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Franky Bradley’s: Eclectic Entertainment & Food.

January 5, 2016

FrankyBradleysOnline01Text by Dan Halma. Images by Charles Shan Cerrone.

As the early afternoon sunlight pouring through its windows casts a subdued hue over the hardwood floors and litany of exotic art lining the walls, assistant general manager Dave Morreale surveys the second floor lounge area of Franky Bradley’s.

“There’s always going to be something for everyone,” he says while resting against one of the dozens of square, chest-level wooden tables that form a semi-circle around the venue’s corner stage. “That’s one of the main philosophies here.”

Located at 1320 Chancellor St. in the heart of the Gayborhood, Franky Bradley’s has embodied this philosophy by hosting an eclectic and constantly evolving calendar of events featuring local and national talent in a wide range of genres.

“If you’re looking for live performances, like cool burlesque shows or a drag show or comedy show, you’re going to see that,” explains Morreale. “If you’re looking for solid DJs, we have that too. And then there’s the whole live music venue as well.”

A quick look at the event calendar for Franky Bradley’s will confirm this. Whether it’s the monthly “HUGS” party hosted by resident DJ/booking agent Ed Cristof, a set from Broadzilla DJs, the Little Big Things Crew throwing their “Little Big Things” party or a First Friday performance from the venue’s very own drag troupe, “Franky’s Foxes,” visitors to Franky Bradley’s will always find themselves in the midst of something new and exciting.

Further expanding on the concept of diversity, Franky Bradley’s will venture into the world of film screenings in October, hosting the exclusive Philadelphia premier of “Stretch and Bobbito” – a documentary surrounding legendary New York DJs/on-air personalities Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia, whose late night radio program was responsible for turning the world on to artists including Nas, Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang and Jay-Z – with an after-party that sees the two DJs joined by Rich Medina.

As Franky Bradley’s continues to expand its event roster to include national artists, Morreale points out that the venue hasn’t lost touch with its hometown talent.

“Philly has so many talented musicians and so many talented DJs and performers,” he says while adjusting the bracelets around his left wrist. “I think it’s important that we stay in touch with that. It’s always nice to see bigger national acts – and that’s something that we’ll look forward to having as well – but always having support for the local heartbeat is what’s important.”

Part of Franky Bradley’s success has been because of this support for local artists, and is an important value carried over from owner Mark Bee’s other musical hotspot, Silk City. When he needed help with curating the decor of Franky Bradley’s, Bee enlisted the help of local artist/impresario and close friend Scott Johnston. Johnston’s artistic touch gives the interior of the two story brick and stone building the visual flourish that sets it apart. Diners in the first floor restaurant can savor their meal underneath a Tiffany lamp or while sitting next to a portrait of Pam Grier made from one and two dollar bills while party-goers on the second floor can dance beneath sconces, a painting of knights jousting or one of Johnson’s original pieces – a portrait of local cabaret and drag star Martha Graham Cracker based on a photo of Martha taken by photographer Jeff Fusco at Silk City.

Johnston was also responsible for adding more than 500 Swarovski crystals to the enormous painting of a leopard woman, which was previously a signature art piece of Sisters nightclub (the business that previously occupied the building), and lining the bathroom walls with funny and provocative clippings from old magazine ads.

For one of the venue’s first shows, Bee was quick to book one of his favorite local acts – The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, who were also the first act to completely sell out a show at Franky Bradley’s.

“We’ve known Mark Bee for a long time,” says Cabaret co-founder and keyboardist Victor Fiorillo. “[He has] traveled to New York to see us many times, he had us at Silk City, and so he knew he wanted us as the big opener.”

Fiorillo notes that this appreciation is part of the appeal for performing at Franky Bradley’s, with the Cabaret’s third return performance leading off the venue’s October calendar.

“We only play at venues that value the artists and pay them accordingly, and where the staff is excited for us to be there and treats us right,” he explains, but draws attention to the other reason that keeps the quintet coming back. “That room has a lot of character. We’ll choose a 200-person room like that any day over a 1,000-person box with no personality. And it doesn’t hurt that there is a painting of Martha prominently displayed in the room.”

The “something for everyone” philosophy carries over into the kitchen, influencing the menu curated by head chef David Kane, of Bar Ferdinand and Silk City fame.

“It’s American food,” says general manager Joe “Joppy” Ferrone. “It’s big. It’s hearty. But we want what people want, so we didn’t want to get pretentious with things. We wanted it to be down to earth but have a different kind of ‘higher’ quality.”

The menu, in part, pays homage to the first business to occupy the space and provide the venue with it’s namesake – Frankie Bradley’s, a steakhouse owned and operated by Frank Bloch, a retired prizefighter who named his restaurant after his stage name of “Frankie Bradley.” Bloch’s restaurant was a fixture of the city from the early 1930s up through the mid 1980s and was well-known as a celebrity hangout.

“When Mark re-did [the restaurant], he was looking for a modern take on it: a cross between a ’70s feel and what Frankie’s was doing in the ’50s, and bring it into the ‘now,’” Ferrone explains. “Some of the menu items harken back to what Frankie Bradley’s had on the menu, like latkes. But we do a potato and celery root latke with an apple butter underneath and it has a smoked salmon that we do on top of that with dill and crème fraiche.”

“At the same time, amazing chicken wings with a bourbon barbecue sauce, potato skins topped with house-smoked brisket and sharp Cabot cheddar and horseradish crème over them,” he adds. “A lot of it is bar-driven food but it’s made to be both accessible yet really unique and intriguing, and something that you don’t find at an ordinary corner bar or venue.”

In addition to a sizable array of dinner choices, Franky Bradley’s has started serving a weekend brunch that features an equally eclectic menu. Menu highlights include baked crepes with formage blanc and fresh fruit, smoked chicken hash with sweet potatoes, peppers, apples, poached eggs and cider jus, and a classic Belgian waffle topped with vanilla icing, cinnamon butter, candied pecans and maple syrup.

Having only been open since January, Morreale notes that Franky Bradley’s is still in its “infancy stages” but that it’s been exciting to see it continue to grow over time.  With an ever-expanding calendar of events and a constantly evolving food and drink menu, he’s confident that the venue will continue to provide the city with events and eats to suit every taste.

“There are a lot of good things to come in the house of Franky Bradley’s,” he adds, grinning widely.


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