Hot Diggity Dog! Reuben Riffel serves up contemporary American cuisine at Franks Corner Bar & Grill in Franschhoek

Craving something new in Franschhoek? Franks Corner Bar & Grill injects a dose of American flavour into the heart of wine country. Picture: Supplied

Craving something new in Franschhoek? Franks Corner Bar & Grill injects a dose of American flavour into the heart of wine country. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 15, 2024


In a valley famous for its haute cuisine, starched tablecloths and multi-course tasting menus, Franks Corner Bar & Grill is a welcome change in the Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek.

Located in the heart of the village, Franks is the passion project of American entrepreneur and Franschhoek resident, Frank Rodriguez, who tapped into the culinary skills of his close friend, acclaimed chef Reuben Riffel, and his business partner Alex McCormack, from The Franschhoek Beer Company, to create a contemporary dining destination, serving up a fresh and simple take on modern North American cuisine.

“I’m a foodie at heart,” says Rodriguez. “I love to cook, I love to eat. I’ve been friends with Reuben since we first came to the valley, and when this opportunity on Huguenot Street came up, with what we feel is the best location in town, we jumped on it.”

“This is not just a tourist town,” adds Reuben Riffel, the Franschhoek-born chef and restaurateur. “Frank and I know that, and we really wanted to create a dining destination that was as much for the locals and as the tourists.”

With the goal to create a contemporary American restaurant and taproom, imbued with a touch of New Orleans style, it’s an inviting space of wooden floors, oversized leather couches and custom-made hand-crafted furniture, lit by bespoke pendant lights.

But it’s the menu of contemporary American-inspired cuisine that has drawn hungry locals and curious travellers into Franks since opening in December 2023. And Franks – like its namesake – doesn’t take itself too seriously. You won’t find tasting menus or wine flights here. Don’t come expecting foams, palate-cleansers or diner-table theatrics. Instead, in a town too often known for marathon tasting menus that cost a fortune and leave you famished, Franks is all about generous portions at an accessible price.

You can’t put American cuisine in a box

Riffel, together with executive chef Aviv Liebenberg, have outdone themselves in creating a collection of dishes he dubs ‘New-Style American’.

“You can’t put American cuisine in a box,” says Riffel. “It’s so diverse, with so much regionality, and that means we’re tapping into a whole range of flavours and food traditions.”

Chef Ruben Riffel, together with Executive Chef Aviv Liebenberg

On the menu, the starters also serve as a collection of small plates; ideal for a light lunch shared on the terrace overlooking the bustling main street of Franschhoek. Your choices vary from baba ghanoush and tuna tataki, to the classic steamed West Coast mussels in cream-and white wine sauce.

My favourite is the corn dog. This classic American snack is enhanced by home-made ketchup and pickled cucumbers. The sausages for the corn dogs are custom-made for Franks by a traditional family-run butchery; just one of the many ingredients hand-picked from select producers and suppliers.

Prime cuts are grilled in a Pira charcoal oven

Main courses are focused on steak – generous portions of premium grain-fed beef – grilled to perfection in the kitchen’s imported Pira charcoal oven and finished on a flame grill. They’re served unadorned, with the prime cuts centre stage, served with a choice of sides.

A selection of salads, burgers and pasta plates are also on offer, while a trio of desserts, drawing heavily on American favourites, rounds out the menu.

The focus is on flavour

And what sets Franks apart is the time, effort and passion that have gone into transforming seemingly simple concepts into memorable plates. While some dishes may seem straightforward, there’s no shortage of attention to detail in the layers of flavour built into each dish.

At Franks, chips are all hand-cut and triple-cooked. In the Franks ‘house salad’, cucumbers are marinated and the tomatoes pre-seasoned, while the addition of traditional amasi adds layers of flavour to the hand-made honey-mustard dressing.

The menu has also been carefully created to pair neatly with craft beer.

Franks Corner Bar and Grill is located at 42 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek and offers an all-day menu from noon until 10pm daily.

Whether you're a local resident or passing through Franschhoek, I highly recommend that you pop in and experience the exceptional food, warm and welcoming atmosphere.

IOL LIfestyle