Utah Bites

CRANDALL’S CORNER: Another Bourbon Group Hit at Franklin Ave.

Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen is a spacious, sprawling affair with bar and table seating on the main floor, downstairs area and excellent food.


Bar loving Utahns can thank the Salt Lake City-based Bourbon Group for bringing an inspired mixture of great cuisine, top-notch libations, and inviting ambiance to our town with establishments like Whiskey Street, Bourbon House, White Horse Spirits & Kitchen, and now, Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen, which opened in mid-summer. All of these places help to raise the bar of what bar beverages, food, and service can mean. 

As far as the culinary aspect of the Bourbon Group businesses, Chef/Partner Matt Crandall is a one man wrecking crew in the kitchen. I say that respectfully, in the sense that his prints are all over the menus of the Bourbon Group bars, elevating the cuisine to a level that not many 21-and-over bars here achieve. Add friendly, impeccable service and an uber inviting ambiance to the mix and you’ll understand why the Bourbon Group bars are hits with SLC’s bar-hopping crowd. 

Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen is a spacious, sprawling affair with bar and table seating on the main floor and a downstairs area that wasn’t busy on the Sunday night we visited, but gives guests more room to roam on more crowded nights. There is an open exhibition-style kitchen and by my count, at least three bars – two upstairs and one downstairs. 

Edison Street in downtown SLC where Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen is located – and where entire blocks are being revamped – was originally called Franklin Avenue, hence the bar’s name.

According to the folks at Franklin Ave., “Long ago, this very place was ‘a riff-raff assemblage of cowboys, tin-horners, higher-toned gamblers and the rag tag and bobtail element,’ according to the Salt Lake Herald, this building at 231 South on what was then known as Franklin Avenue was originally built around 1891 for the short-lived Franklin Avenue Variety Theatre. The theatre was more famous for the secret door on the third floor above the stage than any performance. The door led to an adjoining saloon and small ‘wine rooms’ where men and women enjoyed themselves and were waited upon by illegal liquor dispensers, as reported in the Deseret Weekly. Franklin was considered a tenderloin district as were the other mid-block alleys such as Commercial Street and Plum Alley. At the time, the newspapers sometimes referred to the street as ‘Darktown’ as it was one of the only places African Americans were welcome.”

Steak Tartare

Being a 21 and over bar, patrons can enjoy an adult beverage at Franklin Ave. without the necessity of ordering food. Maybe something like the signature Lavender Drop Spritz cocktail ($12) made with Wheatley vodka, butterfly pea simple syrup, lavender, lemon juice, and cava. It’s true that you don’t have to order food at Franklin Ave., but believe me, you’re going to want to. With a menu that covers the culinary bases from Deviled Eggs with duck cracklings and hot sauce ($10) to Black Cod with miso, soy dashi broth, intermountain mushrooms, snap peas and broccolini ($32), there is truly something for every palate here. The Steak Tartare ($18) is a sensational starter: raw cubed beef with pickled daikon, cucumber, togarashi, sesame seeds, “dynamite” aioli, and house-made potato chips. 

Hamachi Crudo

Spicy Hamachi Crudo ($16) was another excellent (and also raw) starter, with thin, tender slices of raw hamachi in a brightly flavored melange of jalapeño, strawberry, Meyer lemon aioli, crushed Marcona almonds, and Thai basil. The portion sizes are generous at Franklin Ave. and the hamachi was a large enough appetizer for three of us to share. 

Snap Peas

Another spicy starter – and a really, really great one – is listed simply as “Snap Peas” ($12) on the menu. But that is really underselling this outstanding starter. Perfectly cooked snap peas are made into something memorable with sliced Fresno chiles, coconut, cashews, chile crisp, and Thai basil. It’s another dish that I suspect Matt Crandall’s fingerprints are all over. This is bar food at its most interesting. 

Brussels Sprouts

It’s nice to see so many veggie options on a bar menu; Franklin Ave. has them in spades. Brussels Sprouts ($14) are nicely charred and topped with bacon, Marcona almonds, Medjool dates, Calabrian chile, and Meyer lemon aioli. If you like spicy food, there is a lot that will appeal to you on the Franklin Ave. menu where many dishes, like this one, are kicked up a notch or two by incorporating Fresno chiles, jalapeños, togarashi, Calabrian chile and such into them. Even the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($16) has sweet sambal and dynamite aioli. 

Mushroom Beignets

Still working our way through a pile of starters, next up was an innovative dish of Mushroom Beignets ($14). Yep – battered and fried intermountain mushrooms with a Green Goddess-style homemade dressing and frisee. 

Charred Broccolini

Did we try ALL of the starters at Franklin Ave.? Almost. The only one we missed – we could only eat so much – was Loaded Potatoes ($12). But did enjoy the Charred Broccolini ($14), served with anchovy dressing, shredded Grana Padano cheese, and fresh toasted breadcrumbs. 

Baby Gems Salad

Most folks probably don’t walk into a bar looking for a spectacular salad, but you could at Franklin Ave. My wife ordered the Baby Gems ($22) salad and it was every bit as delicious as it was eye-popping on the plate. It might be easier to list what wasn’t in this superb salad than what was. Baby gems lettuce with grilled avocado, crab meat, pepitas, radish slices, and olives, all bathed in a silky buttermilk dressing. 


And then, finally, it was on to the entrees! My wife’s salad was entree-size and then some, but my stepson and I had a hankering for pasta. He ordered, and loved, the Orecchiette ($22), which is hat-shaped pasta tossed with snap peas, Castelvetrano olives, roasted garlic, mint, and Grana Padano in a light Meyer lemon cream sauce. 


Meanwhile, I enjoyed my big plate of Mafaldine ($26), which is a thick, ribbon-shaped pasta with curled edges. The pasta was bathed in a hearty duck ragu with lots of nice big bites of duck meat, gremolata, Grana Padano, a poached egg, and breadcrumbs. There were also slices of Fresno chile in the dish, which in my opinion didn’t belong. Maybe someone in the kitchen is a little too heavy-handed with the chiles, but it was the only hiccup the entire night. Other main dishes include Cauliflower Steak ($22), the aforementioned Black Cod ($32), Wagyu Steak ($36), Gemelli with crab ($34), and Roasted Chicken with Za’atar ($24). 

Chocolate Doughnuts

Any signs of hunger had been banished from our table around starter #5, and yet we gallantly made room for dessert. Weighing the pros and cons of House Ice Creams ($10) or Peach Melba Panna Cotta ($10), over Raspado ($10) and Citrus Almond Tuile ($10), we finally settled on Chocolate Doughnuts ($10). It was an excellent choice, if I do say so myself: four rich, luscious chocolate doughnut holes with sea salt, pastry cream, and chopped pecans. The perfect way to end a very memorable dining experience.

With Franklin Ave. Cocktails & Kitchen, the Bourbon Group has another slam-dunk hit on their hands. Kudos especially to Matt Crandall, who seems to be making a personal mission of raising the level of bar food in our city. 

Culinary quote of the week: “The rhythm of life changes. Cooking must always change with it.” – Chef Alain Ducasse




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Food writer Ted SchefflerOriginally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.

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