Creativity points for this round go to the grilled organic half chicken ($18), which is crusty on top, tender within, and mounted on cubes of potato in a curry-cumin-yogurt-coconut sauce that any Indian restaurant would be proud to serve. Pan-seared local cod ($19) may be slightly over-salted for a subtle fish, but again had a wonderful crust and a tender center, with quality sides of chive mashed potatoes and sautéed oyster mushrooms. Adobo-rubbed baby-back ribs ($17) are a lovely imitation of real barbecue, with a chipotle-like top that might be better as a four-way appetizer with drinks. Celeriac slaw was a nice foil for the spice, yet on its own tasted like shredded coconut.
Arriving early, I sipped at a "House old fashioned" ($9), having asked the bartender to make it with rye (Sazerac) instead of the usual bourbon (Maker's Mark). With the muddled orange slices and maraschino cherry at the bottom, I could sip a sour cocktail from the rim, or a sweet one from the straw. Both were excellent. Franklin Southie has only three taps going, but they are all interesting, and our bottle of Brancott Terraces "T" pinot noir ($45) was up with anything at the price from Oregon, as well as some light-year Burgundy. The wine list doesn't mention years, but the 2007 New Zealand spring vintage was ready to drink and had both vegetative and fruit bouquet in balance. This bottle would probably cost $55 to $60 under ordinary Boston-restaurant pricing models.
Franklin Southie has no desserts — none of the Franklin cafés do. They do have very good decaf coffee ($2), plus teas made loose-leaf in china pots that fit over the glasses ($3) — the best way to brew it.
Service in a much-less-packed room than the South End café is relaxed but effective. We were in early and didn't see the peak crowds. The location, a block from the expressway, has always struck me as odd. I've driven by the two condo buildings on this block of Dorchester Avenue as they were built over the last two years, wondering who would ever want to live in this isolated corner of Southie — other than Boston Herald editors who could walk across the bridge to work. But here we are, and those condos are filling up, and people come into Franklin Southie to drink and eat, and listen to alt-folk and rock. The decoration is like the South End, too: a little more pale green and tan, with black wood tables. How the terrace tables work in the summertime, with the same view, we shall see. Never mind the calendar — the season isn't yet here. On a rainy evening, it's pretty fun film noir for a new restaurant in a new building looking out over another new building.
Robert Nadeau can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.