For fans of Frankie & Johnny's (321 Arabella St. (504) 243-1234), the Uptown favorite that dates back to 1942, Black Friday was a very good day indeed. After a stint out-of-action during which the eatery's new owners oversaw significant repairs and upgrades, the seafood restaurant has been open and taking all comers as of November 29th.
The eatery closed, much to the disappointment of longtime regulars, back in February. The former ownership shuttered its doors due to a number of difficulties, not the least of which were some well-publicized sanitation issues.
Current owner Anthony Macaluso, along with business partner Woody Valls, couldn't be happier with how everything is shaking out so far. "It's been very exciting," Macaluso said. "We've had a good time with it. Opening day, people came in in droves, and they were even waiting for us to open the doors."
Not that the journey to revive a local institution was easy. "When we went in in February, we realized that we needed to do a significant amount of work," said Macaluso. "We had to take all the walls down to the studs, but kept the bar as is, and just refinished it. We also found that there were windows behind the panelling that were covered up, so we restored those as well. There's a lot more natural light in here right now. We wanted to renew the place, but keep the same feel, so we made sure to put back the black and white checkered floor, which is one of the ways that people really know they're in Frankie & Johnny's."
Other additions to the restaurant include a new oyster bar serving bivalves on the half-shell, as well as a kids' game room and play area built out of what was formerly an office. There's also a renovated front porch, offering patrons an al fresco dining option when weather permits.
It's not just the decor that guests might find familiar. Longtime patrons might recognize some faces on the waitstaff as well, as Macaluso and Valls retained a number of the former employees, including Cliff Smith, who has managed the eatery for 18 years.
As for the menu, Frankie & Johnny's promises the familiar fare from years past, with some subtle improvements. Classics like the restaurant's fried chicken and seafood, stuffed artichokes, and pepper rings remain, while other dishes, like salads, have been updated to include seared tuna, grilled shrimp and other options. The beer program has expanded as well, with fifteen brews on draught, including several from local craft breweries. The wine list has deepened, too, according to Macaluso and Valls.
Also worth noting is the restaurant's happy hour — during 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday — which promises 25% off all liquor, wine, beer and oysters, something that should please lovers of a long, boozy seafood lunch.
Frankie & Johnny's is open Sunday-Thrusday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and closing at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.