Date of Visit: Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 11:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: During the Thanksgiving weekend, my wife and I visited her family in western Pennsylvania. If you’ve never visited Western PA (aside from Pittsburgh and Erie), it’s worth taking a drive through it. There are some wonderful folks there, and the scenery is quite beautiful, with lots of forests, farms, and hilly roads. The town of Franklin is nestled in a valley in the center of Venango County. As you head into town, you can see historic Victorian homes lining the sloping streets, and the downtown itself is well-preserved and thriving, a rarity for many small American towns these days. If you take a day to stroll downtown Franklin, you’ll find some pleasant surprises in terms of shops and restaurants, in addition to the lovely scenery and historic buildings. While we spent the afternoon in Franklin with my wife’s family, we stopped for breakfast/lunch at the French Creek Cafe (named after the creek that flows through town (by the way, yes, the town is named after Benjamin Franklin)).
ATMOSPHERE: French Creek Cafe is located on Liberty Street, the main drag through town. We found it amongst a row of stores, coffee shops (including the excellent Summer House Coffee Roasters), and restaurants. The storefront is a recessed door covered by a huge awning. A few cafe tables and a sandwich board invite you in. I’m sure during the summer it’s nice to sit out front and enjoy some coffee and a sandwich.
Inside you’ll find a handful of tables, with a long counter near the door that looks out through one of the big front windows. The cafe was busy when we visited, but after pulling a couple tables together, we still found room for about a dozen of us.
I love the chalkboard menu. I love when restaurants, ice cream shops, coffee houses, and brewpubs use it. Maybe not the ultimate in classiness, but I love how they’re usually very informative, easy to change, and creatively colored. There’s something about a changing menu that signifies freshness to me: we need to keep our menu changeable so that it’s up-to-date with our freshly-roasted coffees, beers on-tap, and latest ingredients.
Another view of the ordering counter.
FOOD: French Creek Cafe gets high scores for its breakfast, and that’s not even their strongest point. I ordered one of their five standard breakfasts of meat, eggs, potatoes, and bread. The breakfast featured a few unique touches. The eggs were properly cooked and well-seasoned, the toast was lightly buttered, and the bacon was crispy just the way I like it. I chose the hashed brown potatoes, which were seasoned with rosemary. A very nice touch – very aromatic. While I enjoy some crispy potatoes with a generous dose of salt and pepper, I always love to see some different ways of seasoning theme: rosemary, garlic, paprika, etc.
Like I said, the breakfast was good. Certainly worth the stop if you’re in Franklin. But their sandwiches (which everyone else in our group ordered) were the real stand-outs. They have a huge selection of sandwiches; pictured above is my wife’s turkey and brie sandwich, grilled panini-style. These sandwiches were incredibly flavorful, and used the best ingredients. We spent much of the lunch trading them around so everyone could have a taste.
My son’s Similac and rice cereal were delectable, too.
SERVICE: The service at French Creek Cafe was just fine. The folks behind the counter were accommodating to our large group, and they seemed to make sense of our complicated order. The food didn’t take long at all to arrive, and the servers were certainly helpful when they stopped by our tables.
OVERALL: My wife’s family lives a good 45 minutes away from Franklin, so we don’t make the trip there often, but I keep trying to think of excuses to go back. The Cafe’s breakfast was certainly worth it, and I recommend giving it a try if you find yourself with time to spare downtown. I’m curious to re-visit so we can try more of their sandwiches, too!