City Paper is not for tourists
The dish: Oyster stew
The location: Franklins Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store, 5121 Baltimore Ave. Hyattsville, (301) 927-2740.
The price: $11
The skinny: Franklins is my kind of neighborhood joint. Housed in a historic corrugated-metal building in Hyattsville that once served as the community’s hardware store, Franklins maintains the spirit of the former occupant. I mean, the thing I love about hardware stores, particularly the old community ones that smell like machine-cut nails and fertilizer, is their insanely byzantine nature. You can turn down any aisle in a hardware store and find some ridiculous home or garden gadget that you never knew you needed. The menu at Franklins is much the same, stuffed with the strangest assortment of items, from wood-fired pizzas and burgers to satays, curried chicken and knockwurst. On my latest visit, I ordered the oyster stew appetizer. I typically prefer my bivalves straight-up—-no lemon juice, horseradish or mignonette for me. (Seriously, would you add a squeeze of lemon to a Pinot, which, like an oyster, is a pure expression of its terroir?) But I digress. The oyster stew was far better than I ever expected it to be, yet another sign of how serious Franklins’ takes its task of feeding its many friends and neighbors. Okay, sure, the pale-yellow bowl sprinkled with a confetti of parsley shouts “festive” in shrill tones, but the stew itself speaks a more harmonious language. The oysters, poached in champagne, hold all their original brininess, which is perfectly complemented by the creamy soup spiked with fennel, Pernod, and generous amounts of pepper. The bacon-crumble garnish gives the dish extra depth and crunch. As I alternate between the stew and my “Rubber Chicken Red Ale,” a heady, house-made brew with this sweet rumlike flavor, I can’t help but think that Franklins understands what it means to be a gracious neighbor, not just a neighborhood restaurant.