Review: Decidedly Mexican

By Quinn, Sally A. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 2, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Review: Decidedly Mexican

Quinn, Sally A., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The sign out front of the Franklin Inn Mexican Restaurant centers on the face of the famous Mexican folk hero Ben Franklin.

OK, he's not really a Mexican folk hero, but we believe old Ben would have loved Mexican food if he had a chance to try it.

And he'd probably get a kick out of a Pittsburgh suburb named in his honor -- Franklin Park.

Granted, the Franklin Inn has been dedicated to Mexican food only since 1980. At one point in its history, the restaurant balanced a German and Mexican menu.

But owners Henry and Sue Cibula, who bought the place in 1978, made the decision to specialize in a single cuisine. Over the years, they have made many trips to Mexico to find new dishes and learn more about the cuisine to enhance the menu. Today, the couple's son and his wife -- John and Wendy Cibula -- own and operate the 30- year-old family business.

The Franklin Inn has grown into a neighborhood favorite. The bar area always seems to have a crowd looking for margaritas and imported Mexican beers. On weekend nights, the wait for tables is a long but noisy one with plenty of friendly folks willing to pass a drink through the crowd.

The exterior and interior design is clearly Mexican, with colorful geckos hanging on the painted stucco walls alongside prints of Mexican villages and watercolor landscapes. Glowing chile pepper lights wind around the windows. Food is served on a rainbow selection of sturdy ceramic dishes.

Chips and salsa are complimentary for the first basket, a handy teaser while paging through the menu.

From the appetizers, we recommend the Char-Grilled Chorizo ($5.95). A nice size for sharing, the spicy Mexican sausage -- made exclusively for Franklin Inn -- is served with two warm flour tortillas and char-grilled onions. A side plate of creamy guacamole, sour cream and salsa is offered to dress it up.

The Black Bean Appetizer ($4.95) is another winner. A plate spread with black bean dip is the base upon which hot chipotle pepper sauce is drizzled. A sprinkling of tangy feta cheese chunks comes next. Finally, a fanciful, lace-like design is created from a piping of lemon sour cream sauce. This dish is remarkable with its many sensory levels -- tart, tangy, hot, hearty. It is served with tortilla chips.

A glorious mess of french fries topped with salsa and melted cheese is called Mexican Fries ($3.95 for small, $6.95 for large).

Salads and sandwiches are available for dinner or lunch. Our Famous Taco Salad ($8.95) is served in a crispy flour tortilla "bowl" and includes your choice of ground beef or chicken along with the greens and vegetables.

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