French Kissed

Ian makes out (like a bandit) at Franco.

Desserts included both the reliable (Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, as satisfying as good crème brûlée always is) and the clever. The standout among the latter was the "Caramel Apple," green-apple sorbet from local favorite Serendipity, roasted apples and cajeta, a Mexican version of caramel syrup, made with goat's milk.

Here, sadly, the meal ends. Though classy, Franco is utterly unpretentious, so there's no shower of petits fours to keep you at your table. Which, come to think of it, is odd. Given the choice between lingering at a four-star table in a monkey suit and lingering here, I'd choose Franco every time.

This is the saddest story I have ever told about myself: One summer I subsisted on nothing but cornbread and French fries.

Perfectly Franco: Tom Schmidt
Jennifer Silverberg
Perfectly Franco: Tom Schmidt

Location Info

Map

Franco

1535 S. Eighth St.
St. Louis, MO 63104

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Soulard

Details

Franco
1535 South Eighth Street, 314-436-2500.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Dinner 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
(Bar open till 1 a.m. Mon.-Sat.)

Pommes frites $5
Sweetbreads $9
"Wood Grilled Bistro Steak "$20
Braised lamb shank $23
"Caramel Apple "$6

I was working as a deli clerk and short-order cook in Ocean City, Maryland. The cornbread came from a boxed mix. The fries we made ourselves. These were boardwalk fries: cut fresh, soaked in water, blanched twice, doused with salt and eaten out of a paper cup that started to disintegrate with the first drop of grease.

These were as vital to summers down the ocean (as we say there) as the sun and the surf, but I took them for granted until I learned how to make them. There was no secret, just a time-tested process that you either followed or you didn't. If you did, you got the crispest and saltiest and most delicious fries you could imagine. If you didn't — at just a couple bucks a cup — no one really cared.

I made them the right way. I knew I'd be stealing a handful from every batch I made, so I wanted to steal the very best fries I could. I also knew that while the fries were a simple pleasure, they were a pleasure, deserving of my attention.

Pommes frites at Franco cost $5 and come in a metal cone rather than a paper cup, with a side of mayo, not ketchup. Otherwise, they're boardwalk fries. I ordered them at the same time I ordered the sweetbreads, and while the sweetbreads blew me away, it was the frites that took me back to the 64th Street Market in Ocean City. There I first realized that food wasn't just taste and energy and a full belly.

Franco isn't the "best" restaurant in St. Louis. It's not haute or innovative cuisine as you might find at An American Place or Niche. It's not fancy or pampering like Tony's. But I can't think of a better place to reconnect with why you fell in love with food and restaurants in the first place. And if you've never thought about food or restaurants in those terms, I can't think of a better place in St. Louis to start your own story.

It'll have a happy ending. Promise.

Have a suggestion for a restaurant the Riverfront Times should review? E-mail ian.froeb@riverfronttimes.com.

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