As we were approaching Franky & Johnny’s, we saw the Leidenheimer Baking Co. delivery truck pulling away. We knew that, should we order a poor boy, it would be served on great bread.
Franky & Johnny’s is located in a residential neighbor-hood in the Uptown area of New Orleans and its building looks as though it was once a private residence. (“Historical-ly, ‘Uptown’ was a direction, meaning movement in the direction against the flow of the Mississippi” [wikipedia.com]). It is another of those New Orleans businesses with a loyal following of neighborhood residents who return time and time again for the comfort that can come from a familiar menu, staff who greet you by name,and the chance to come across friends.
“This is a favorite local hole-in-the-wall neighborhood joint with either zero atmosphere or enough for three restaurants, depending on how you view these things. And by ‘things’ we mean plastic checked tablecloths (above), a ratty but friendly bar (below), and locals eating enormous soft-shell-crab poor boys with the crab legs hanging out of the bread and their mouths.... Try that poor boy or the excellent red beans and rice with smoky sausage and other down-home dishes and know you are somewhere that isn't for tourists—and enjoy it all the more” (frommers.com).
“Franky & Johnny’s has been a quintessential neighborhood seafood restaurant in New Orleans since 1942. It is the sort of place that has seen good times and rough periods, like Hurricane Katrina, when the Cajun restaurant became a local gathering place for people to check in on each other’s safety.
“Today, the challenge continues to be economic fallout from last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Tony Cortello’s family has owned Franky & Johnny’s for the last 24 years, serving only seafood caught in the Gulf. The menu is known as ‘Uptown Cajun,’ and it’s got a reputation for always serving the best. ‘Our serving Gulf seafood is something our customers appreciate because it helps the local economy,’ says Cortello” (louisianaseafoodnews.com).
In addition to the poor boys and red beans and rice, Franky & Johnny’s is also known for their coated and fried green pepper rings and spicy crawfish. I saw a couple of diners feasting on the crawfish boil, but since this is very early in the season (March through June is the best time to harvest crawfish), they seemed to be very small. I’ll wait a couple of months.
We finally settled on sharing an order of onion rings, a catfish poor boy, and an order of red beans and rice with spicy sausage. Since they were listed on the appetizer menu, the onion rings came first. We frequently forget to specify that we want them when the rest of the meal is served. The rings were larger than we liked, were rather greasy, and had a coating that was prone to separating from the ring. Not the best onion rings that Louisiana has to offer—and I consider Louisiana to the epicenter of onion rings.
The catfish poor boy came on a buttered roll and contained smaller pieces of fish than usual. But the fish appeared to be mealy. There were no large flakes and the texture reminded me of one of those fish sticks I ate as a child. And this is the first restaurant I have encountered that charges extra if you want the poor boy dressed. Still, it did come on a Leidenheimer roll and that counts for something.
On the other hand, the red beans and rice were exemplary. The beans contained disks of smoky sausage and small bits of ham which may have given the dish a slightly sweet flavor. You could taste hints of thyme and bay, but neither was too pronounced. And the accompany-ing link of sausage was fine textured and hot as advertised on the menu. Since our priority was to finish those elements of the meal that would not reheat well, we concentrated on the onion rings and poor boy. That left a good portion of red beans and rice to take home for my breakfast the following morning.
Yes. You read that right. I did eat red beans and rice for breakfast.
Thus far, this is my least favorite of the neighborhood restaurants we have visited and can only award it 2.5 Addies.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.