Happy Hour: $$
Bar Franca: Cocktail Bar
Tuesday - Friday: 4:00 - 7:00 PM
438 S Main St.
Getting lost in between the historic architecture and everyday hustle and bustle of DTLA’s Historic Core neighborhood is the total norm. It is after all one of the most populated areas in regards to residents, workers, and tourists to Downtown. You may fear the one thing a lot of these people do, wandering a little too far past 5th and Main. And that assumption was fair… 4-5 years ago, now if you don’t, you miss out on some of the best independent businesses in the neighborhood are. Some have been there forever, such as the Nickel Diner, and King Eddy Saloon.
With all the new business coming into town, this area is a sensitive one, you don’t want a business that might try and hide the facade of the very real problems in DTLA, but you do want one owned by locals that care to see the community thrive, a business that gives the locals the chance to hideaway when needed and doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. That’s what Bar Franca is, and if you don’t wander on 5th and Main, you’re denying yourself a true treasure.
If you don’t see the cherry neon sign on, you might just miss it as you walk by, this is no one’s fault- being next to the Regent Theater and a number of other crowd favorites can draw your attention elsewhere. It’s the definition of a hidden gem, a local haven, and it comes with a vibe locals and newcomers won’t find elsewhere.
Women-owned businesses may be on the trend but the popularity does not do justice to the amount of hard work it takes. Bar Franca is the result of that hard work done with just the right amount of, “bad-ass b*tch-ness” combined with the redefined attention to detail of the “female touch.” The vision was created by Rachel Thomas, who has worked on a lot of projects in DTLA, most notably Perch and The Must. Behind the bar and the cocktail list lies master Laura Lindsay who rocked the bar at Providence for some time.
Rachel’s vision has come to life in every way she imagined. It’s a bar where the theme is… quality for everyone. The way Rachel explained it, and we couldn’t agree more, was that she wants Bar Franca to be that bar where a group of 5 people who may all have different tastes and come from different backgrounds can enjoy a quality product, with quality hospitality, and interior.
It’s a bar with no theme, which makes it timeless because it is whatever the patrons want it to be. Do you want a quiet, dimly lit table where you can make a conversation? Head to Bar Franca. Do you want some entertainment with tasteful jams that can easily turn your table into a private party? Head to Bar Franca. It’s South America, it’s Morrocco, it’s Cuba, it’s- whatever the hell you need it to be. The point is, you get transported elsewhere, while still in the neighborhood, and the drinks ain’t too shabby.
Let us walk you through the decor because if you’re not detail oriented you might miss a few treasures. The opening, once again, can be missed if you don’t know where you’re looking (another thing Rachel wanted, to be sought), immediately you’re suddenly in someone’s chic front home garden, with booths, some stools, and privacy. Head on in and if you’re still searching for the name of this bar you won’t see it until you look up above the second set of doors. To your left and right you’ll see more private seating with comfortable couches, the dream set of love seats and a coffee table from the apartment you’ve secretly always wanted. The art on the walls is simple, with the main mural stretching from the entrance to the back of the bar, that adds depth to the simplistic figurines on the walls. There is plenty of seating as the bar is long and ample, it leads to the back where there are even more booths, a gorgeous skylight, and probably the nicest, cutest, restrooms we’ve ever seen. And that’s it!
If home is where Bar Franca takes you, it certainly has that feeling, many patrons have stepped in and asked what used to be there because it just feels familiar (PS It was just a cafe.) The drink menu was built with the same inspiration, Laura wanted something for everyone, from different parts of the world, and it’s for newcomers and risk taskers but it is always- good. So now, onto to the Happy Hour!
The Happy Hour at Bar Franca is a simple yet wide range of options- there’s no kitchen by the way, so don’t come in here looking for more than nuts and olives (that being said they’re very good nuts and olives)- there are $8 classic nouveau cocktails and their own signature drinks, $8 wine glasses, two Pilsner beers for only $6, and $4 snacks. Spirits-wise they got everyone covered, the wine is better than your average find at bars, and the beers were not chosen by proximity to the local Boomtown brewery- but simply because they’re good.
