With New Bar Menu, St. Francis Aims to Be a Restaurant With Serious Cocktails

What comes to mind when you think of St. Francis?

First and foremost, you might think of the exterior of the CenPho restaurant — mid-century design by the institutional Harold Ekman, whose architectural firm once occupied the building’s top floor, above a dental office.

Or maybe you recall the famed wood-burning oven (stacks of firewood lay around back), in which many of the restaurant's hot dishes are transformed and perfumed by flame and smoke. That includes those damn good Morrocan Meatballs, and the Pig Dip sandwich, for those who mostly associate the restaurant with its feature on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (all of which, needless to say, St. Francis is not. We may have driven in, but a valet parked the car).

Last but not least, you’ll remember the bar. The wine list is short and sweet — and the mixed drinks? Mainly, until recently, just sweet.

“The goal now is to bring more attention to the bar,” says lead bartender Titus Fauntleroy, who designed four drinks for the restaurant's spring/summer menu. “We want it to be cocktail-driven.”

There’s the Brookyln Based, for instance, served in a coupe, a relative of the martini glass that's right at home this mid-century surrounding. It has world’s best Knob Creek Rye, Plymouth Sloe Gin, dry vermouth, Luxardo cherry, and Apple Bar Keep Bitters — big apple flavor for a Big Apple borough. The drink is complex, fruity, and liquor-forward.

“It’s going to be 100-plus degrees,” says Fauntleroy. “They’re going to be refreshing for summer.”

Then there’s the Tropix, served tall, containing Gosling’s Rum, Giffard banana liqueur, and mint simple syrup. It seems every bartender in town is in love with Giffard products. The drink serves as a riff on the mojito, with dark rum in the fold.

This renewed vigor from a veteran local restaurant is exciting, and a cocktail-driven path is a good one. Take a look around. When bartenders cooperate with the kitchen it's a blessing — bring all that fresh produce, culinary know-how, and application to the bar. A sounding board from cooks and feedback from the chef means less of an echo from the mouths of mixology. A breath of fresh booze, you might say.

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Shelby Moore