The Franklin - A historic restaurant experience
As I said in my blog about the Owl Café, fine dining is not exactly the first thing people think about when they are enjoying their St. George Island beach vacation. However, the Franklin at the Gibson Inn offers a fine dining experience in the heart of Apalachicola when you want to get away from your St. George Island vacation rental. Led by Executive Chef Ken Lumpkin and Chef Breeze Lambert, the Franklin supports local fisherman and farmers to offer food to their guests.
The menu changes with the seasons and the Franklin’s website says it offers “delicious food and unexpected but incredibly pleasing flavor combinations, unlike any other restaurant on the Forgotten Coast.” The menu is a fusion of Japanese, French and Southern cuisines.
The Franklin’s history goes all the way back to 1907 when the original restaurant at the Gibson Inn, The Franklin Café, first opened its doors. The hotel was built at the height of Apalachicola’s reign as a center for lumber and shipping, and, as a matter of fact, the hotel was originally named The Franklin until it was purchased by the Gibsons in 1923. It quickly became one of the most luxurious hotels on the Panhandle of Florida.
In 1942, during the height of World War II, the Inn was taken over by the army for officer housing for those serving at Camp Gordon Johnston (for more on the history of Camp Gordon Johnston check out our blog). Unfortunately, after the war ended, the hotel fell into disrepair for nearly 40 years. Then in 1983, two brothers, Michael and Neil Koun, and their friend Michael Merlo, dedicated two years and more than $2 million to restore the hotel.
The Gibson Inn and the Franklin are located at 51 Avenue C in Apalachicola just 15 minutes from the St. George Island lighthouse at the center of the island. I’d describe the Franklin as slightly more upscale than the Owl Café with many of the ladies wearing dresses and where I was a little under-dressed in my golf shirt and shorts. The hotel has been around for more than 100 years and is really a historic landmark in the city of Apalachicola. The Gibson Inn is a flash back in time as the small lobby welcomes you with its antiques and dark wood. The Franklin and Gibson Inn also have a very large wraparound porch where you can enjoy dinner or just hang out.
The Franklin is open Wednesday-Sunday (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) and while walk-ins are welcome, the Franklin strongly recommends getting a reservation before your trip to the restaurant. Unfortunately, the Franklin lost our reservation, but we were still able to get a table quickly on a Friday night.
I ordered the ribeye while Krista ordered the baby back ribs and a microgreens salad. The ribeye comes with aligot potatoes (which is mashed potatoes mixed with cheese for those that had no idea what aligot potatoes were like me), oven roasted tomatoes and a ginger-red wine gastrique (which is a sauce made with the drippings from the pan and vinegar). I’m not sure what it was, but for some reason the tomatoes really made the meal for me. They were a nice touch to go with the steak and potatoes. The Japanese fusion influence came through with the ginger in the sauce.
As I mentioned, Krista ordered the baby back ribs which also had a strong Asian influence. The ribs are made with a soy-ginger marinade and smoked with pecan wood and served with an Asian BBQ sauce. It’s not at all like the ribs I like to smoke at home, but they were good. The microgreens salad was also good.
We wrapped up the night with a picture outside of the Gibson and decided to walk over to The Station across the street to grab a dessert to go. We took our dessert back to Serene Dream and called it a night.
Overall, it was a solid first-time experience for us at the Franklin. While our preference would be the Owl Café for our next date night (due to slightly better service, a menu that is more to our tastes, slightly lower prices and the better views) it was still a good experience for us. If you like Japanese fusion restaurants, the Franklin is your best choice, especially if you like ginger (there was ginger on close to half of the menu items).
What do you think of The Franklin? Have you checked it out on your trip to SGI? Tell us about it in the comments below.