Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Franklin Street Cafe & Grill - Hagerstown, MD

A little South in your mouth

We're not all Keystone State, all the time--we venture outside once in a while, and one of our favorite places to venture is this little corner nook on Franklin (Route 40 West) and Jonathan Street in Hagerstown MD called (of course) Franklin Street Cafe & Grill--arguably not just the best place to taste Southern/Soul food in South Central PA (not a big deal, we're north of the Mason-Dixon line) but also the best place to taste it in Hagerstown, MD (which is a big deal, a very big deal).

The cafe lives in a beautifully distinct building with a gray-shingled corner pyramid roof in one of the older sections of downtown--if the surroundings are a bit ramshackle, that's part of the atmosphere/ambiance/charm. Inside gaily painted figures and (what else?) frank messages in large letterings dance overhead.

"Cherish Live Dream" Grand aspirations, but the kitchen delivers: from sauteed kale with red peppers, red onions, and shredded smoked turkey (tastier than ham hock, if you can believe it)--
--to fried fish (basically long strips of crisped-batter clean-tasting whiting) with ultracrunchy fries (potato wedges rolled in corn starch and blitzed in peanut oil till crackling) served with tartar and a tongue-searing no-nonsense hot sauce (note the little banana muffin to one side, perfect for concluding the meal only you don't want I repeat you don't want to do that)--

--to curried tilapia topped with sliced onions over a bed of red peppers and creole dirty rice (fish crusted with earthy spices, over aromatic grains).

The drinks by the way are no joke--they have sweet tea (authentic molar-melting sugary ass tea, the way it's served in the South) and to show you the size of their commitment serve it in one of those two-pint containers used for Chinese family takeout orders (basically 32 icy ounces of serious as a heart attack, sweating softly on the table in front of you).

The nearer two-pint jar is sweet tea; the further one is half-and-half: half sweet tea, half lemonade. You pick your poison and drink it--or rather gulp it down the best you can.

It's not all five-alarm heat and faint-inducing portions; a fried fish salad gracefully points to the air like a superhero about to take a tall building in a single bound:

--more crisped seafood over fresh lettuce, chunked tomato, red onion, a zesty vinaigrette.

And O that muffin I mentioned earlier? You can always settle but why do so when the best desserts west of the Atlantic and outside of Spain  are from the South? Like a slice of say luscious sweet potato cheesecake topped with decadently chewy caramel chips:

 Or banana pudding. 

I know what you're thinking: "banana freaking pudding?!" Only fresh bananas and crisp 'nilla wafers in custard topped with whipped cream--rich as sin, light as an angel's wing, and liable to lift you off the ground if you aren't holding on to the nearest table edge. 

Have to go back--tried their shrimp and grits (huge squeaky-fresh shrimp in bowls of thick cheddar-topped grits) and fish and grits (long planks of crisped whiting over bowls of thick cheddar-topped grits). Also need to try--haven't caught it, but hope someday to be lucky--their oxtail stew. a rare dish that makes its appearance once in a blue moon. While I'm missing it by one day (O we had it yesterday!) or another (O we're having it tomorrow!) I'll gladly settle for the rest of their menu, thank you very much.

No comments:

Post a Comment