Frankie's fills comfort food craving in Janesville

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By Joan Neeno, Special to The Gazette
January 8, 2015

JANESVILLE—If I want an Old-Fashioned with my fish fry, I often find myself driving out of Janesville.

Well, no need to leave town anymore. Janesville has a new supper club, and it's a good one.

Frankie's Supper Club opened in September 2013 in the Main Street location formerly occupied by Aglio. Its owner, Jim Elsberry, has more than 40 years of experience in the food service industry, including a popular catering business, Elsberry's Edibles.

Frankie's is based on a Rat Pack theme, and its brick walls are lined with artwork featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. It sets a fun, comfortable vibe.

For me, Frankie's is a lesson in giving a restaurant time to find its groove. My husband, Richard, and I dined there on Day Six. The food was OK, and the service was passable. We wondered if the place was going to make it. Four months later, the dining room and bar were bustling, and everything from the cocktails to the entrees was excellent.

Our party started out as a table for five and kept growing as the day got later. We changed to a reservation for eight that became nine at the last minute. The hostess and staff were very accommodating and reconfigured the dining room to seat our group.

We waited at the bar while our table was set. Frankie's has a sizable cocktail menu with some creative choices.

I tried the Frankie's Signature, a smooth, citrus-flavored vodka martini that was dangerously good. Many of our friends ordered classic Old-Fashioneds, which the bartender made by muddling fruit in the bottom of the glasses. A lot of bars don't take the time to do that, and it makes a world of difference.

Appetizers vary depending on the evening, and sometimes the choices are limited. That's not really an issue. All entrees come with soup and salad, choice of a starch and house vegetable. No one will leave hungry.

On the night we visited, the soup was a delicious clam chowder. The salad was surprisingly tasty as well. Carrots were the featured vegetable. They were nicely cooked to retain some firmness while still being fork-tender.

Our group tried a good chunk of the menu. Both Lisa and Nick ordered Angie's Cranberry Pecan-Stuffed Pork Loin ($17.95.) Two moist pieces of roasted pork were rolled around a layer of slightly sweet stuffing and topped with a pork jus sauce. Both commented on the nice balance of salt in the sauce to balance the sweet dressing.

Jen had poached cod in a tomato-saffron broth ($17.95), a nightly special that showed culinary depth and finesse. The fish was moist and flaky, and the delicately aromatic sauce complemented it beautifully. The dish got passed around the table for lots of enthusiastic sharing.

Mitch ordered Frank's Crab-Stuffed Whitefish ($20.95), which is exactly what it sounds like. Served with a rich white sauce, it was also a nicely nuanced bite.

Quinn had the prime rib ($23.95)—a big slab of deliciously pink beef that was just the right level of fatty. Her mom, Robyn, enjoyed the Steak Frankie ($27.95), a 10-ounce charbroiled Black Angus tenderloin topped with three jumbo shrimp and hollandaise sauce. Marcia ordered Dino's Chateaubriand ($24.95), a filet served with mushrooms and sauteed onions. All of them heartily approved of their steaks.

Richard ordered Sammy's Cedar Plank Bourbon Salmon ($22.95), a firm, beautiful piece of salmon topped with an outstanding bourbon sauce.

My stuffed chicken ($16.95) was a big, moist, boneless and skinless breast stuffed with cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions and bacon. It was addictively good. I chose the Parmesan-crusted gratin potato, which was excellent. Other sides include wild rice pilaf, sweet potato souffle, and baked and twice-baked potatoes.

When a table of nine demanding diners is completely happy, that's an unqualified success. My only quibble would be the service, which was average. Water glasses weren't refilled, and while there was an opportunity to sell more drinks to the table, we were never asked. Our server wasn't around much after the entrees arrived. The place seemed a bit understaffed. Luckily, the food was so good that it wasn't an issue.

I can't recommend Frankie's highly enough. With cocktails, dinner, tax and gratuity, our bill was $37 per person. No, it's not a “cheap” dinner, but for a white-tablecloth place serving steaks and seafood, it's an incredible value. Even better, the food is on par with the best supper clubs in the area.

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