Do you know what an amazing feat it is for a restaurant to be open and successful for more than 10 years? Tonight I met two girlfriends for dinner at the Franklin Cafe, a restaurant that has been open since 1996, and has been so many thing to me since I first crossed the threshold.
On my first visit I was just 19 years old, out for drink after a busy shift at my very first waitressing job. The Franklin was one of the two places in city the where I could drink without getting carded, and this only because I was accompanied by James, Molly, and Scott, all of whom were 2 - 15 years my senior. It was new and exciting and dangerous, trying to slip under the radar and drink underage: what a the thrill, to not get caught.
Six months later the Franklin was the site of my first formative culinary experience. We didn't go out to eat often when I was growing up, and I certainly didn't grow up in a "foodie" household. If we ever did dine out the restaurant was either really, really casual, like a glorified diner, or really, really fancy, in which case I thought it imperative to order French onion soup or shrimp cocktail, and filet mignon. At 19 I learned about a whole new world of food: "New American" cuisine and "upscale dining", the cuisine that comes between simple and fancy, expensive for a 19-year-old out to dinner for her first big girl meal, but a drop in the bucket for the urban young professional. I had my first meal of this sort at the Franklin: black pepper encrusted tuna steak over garlic mashed potatoes with greens and citron blanc, so perfectly seasoned, salty, and delicious. I can still taste it. The food was as delicious and dangerous as the underage drinks -- after all, I was eating tuna that wasn't cooked.
Three years later, after a failed attempt at a life in New York post 9/11 I moved back to Boston with my then fiance, the Ex. We drank at the Franklin almost every Saturday night with friends, he as a last stop on his evening tour of the city, I as a first stop after a long crazy waitressing shift. It became the automatic, the go to place. For a while I even went on Thursday and Sunday nights as well. We celebrated one (of five anniversaries) there.
Then, two and a half years ago there was the break-up, as much a break-up with aforementioned friends as it was with the Ex. I began dating the Mathematician, who doesn't drink so much: I too stopped drinking so much. I changed jobs, changed relationships, changed all my patterns. Every single thing about my life changed, but on the occasion that I did want to go out for late night dinner or drink after a busy Saturday night at the restaurant, the Franklin was the spot, there as always like an old friend, more an old friend than the friends I lost (along with all of the furniture and the All-Clad pans) in "the divorce."
Fast forward to tonight. The Franklin has gotten two face lifts since I used to sneak in there underage and drink my face off with James, Molly, and Scott. Many of the staff have changed, but Jodi happened to be behind the stick tonight, manning her old post. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and while applying lip gloss in the familiar mirror, had a total Franklin moment. Same old tiny bathroom. Same itty bitty sink. Same music pumping through the speakers into the bathroom, something James used to love, that I learned to hear and love, too. Suddenly I realized: drinks and dinner at the Franklin felt more familiar and comfortable than they would have in my own kitchen.
So tonight, I have to thank you Franklin, just for being there. For being consistent and delicious for over a decade, more stable than my own life. I hope I'm still gazing into the same mirror to apply my lip gloss and washing my hands in your tiny sink for years to come.