Places like this make me nervous.
Old-school like there are no newer schools, Frankie’s is where you can get a more-than-solid hot sausage sandwich and two bottled Yuenglings for less than seven bucks. But it’s just down the street from a place that hand-restores and tailors vintage T-shirts.
I’m nervous it will go away.
The old mill buildings to the west along the Allegheny are hard to see from Butler Street. Even in the memory of a changing neighborhood, what they represent and the people who worked there fade into the background.
Gentrification means less shots-fired calls, sure. But it also means more tax incentives and abatements. More outsiders. More idea cafes. More $50 scarves. More money. More young people. More white people. More pugs.
These are not all good things for a place like Frankie’s. These are things that often kills a place like Frankie’s.
Inside it’s dark and stained and Dr. Phil is on the TV a lot. No one’s jeans were “distressed” at purchase in there. No one in there would ever use the word “distressed” — about pants, certainly, but probably about anything.
There are four sandwiches on the menu, one of which is a foot-long hotdog. Vegetarian options — um, chips?
It’s an island of IC Light braced against a craft beer flood in this city. Most places will nod to that with something local — a little East End Brewing, perhaps, or something from Penn. At Frankie’s, screw off. Winter seasonal beer here just means the cans of Coors Light get colder. There are two types of malt liquor on the menu in case you want something with a higher ABV.
It feels a little weird talking about what’s authentic in a neighborhood in this case because nobody named Frankie ever ran the place. Dude’s name was Lou. He had a business partner named Frankie. I hear Lou still comes around every once in a while, but I’ve never seen him.
The brothers who own it now have had it since 1989. They own the building, so rent’s not a problem.
I love that it’s there. I hope it continues to be there. Because I can’t quite tell what type of neighborhood Lawrenceville is trying to be.
Almost every city I’ve lived in has a neighborhood like this, coping with this kind of transition. Is the momentum to invent and rebuild and take over going to destroy everything that was there before? That’s what seems to happen other places. What starts with a locally owned coffee shop, an art gallery and an architecture firm ends with Panera, Ulta and Starbucks.
Is there a magical balance that evens out only on a scale placed on the tip of a unicorn’s horn? Is Lawrenceville where that happens?
No idea. Let’s hope.