348 Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope
Even the most hyped Brooklyn restaurants tend to lose their buzz after not too much time has passed; gone, suddenly, are the crowds of people who once waited for hours to get a table, empty are the tables and booths where it was once impossible to get a seat. And when places do manage to stay open for years on end, they usually do so in a quiet way, reliant mostly on neighborhood patronage, rather than the clamoring hordes. Which is lovely, in its way, to see a favorite spot settle into its maturity, to be happy that it’s maintained relevance, if not trendiness—lovely, but not particularly exciting, you know? And certainly not really newsworthy.
But that’s where Franny’s is different. Now open for almost a dozen years, and even after having moved up the street to a space twice the size of its original Flatbush Avenue location, Franny’s is still consistently crowded, full of neighborhood regulars, yes, but also bringing in people from all over the borough, and beyond. There’s no doubt that part of the reason for this is that the food trends of which Franny’s was a front-runner back in 2004—things like locally sourced ingredients, listing the provenance of produce and meat on the back of the menu, offering season-specific dishes—are all things which are still a huge part of the culinary scene today. And yet, while there are lots of restaurants that cook local, seasonal fare, there’s only one Franny’s.
When I stopped by for dinner on a recent Wednesday night, the restaurant was close to packed—it filled completely during the time I was there. The large space could feel cavernous if it weren’t so reliably full of happily chattering diners, both at tables and sidled up to the generously proportioned bar, where a short cocktail list competes with an extensive, well-curated wine menu. Don’t be tempted with the cocktails; stick with the wine, and ask for advice if you need it—you’ll be sure to get expert help.
The real reason the crowds still come to Franny’s is simple though: the food. Some of the menu has stayed remarkably similar to what it was in the restaurant’s earliest days. The famously delicious clam pizza is a stalwart, and is a must-order for all first-timers. All the pizzas are excellent, though; it’s impossible to go wrong. The short list of pastas is ever-changing based on seasonally available ingredients, and, on a recent night, short tubes of rigatoni (actually mezze mastiche, but, you know, basically rigatoni) were dressed with melt-in-your-mouth braised veal shank and fresh spring peas to great effect.
My favorite part of Franny’s menu, though, and where chef John Adler really shines, is the appetizers, a few of which can make a meal. There’s always a couple different selections of crostini—right now one features a garlicky ramp butter, and decadent roasted prosciutto—as well as several beautifully composed salads—try the burrata with peas in a grassy, addictive pool of olive oil—and a house-made sausage—the night I tried it, it was pork, on a bed of buttery, perfectly cooked kale.
In short, even after all these years, Franny’s is still serving up some of the best food in the borough, sans fanfare or fuss. Just don’t forget to save room for dessert; the house-made doughnuts—bomboloni—are a sweet ending to a meal at what is easily Brooklyn dining at its finest—and has been for well over a decade now.