Photo from After 5 at Uncle Franky's Facebook page
By day it’s a hot dog shop. By night it’s a gastropub with small plates from a chef who’s cooked at the White House. My first reaction when I heard about it was: What? My second reactions was: What the?
But don’t underestimate the creativity of Jay “Uncle Franky” Grobstein, GM of Uncle Franky’s in Plymouth (and Northeast Minneapolis). He found that he wasn’t getting much of a crowd for Vienna Beef hot dog and Chicago-style Italian Beef at dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. He ended up meeting chef Travis Carter, who was looking for a lower-key gig than the typical restaurant grind. (With a 5-year-old son, he wanted to be around.)
So After 5 at Uncle Franky’s was born. Travis developed a short menu of small plates, starters like cheese fondue, a cheese plate, charcuterie, and a few more substantial plates like chicken wings, marlin, and shrimp cocktail.
Is it good? Yeah, it’s good!
WHAT TO ORDER
We had cold smoked salmon with poached egg and bacon, garnished with mustard seed cream cheese, and loved it. It was a beautiful plate and totally unexpected. Uncle Franky's is a great hot dog place, but this was about as far from a Chicago Dog as you could get. The chicken wings were also a hit: very substantial and meaty with a zippy Asian spice (you could also go Buffalo). The blue marlin was excellent, served with a black pepper relish, a five-ounce portion for $13.
The charcuterie plate doesn’t compare to some of the best plates in town (even though Uncle Franky’s knows meats, I don’t suspect they’re curing their own sopressata) but compared to what you’re getting in the western suburbs, it was very nice. The creative mustards and relishes and salsas on the side were all top notch.
WAS IT WEIRD?
I was in a hot dog joint eating a nice dinner. It was a little weird. BUT, Jay did a great job of changing the vibe, and working the room like a pro maître d'. The windows are all draped, so you don’t feel like you’re in a strip mall. Candles on each table set the mood. There’s live music starting at 6 p.m., and the volume was quite conducive to dining and talking. You can buy wine for $37 a bottle (The Dante Pinot Grigio/Pinot Noir are nice bottles), or you can get a bottle of Lagunitas Little Sumpin or Fulton Lonely Blonde for $5.
WHO IS EATING HERE?
It was a crazy combination of teenagers eating a nice dinner, frequent guests/friends of Uncle Franky’s, and some married couples with kids looking for a nicer night out. They did offer our kids a hot dog or chicken nuggets, so that's an option.
The menu only has eight or nine small plates, but it would be nice to have them split it into starters and seconds. My wife and I and our two kids would have been fine with the charcuterie, wings, and salmon, and we’d only have spent $40. Add in the marlin, you’re at $53. Is that price point a little high for that location and for what it is? Maybe.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If I lived in the city and frequented the finer restaurants in the cities, I would not drive to Plymouth for After 5 at Uncle Franky’s. But, if I lived in Plymouth, New Hope, Maple Grove, or Minnetonka, and was looking for a low-key restaurant with really good food and live music, this was a really nice experience. I’ll be back.