When Bar Frances opened quietly in late May 2016, it signaled the arrival of elevated dining on Freret Street, Uptown New Orleans’ burgeoning dining and entertainment corridor. Located at 4525 Freret Street, the 85-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant features an impressive selection of French-focused wines with an emphasis on small producers and natural wines; an array of classic cocktails and New American cuisine with modern French influences. Co-owners PJ Rosenberg and Mark Latter’s extensive knowledge of wines, coupled with Executive Chef Brendan Cahill’s varied menu of small and composed plates showcasing creative vegetable presentations and locally sourced proteins, allows Bar Frances to cater to a range of palates and pocketbooks, while embracing a convivial bar culture and spirit of communal dining.
A veteran of Char No.4, Brooklyn’s Michelin Bib-Gourmand restaurant and whiskey bar, Cahill comes to Bar Frances via France, where the rising star chef helmed the kitchen at award-winning Parisian bistro Poulette. “Working in Paris changed my cooking style drastically,” says Cahill. “I learned very quickly that the ingredients are what count most, not all the fancy technique. And I’d see chefs like Alain Passard go to a local market, pick out the freshest vegetables and turn them into magnificent creations. Vegetables were in the forefront of the plate, not a side dish. Simplicity and freshness are now the tenets of my cooking philosophy.”
Cahill’s passion is evident throughout the menu and dishes are both visually stunning and palate pleasing. Small Plates ($7 and up) are plentiful and include snapper crudo with charred lemon, grilled scallions and shaved fennel; chicken liver mousse on grilled bread with shallot aigre-doux; and billowy gnocchi with charred eggplant, corn ragout and basil. Vegetables steal the show in dishes like mushroom toast—grilled shiitake and pickled honshimeji served atop a grilled country loaf and beet root tartare—a vegetarian doppelgänger of the French classic with freshly diced beet root and pickled mustard seed, served with house made sweet potato chips.
Entrees ($18 to $25) are locally sourced composed plates that change with each season. Standouts include a perfectly roasted chicken with tomato vinaigrette, shaved radishes and grilled little gem lettuce; grilled hangar steak with bitter greens and French fries; and a pan seared pork chop with roasted candy cane beets, blistered grapes and wilted kale. Charcuterie and Cheese round out the menu, along with a rotating selection of snacks and sides. Diners can end on a sweet note with a variety of seasonal Desserts including chocolate crèmeaux with cherry confiture and balsamic strawberries with merengue.
Lunch at Bar Frances features a variety of composed plates, along with lighter fare including a shrimp panzanella salad and a grilled cheese with Comté, chèvre, cheddar and cherry preserves. Saturday and Sunday Brunch offerings include a decadent polenta with Sauce D’Infernal and poached eggs; brown butter pain perdu with peaches, caramel and brioche; and a beautiful avocado tartine served on a grilled bread with colorful edible flowers.
The wine program at Bar Frances is sophisticated, yet approachable. The 100-plus bottle collection skews Old World but also includes an array of natural wines made without chemical and minimal technological intervention in growing and production, as well as a variety of large format bottles and a thoughtful selection of sherries. Bottles, housed in the restaurant’s cellar, start in the low $30s with something to meet any budget. selection of 25 wines-by-the-glass is also available, as are several wines on tap. A full bar offers craft and classic cocktails developed by talented Bar Manager Craig Seaman (formerly of Dante’s Kitchen in New Orleans). Signature libations include the Boulevardier—rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Campari; the Paloma—blanco tequila, grapefruit, lime and soda; and the Rebujito, available by the glass or carafe, featuring manzanilla sherry, soda and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Situated in a new mixed-used development that brings close to 25 apartments and additional retail space to the Freret Street Corridor, Bar Frances is a modern, airy eatery designed by architect and Tulane Professor of Practice Cordula Roser Gray. Italian Carrara marble is set against warm woods, creating a contemporary yet relaxed ambiance. Inside, a wood-slatted wall designed by local craftsman Doug Harmon with integrated shelving and greenery serves as a focal point and guests can choose to sit in the dining area or at the 16-seat bar. The covered patio, seating 24, allows guests the opportunity to enjoy al fresco dining.