CAMDEN — Paying homage to the little girl after whom the original café on 55 Chestnut Street was named, as well as to the local restaurant made popular by Chef Brian Hill, Jennifer and Jack Neal, the new owners of Franny’s Bistro, are excited to make their neighborhood bistro a local’s hang out once again.
“We wanted to keep a version of the original name while making it our own,” said Jennifer. “We’re tipping our hat to what’s been here before and taking ‘Francine’ — the original little girl to an adult ‘Franny’s — with an adventurous palate,” added Jack. “I think there is a built-in element of this restaurant and location having a local following, but with that comes a lot of expectation to live up to what came before. I like to do a lot of different cuisine, and don’t limit myself to one style. Our niche is going to be an intimate neighborhood place that makes you feel that you’re at home.”
The couple moved from Greenville to Camden several years ago to raise their sons.
“We’d always liked the place and came here a few times when Brian owned it,” said Jack. “We came by and spoke with the owner of the building Mark Senders, who’d already had a tenant lined up, so we thought, ‘oh well, that happens.’ But then, the tenant fell through and after that, everything fell into place real quickly.”
Jennifer, who also runs a floral business on the side, said with both of their sons now in middle school and high school, the timing was right to get back into the restaurant industry.
“We’re looking forward to having our sons work with us after school,” she said. “It shows them to can have a dream and make it happen.”
Jack, a chef for the past 20 years in Portland, as well as for a number of fine-dining inns in Camden and Greenville, has created a New American menu with a balanced array of comfort food, seafood, and vegetarian and gluten-free fare.
Patrons of the former Francine Bistro will be delighted to see Steak Frites is back on the menu, along with wintry stick-to-your-ribs dishes such as Tagliatelle Ragu, slow-cooked beef short ribs in a rich glace with grilled vegetables over housemade noodles.
The other element that Francine Bistro offered that the Neals plan to bring back are shareable appetizers such as smoked shrimp rolls, cider-glazed pork belly and creamy roast garlic mussels, as well as a sides menu for those who just want tiny plates.
“If you just want a drink and three small sides or share an entree and experiment, that’s how we like to go out and eat, and want to encourage people to try different things,” said Jennifer.
The interior has Jennifer’s elegant touch with cool, dark walls, the original wooden tables and much of the old Francine’s furniture. Jennifer’s extravagant bouquets of red and white roses bookend the bar, while small rustic touches such as pine cones and roses adorn the tables.
“I wanted the inside to be romantic,” Jennifer said. “A small intimate place you can come out on a date or with friends.”
Kathryn McKinlay, their bar manager, has crafted an eclectic cocktail menu. The “Tew-Pac Drop” a lemony vodka drink, a nod to the rapper Tupac Shakur, was one of their most requested cocktails at their soft opening last week. They will also have interesting mocktails, local brews and wines.
The official opening is on Wednesday, December 5. As they can only accommodate 50 people in the small restaurant, they require reservations. A menu can also be found online. For more information visit: Franny’s Bistro.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org