Bar Franca: Raising the Bar
Look for the neon cherries to guide you into DTLA’s latest bar - Bar Franca. And let’s just say your first step into this place will quickly charm your chonies right off as soon as you check out the cozy front patio that’s separated from the sidewalk by a classic concrete breeze block wall à la Palm Springs. It’s truly the perfect airy spot to sip on some happy hour cocktails.
“A lot of people come in and they’re like ‘I don’t even know where I am. I could be in Morocco, I could be in London, I could be in Mexico City, I could be in Paris’ and that’s what I wanted. I wanted you to be able to go to a bar Downtown, not a hotel. Go to a bar and not know where you are, not feel like you’re in Downtown,” says owner and designer Rachel Thomas.
Bar Franca is Rachel’s fourth DTLA project (The Must, Perch, etc) but her first solo venture. As a decade long resident of DTLA and an ex-set designer she wanted to take the creative reins of this project and create a bar that felt like an International escape without playing into any pretentious BS. “I found that DTLA was lacking in adult bars … It’s quality, from the ambiance to the service to the cocktails, it’s quality. I think people want that now. I think people are over the gimmicks,” says Rachel.
The design of the long and narrow space is spot-on, from the old bank lounge chairs Rachel revived with custom upholstery to the muted pink walls painted with sexy sketches by artist Nathan Rapport to the sneaky skylight in the back to the winning feature - a high ceiling with a segmented arch. “I wanted it to feel like a tunnel. I love train stations,” says Rachel laughing.
And with the help of hip DTLA architecture firm Omgivning, Rachel’s vision for the space was brought to life. “We really like to work on spaces where we want to go when it’s done,” says Omgivning’s Director of Hospitality Projects, Morgan Sykes Jaybush. And it was a trip Morgan took that helped him and Omgivning’s Director of Design Norella Carboni to creatively solve an initially complicated space with the perfect ceiling feature that’ll keep you looking up. “I went on a trip to Berlin and I was driving with a friend who lives there. I was like ‘Oh my god! Stop the car! Turn around! We have to go back.’ There was this store … it had that segmented arch in it. So I just took a picture of it and that was our inspiration for creating it,” says Morgan.
But for you thirsty folks, let’s get to the star here - the cocktail menu – a tasty and tight selection with well-rounded drinks like the signature Cherry Pop cocktail (Old Overholt Bonded Rye, Kola Nut Cordial, Cherry Bitters) to the popular Rodeo (Cazadores Blanco, Cucumber, Coconut Water, Lime and Grand Marnier) to an American riff on an Aperol Spritz – one that’s made with tea. Rachel’s also proud of her wine selection, telling us that no matter what you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it here.
Oh and if you made it this far in the article … here’s your reward … if you go down the hall to the back of the bar, you’ll find a hidden record store where you can shop for vinyl. You’re welcome.
But what it all really comes down to here at Bar Franca is Rachel’s simple and sincere wish for anyone walking into her bar, “I don’t want you to leave. I want you to be comfortable. I want you to be cozy.”
Written by Linda Hosmer @blockanimal | Photography by Rebekah Lemire