Franny’s Francine Stephens on Long Lines, Ramp Gibsons, and Big Changes at Bklyn Larder
It's been a big year for Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg, beginning with the closure of the original Franny's on Flatbush Avenue and its move down the road to a brand-new, much bigger space. Meanwhile, the couple is hard at work converting the old restaurant into the "pared down" Marco's, which is set to open in four months; provisions shop Bklyn Larder is moving forward, and the Franny's cookbook will be published on June 1. Despite the new, much larger space, some customers have complained of arduous lines, which can sometimes stretch out the door and extend down the block, especially on weekends. We talked with Stephens yesterday about the waits, plans for Marcos, and the all-star chef Shuna Lydon, who's just started work on advancing the pastry program at Bklyn Larder.
You've been open in the new space now for three weeks. How are things at Franny's?
It's been going really well. People have been absolutely pouring out in support of us. It could have gone either way, so we're super thankful for that.
A lot of how we billed our expansion to the new Franny's was with the idea that, because we were doubling the size, there would be no more waiting for diners. But there have been waits, and I kind of want to speak to my people about that. A huge goal of ours with the expansion was to be able to say yes where we previously said no. At this point, for example, there's always a polenta dish on the menu, so customers who have gluten-free diets now have an entree to love. We're saying yes to large parties, to private dining.
And there have still been complaints about the waits.
My manager had a great way of saying it yesterday. He was like, "You know, Franny, you can bring construction to take a two-lane highway and make into four lanes. But if it's a beautiful day and everyone wants to go to the beach, you get stuck in traffic." I think that's a great way of putting it. So it's something were working on.
Is it always really busy?
Well, so far it looks like from Monday through Thursdays, from 5:30 to 7:30, it's pretty empty. You're going to get a seat during that time. There's no doubt the weekends have been really busy, but we are now open for lunch on Fridays in addition to Saturdays and Sundays, so that's been a really nice mellow time to be here. Our goal for sometime this summer is to get to a point where we're open for lunch every day. But right now, Saturdays and Sundays have been busy. Last weekend, for example, there was a huge line after the cherry blossom festival ended, and that was really unavoidable.
It seems like this happened with Pok Pok, where the restaurant became well-known for its epic lines, but as Andy Ricker pointed out, the restaurant was pretty empty if you hit it at the right time.
A lot of our guests have been saying, "Hey, you promised there wouldn't be a wait." It really just kind of depends on when you come.
When will Marco's open?
We started construction on Marco's the day we closed Franny's, and it's moving along. We plan to be open on September 1, but we're at the whim of Con-Ed. Right now that's our only variable, but it's a big one.
And what's the menu and the look going to be like over there?
It'll be like Franny's food, but pared down even more, so rustic Italian, not fine dining at all. We went with a kind of mid-century look and design, and it's going to be beautiful — lots of brass, a gorgeous marble bar. It'll hopefully have a very warm feeling inside.
And Bklyn Larder is going strong?
Yes. The big news is that we've just hired the most unbelievable pastry chef, Shuna Lydon. She's been here a week. Sergio Hernandez, my business partner over there, just texted me photos of two new beautiful things Shuna has introduced to the menu. There's going so many more great things happening over there. We loved the palate of Inga Scheaffer, our opening pastry chef, but at this point Shuna's come in saying, "Okay, you guys have a great base, but I'm going to take this to the next level."
What about menu changes at Franny's? How's spring treating you?
Well, we're finally starting to see a lot of the things we've all been waiting for this month. Mint is back, and asparagus is happening. Our lovage and prosecco cocktail is back for the season, and our ramp Gibson is back at the bar — for that we pickle the ramps. Now that all of these ingredients are finally coming in, our whole appetizer menu will probably shift within the week.
Postscript: After Grub Street talked to Stephens, we reached out to Lydon, who has left her post at Calliope and had this to say about her plans for Bklyn Larder:
I'm working on an extensive wheat free line of baked goods (sweet and savory), baking mixes, and wholesale offerings. I'm also going to collaborate with chefs at Franny's more to create more cross-referencing of seasonal flavors in gelato, sorbetto, and plated desserts. People should expect to see some of their favorites from my repertoire as well as new Brooklyn inspired deliciousnesses. I'll be incorporating more seasonal fruit, veggies, flowers, and herbs in our daily, monthly, and holiday offerings, and looking to develop our celebration cake line.
*This post has been edited throughout.