How old is too old to run away and join the circus?
Give it a try at Chicago’s new American brassiere and carousel bar, Francois Frankie.
Modeled after New Orlean’s famous Carousel Bar, this Loop restaurant opened earlier this summer and has been turning heads round and round for its menu and decor. We were invited in to try their new brunch menu.
In the center of the restaurant is the massive carousel bar, with a rotating platform of bar stools. It moves slowly, so don’t worry about getting seasick while drinking. The carnival lights provide a playful but elevated ambiance. Francois Frankie manages to incorporate a ride into the restaurant without the vibe being childish or gimmicky.
If you are unable to snag a seat at the bar, or just prefer to sit face to face, they have an expansive dining room with string lights to extend the romantic and cozy vibe.
My friend Cyrene and I grabbed plush, velvety seats near the front, where we could alternate people watching out the window and staring at the carousel. We each started with a mimosa. Francois Frankie’s mimosas are served in dainty Champagne coupe glasses, compared to the traditional flute that many restaurants use. It felt very 1920s chic. The drinks were pulp free and not overly orange flavored. Magic.
Our server asked us to put our trust in him and let him bring out the best options. Having been torn with indecision of what to eat, I happily closed my menu and went along for the ride.
We started by sharing a bowl of “oatmeal brûlée.” I have unfortunate memories of microwaveable oatmeal all through high school and college, where it was just hot glue that had a hint of cinnamon apple. This oatmeal brûlée has officially replaced that bad taste in my mouth with the thick yet creamy taste of rolled oats, milk, banana, almond butter, and caramelized cinnamon sugar. The bowl was a good portion for one person, and it’s easy to imagine warming up with a serving when the temperatures drop.
Next, we were treated to avocado toast with a side salad. In this job (and as a millennial), I have a lot of avocado toast. But Francois Frankie raises the bar by incorporating fluffy bites of goat cheese, adding a creamy tartness to the dish that is balanced by the acidity of cherry tomatoes. This mixture sits on top of house-made sourdough bread, sandwiched under two flawlessly poached eggs. If you balk at the idea of paying restaurant prices for toast, rest assured this is a filling dish that won’t weigh you down.
Our third dish was the omelet Francois, stuffed with a creamy herbed cheese and topped with caviar and chives. It comes with a side of breakfast potatoes. The eggs were light, yellow, and fluffy. The caviar adds a nice salty flavor to the dish. Honestly, the breakfast potatoes were fine, but hold the dish back by being so ordinary.
At this point, we switched to rosé: Cyrene with a sweet, sparkling glass, and me with a still, dry pour. As you would expect from a French restaurant, the wine was superb.
Though we were slowing down, we couldn’t resist trying the corned beef hash. Cyrene is a corned beef fan and was delighted with the presentation of this dish. Two fried eggs sat on top of house corned beef and potatoes, neatly packed into a cake. It was a salty, filling dish that would warm the soul on a blustery fall day.
And if all that was not enough, we were given a chocolate mousse to finish the feast. Luckily, my dessert stomach is never full. It came with an orange puree, which balanced out the rich dessert. If you can spare room in your stomach, you should absolutely order one.
The Bitches Say: Five Champagne Flutes
Francois Frankie has a whimsical, otherworldly ambiance with magical food. Give this carousel bar a spin.
Francois Frankie serves brunch Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.