Franklin Park 618 St. John’s Place, Crown Heights
Situated in a former auto shop on the still-multicultural St. John’s Place, Franklin Park is the Genesis of said Crown Heights gentrification, and the guiding light is Southpaw co-owner and Galapagos/Natural Selection-transformer Matt Roff. From its country estate entrance (with the gold door plaque and high walls), the space calls out to the neighborhood, “Let there be a garden bar! And let it be good.”
And so it is. Once inside, a patio garden of picnic benches, trees and dappled sunlight awaits — the ideal outdoor bar for a Coney Island lager ($5) on a summer afternoon. Past the reflective, raised garage door, the space transforms again into a Greased Lighting graphic creation — half music video bar, half 1950s repair shop. Crisp subway titles spell out FRANKLIN PARK along the bar, grayscale sports-centered blowups adorn the black and white cinderblock walls, and a long leather banquette is punctuated by eight demure cocktail tables. Perhaps it’s more Greased Lightning by way of the super-vintage Soda Fountain Shop — but again, though studied and deliberate, the bar succeeds and, come cooler weather and weekend nights, should be packed with patrons through and through.
While there’s no kitchen at Franklin Park, the bar’s Bring Your Own Food policy is embraced by the laid-back mix of young locals who fill the space with conversation and palpable gratitude at having a place like this so close to home.
And the drinks? In terms of options, Franklin Park delivers. With 12 beers on tap and nearly as many in bottles, the bar offers everything from Framboise Lambic ($9) to Pork Slap ($4). Wines are sold by the glass ($6-9) and the bottle (all under $32), but cocktails are the serious business of the bar. Wonder what Franklin Park really tastes like? Well, order the drink ($10), a conversation-provoking blend of bourbon, prosecco and St. Germain served straight up in a martini glass. Be warned, though, this is not the land of speakeasies or bartending flair. More often than not, the bartenders are almost comically flummoxed. So flummoxed it’s tempting to offer up the age-old pick-up line, “So, you come here often?”
And that, you know, is a whole other jiffy lube of conversation.