At first glance, the drink didn’t look like a Gibson. The coupe the bartender slided in front of us was filled with a bright pink, iridescent liquid — not at all what my friend was expecting when she ordered the classic combination of gin, dry vermouth and a pickled onion.
But a Gibson it was and an excellent one at that. As our bartender explained — clearly she’d been asked the same question many times — the staff mixes red beets with onion brine, lending the pickling liquid a fuchsia sheen and just the slightest sweetness.
The drink is just one of several gussied-up versions on the cocktail menu at The Franklin, which reopened this spring with a new management team and overhauled bar and food menus.
The kitchen, led by chef Dane Harris, serves bistro-style dishes, some of which feel inspired by Louisiana without falling squarely within the confines of regional cooking. Beef tartare with “pho garnishes” nods to the city’s Vietnamese influences, while duck liver mousse comes across as modern French, flecked with large salt crystals and served with apricot mostarda and pickled beets. On the lighter side, a delicate tuna crudo is drizzled with citrus and topped with thin shavings of radish and watercress.
The short and straightforward list of entrees includes grilled trout with citrus salsa verde and a plate of short ribs with a punchy chimichurri.
There’s always something new to try in New Orleans.
One evening, a special cheekily dubbed Five Shades of Pork featured crispy and fatty pork belly with braised pork shoulder over collards cooked with hunks of ham, as well as other hog bits. A small ramekin held a strawberry and serrano pepper vinaigrette that added bursts of acid with sweet and spicy notes.
An excellent dish of crispy fried, salty Brussels sprouts includes a cane syrup gloss and generous drizzle of garlicky mayonnaise.
The “Four Veg Monte” entree allows diners to choose from six vegetable sides; the selections all are good, but the presentation needs work as the serving bowls for all of the items crowd the table.
Lemon pie is buttery and rich, bursting with lemon curd under a blanket of torched meringue and plump Luxardo cherries.
When the Franklin opened in 2014, it became a popular spot for neighbors and destination diners. While the space underwent some physical changes during the recent revamp, the restaurant still has a familiar sleek, modern design that somehow feels suited to either a casual weeknight visit or a livelier weekend outing.
Once again, the Franklin feels like a great neighborhood restaurant. Judging by the crowds of diners packing the place on a recent evening, the return is a welcome one.