BY MARK GOODSON — Mike Franklin, the owner of Hyattsville landmark Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store, is opening a new fine-dining restaurant in College Park.
The new Franklin’s Grill and Oyster Bar will feature local seafood and steaks, an in-house bakery, live oyster bar, top-shelf mixed-drink menu, 24 wines by the glass and as many beers on tap. Situated at the base of a $120 million hotel development, the restaurant will be flanked by a Red Door Spa, Bagels ‘n Grinds, and Potomac Pizza: all part of a vision to rejuvenate the University of Maryland’s immediate vicinity.
Franklin will bring the core of his restaurant’s popularity—burgers and beers—to his new location. Beyond these familiar offerings, the grill and oyster bar will feature an entirely new menu and atmosphere. The family-friendly environment and affordable fare of his Hyattsville location does not allow the restaurant owner to modify the menu much.
“We are what we are. If we did a lot of $30 fish entrees or $45 steaks here [at the Hyattsville restaurant], they would die a slow death because it’s not how people perceive us,” Franklin said. “There, we’ll have a chance to be something different.”
He hopes the proximity of the two restaurants will help the new one thrive.
“Our customers here will go there without it being an entirely new marketplace. We get voted the best restaurant in College Park sometimes, which is weird,” Franklin said.
“Our residents and visitors want better dining options, and Franklin’s Grill and Oyster Bar will bring back our diners who dine elsewhere, and attract new customers from the region who come to College Park for business or events at the University of Maryland,” said Bill Gardiner, assistant city manager for the City of College Park (and former Hyattsville mayor).
While $30 fish entrees are new territory for Franklin, the College Park restaurant will maintain the social affability the community has come to expect from Franklin’s. While serving the finest seafood, steaks, and locally procured dishes around, he intends to avoid the stiffness and formality of a five-star restaurant in D.C.
“I want to make it comfortable, not too formal,” he said. For the identity of the new location, think date night.
Franklin’s vision is clear, but the timetable for completion is a bit more complex. The original design for the luxury hotel was in conflict with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) requirements for buildings near the regional airport in College Park, the Washington Post reported.
The height of the hotel in its original design was 233 feet, but the FAA requested a height of no more than 198 feet. Southern Management, the company building the hotel, readily complied and redesigned the building in compliance with the FAA’s request, tagging an additional $5 million on to the project.
The change affects the hotel more logistically than aesthetically. The builders are still promoting it as one of the most luxurious in Prince George’s County, and it will still feature a roof-deck overlooking the University of Maryland campus.
Bill Gardiner said he hopes that once the plans are approved and construction completed, the hotel, along with its ground-floor retail development, will continue the rapid remodeling of the Route 1 corridor and “catalyze redevelopment in downtown College Park.”
Whether or not the hotel will raise the bar in College Park, it will certainly allow Mike Franklin to raise his.