Frank’s, Buenos Aires

Frank’s is a speakeasy in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires and is the bar about which I’d heard the most prior to our arrival and during our stay. After so much hype (including mention in The New York Times), I had very high expectations.

Though there’s a sign on the wall for it, it’s quite difficult to get into. When we first arrived, we could see no door to open to let us in – and we were so confused that we decided we should keep looking and took a full walk around the block. Fortunately, when we came back, we saw the door open and immediately pounced upon the couple exiting to ask if this was Frank’s. Step one complete. Step two is harder; Frank’s takes the speakeasy theme very seriously. A bouncer met us at the door and asked us for the password – they post a different one on their Facebook page each day. That day, the “password” was a quote: “you return in every cocktail that I drink” (in Spanish, of course). We fumbled to remember the right words, but eventually the bouncer let us into a dimly lit entryway with a phone booth on the opposite wall. Step three is to enter the phonebooth and figure out which button to press to open the secret false wall that lets you into the actual bar. It’s quite a process!

I give Frank’s full marks for creativity and atmosphere based on all of that. Unfortunately, that’s the end of my praise. This is a bar that, aside from the whole password/phonebooth thing, is actually supposed to have really good cocktails. Bolstered by my success at sweettalking the guys at Rey de Copas, I approached the bar (following a greeting by a very attractive bartender on the other side) and said that I needed recommendations about what to order. Now, to contextualize this interaction: there is a board behind the bar that lists about five drinks, but (here’s a sign that I’m no longer in my 20’s) I didn’t have my contacts in and couldn’t read the very small text particularly well, so there was a practical reason for asking for a recommendation aside from the fact that it’s just more fun and a good way to make friends with bartenders.

This guy was having none of it. One would think I’d asked the most trite question possible. He asked what I liked; I hedged a bit and said I like things that are sweet or bitter, with a particular preference for vodka or whiskey-based drinks. He seemed put out by this and said nothing further; he proceeded to make me a cocktail with a darkly colored Martini liquor in it and… wait for it… beer. BEER! There was something fruity too so that the final effect was something pinkish. This bartender was a total snob, not friendly at all, and didn’t even bother to make me something with either of my two preferred base liquors! Mary more wisely ordered from the menu and ended up with a very pretty drink. But here’s the clincher: our two drinks together were 400 Argentine pesos – which is 30 American dollars. To put this in perspective, most of our meals up to this point (other than the feast preceding this drink) ran about 350 pesos for the two of us. I’m talking about meals with steak and wine costing less than these two drinks. Mary’s drink was delicious but gone in a second because it was small, and mine wasn’t worth finishing. We didn’t stay for another round and left feeling affronted on a number of levels.

Don’t go to Frank’s!!!

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