15 years. When it came to his own spot, he was dedicated to opening in his favorite New Orleans neighborhood.
“If I lived on this street and someone opened a bar like this,” Baas says, “I’d be in here all the time. We’re a ‘come as you are’ place. No dress code. We’re not interested in turning anyone away.”
Indeed, customers arrive in everything from pinup vintage looks to button-down business shirts to hoodies and jeans.
For many in the beverage industry, New Orleans is experiencing one of the most exciting periods the city has ever known, Baas said. It’s a sentiment echoed by plenty of bartenders and owners. More affluent and knowledgeable drinkers means there’s a clientele for experimentation, modern takes on classics and a wider range of ingredients.
Baas says he isn’t a fan of mixology or cocktails that require precise measurements, nor is he interested in making in-house bitters or infusions. Experienced bartenders, Baas and his bar manager Franklin Buist are “free-pourers” who aim to offer fresh takes on traditional cocktails made with high-quality ingredients.
For instance, the drinks menu includes a version of a greyhound (a grapefruit cocktail) called the G.N.T. peel, and the Hemingway, which draws on the famous author’s love of daiquiris.
More original mixes include the fresh and bright-tasting Accidents Will Happen, made with the Italian liqueurs Cardamaro and Strega, sage, curry bitters and citrus; or the Desmond, a strong and soulful brown, stick-to-the-ribs mix of Old Scout bourbon, Averna Amaro, Cappelletti and orange bitters. Beers by the bottle range between $5 and $8; wine drinkers will find a considered menu, including a decent selection of wines by the glass.
As its full name suggests, the Franklin can be treated as a restaurant, a lounge or both.
For those drinkers who like to snack but not commit to a full meal, Franklin’s menu includes a few simple-but-satisfying, cocktail-friendly snacks like pommes frites or fried oyster mushrooms with sherry mustard. Particularly welcome is Franklin’s locally harvested oyster menu that includes raw, fried, poached or grilled preparations.