The specials run Tuesday-Friday from 4:00 - 7:00 PM so that those stuck in traffic can make it in and enjoy themselves. They’ve been open for 5 months now and the number of locals that have adopted it as their local favorite (Mariana included) is a sure sign that Bar Franca is sure to soon become a staple of DTLA.
We invited our friend Camly to tag along for this ride so without further adue let’s get into what we ordered.
The HHC Team Sipped On:
The Day Trip
M: It reminds me of a cucumber spritz, but the two most prominent flavors are actually lemon and chareau. Which we found out is a California liqueur made with aloe vera, cucumber, eau de vie, lemon peel, muskmelon, spearmint, sugar & water. That’s something new and exciting! Given that I dislike vodka its very well masked and I can barely taste it. All ingredients are well blended. The mint brings the aroma of the cocktail all together making it refreshing.
C: It’s super light, mild, definitely not too sweet, which I hate... the mint comes out very well. Vodka can’t taste it at all so yes I’d agree it was very well done.
The Cygnus Cup
M: It’s a very herbal drink, the ginger slaps you in the face, but I am particularly sensitive to it’s strength. It leaves a tickle on the tongue but blends well with the citrus. They picked a good gin, because I don’t hate it and i usually do.
C: I love a good Pimm’s cup and this is a fun play on a Pimm’s punch, but the ginger makes it stand out. They make their own Pimm’s Punch in house which makes it even more exciting. Obviously, the most over powering ingredient is ginger but i think it is delicious. The gin is very good and prominent, it’s the right flavor profile, it’s more tart than regular gin in my opinion.
M: I was immediately very intrigued by the use of Curacao. It’s like a Caipirinha but not with the light honey flavors that it has. This is still an OG marg and it has the distinctive flavor of fresh limes, it also doesn’t mask the tequila. There’s sugar in it but it is not overly sweet nor it is overly sour because of the curacao. Not one flavor overpowers the other but if you like strong ‘ritas don’t expect this to be too tequila forward. I really like it, it’s like a Brazilian margarita, and to put it simply I’ve never had it before.
C: A fun take on a margarita, this menu is full of fun takes! I’ve had that other drink before, and this is actually much lighter in my opinion, the curacao makes it fun, and yes the tequila is light but that’s what makes it easy to drink.
M: It is very hard to find this ode to Robert burns, so this is already awesome, and the glassware is just gorgeous. Very spirit forward cocktail, there’s almost a hint of honey, it has a syrup-like consistency, yeah I could probably only drink one as it is very strong.
C: I have never had this drink before, but I do like the quality of the scotch. It's a solid drink it’s very strong that's for sure.
Wine: Prosecco, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
M: All very well-rounded options, plus who doesn’t want to get fancy with a little bubbly here and there? My favorite was the Prosecco for sure.
C: I agree, once again, something for everyone. My go to would be the Pinot Noir.
The Overall Experience:
Overall Score: 4.5/5
Happy Hour Score: 4.6/5
Bar Franca’s goals have all been met super fast following their opening, the attention to detail, and honor to their surroundings make it one of the most enjoyable places to have a cocktail in the DTLA area.
Rachel and Lindsay have created the cave all locals needed, the quality drinkers should want, and the ambiance DTLA deserves. We’re happy to see that their Happy Hour is being adopted by our neighbors and we wish them all of the success.
Whatever happens, we know that the romanticism they portray comes across well, and we do hope it hypnotizes all comers who go from reading this review. Either way, they got a 20-year lease, so if you don’t like it, sorry not sorry but Bar Franca isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and that’s more than okay with us.
We’d like to thank Rachel and Lindsay for taking the time to sit with us and discuss Bar Franca, plus hosting us on a very rainy day. Thanks to Camly for coming with and taking some awesome photos- we hope you guys had a great time just as we did.
Check out Bar Franca, if you can find it, and enjoy.
Thanks for reading, and as always…