Franklin Southie Closing at the End of the Year
It’s been rumored for weeks that Franklin Southie might be on its way out. Today it became official as owner David DuBois has officially transferred the restaurant’s license to current Sam’s at Louis executive chef Asia Mei. Mei, a former employee of DuBois’ Franklin Restaurant Group (Tasty Burger, Franklin Cafe, and Citizen Public House), will be creating a brand new concept to be called Moonshine 152, which DuBois describes as a “meticulously plated, farm-to-table-type concept.”
DuBois cites a number of factors behind his decision to close Franklin Southie, none of which have to do with a lack of business.
“Asia Mei was a chef of ours and she’d always had this dream to open her own restaurant in Southie,” DuBois says. “Through a friend of ours, she approached us about buying Franklin Southie and just listening to her and hearing her passion for the project we decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go down this road. What we liked best about it is that she would act as an owner-operator. That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart and that’s what that space really needed. She was a chef in South Boston for five years and bought her home in South Boston. It just seemed like the perfect scenario. Plus we’d had the advantage of having worked with her for a year, so we knew what she could as a chef. We just think it’s going to be an amazing attribute for a neighborhood we’ve grown a lot of affection for.”
Besides Mei’s Franklin background and her obvious passion for the neighborhood, DuBois was also plagued by persistent staffing issues. Like many other chefs and restaurateurs in the city, DuBois said the expanding dining scene, elevated expectations on the part of diners, and ambitious young talent determined to move through the ranks, ultimately doomed his group’s South Boston venture.
“At the end of the day, we think Franklin Southie served its purpose really well,” DuBois says. “But it was always predicated on the caliber of chefs we had at any given moment. As the chef pool in Boston tightened it became harder and harder to find good people. It’s a prolific problem right now. I opened my first restaurant in ’96, so I’m old enough to have seen this cycle before and this is even worse than the shortages we saw in ’98. Everybody’s opening new places right now and the bar has been set much higher. Nobody wants to hunker down in one place for very long anymore”
Franklin Southie will continue to operate until the end of they year in order to give Mei time to transition out of her position at Sam’s and into her new role as chef-owner of Moonshine 152. DuBois says the new restaurant won’t be making many cosmetic changes and Mei has even agreed to hire much of Franklin Southie’s staff.
After the transition, DuBois’ Franklin Restaurant Group will switch its focus to opening multiple new locations of Tasty Burger early next year, as well as a “Franklin-esque concept” in a different area of Boston.
“Asia’s really into living in Southie, working in Southie, and now she’s going to own her business there,” DuBois says. “She loves the neighborhood and her food is definitely going to raise the bar. It wouldn’t have hurt us to keep operating Franklin Southie. It was making money, but when something better can come to the neighborhood, you have to listen. Talking with her, she sounded like me when I was opening Franklin Cafe in 1996, and that really moved me.”