When Frank's Restaurant, a Burbank landmark, went dark in March, a collective cry went out from Clybourn to Alameda avenues, from Forest Lawn to Bel Aire drives.
The Media City has seen too many of its longtime restaurants, dives and greasy spoons boarded up, demolished or simply forgotten. Alfredo's Granada, a Burbank Boulevard fixture for nearly four decades, closed in October 2010, only to reopen eight months later. Genio's Restaurant, which fed generations of locals, closed shop for good in 2006. Sadly, there are many other examples.
In fact, preserving Genio's was part of Jose Lopez's motivation for purchasing Frank's from its original owner, Frank Kunelis, in 2008.
“I thought I was going to retire there,” said Lopez, who worked as a chief at the Italian restaurant. “But when Genio's closed, and I bought Frank's, I put the menus together.”
The customers followed. But not enough of them. Frank's was going broke, and when the lease came up in March, Lopez felt he had to close. It was a heart-wrenching decision, he said, especially given that Genio's had been turned into a Social Security office.
“So many people asked me if we were going to open somewhere else,” he said. “We looked, but there was nothing. It was sad. Two landmarks gone and forgotten about.”
But Lopez refused to give up. He entered into talks with the owner of the Portofino Inn — who happened to be Lopez's former landlords — and was able to reopen.
Though he's now the manager of the restaurant — no longer the owner — Lopez doesn't mind. He's just happy to be back.
“This is where people come together,” he said.
Marvin Ceechini, the former owner of Genio's, said the reopening is a good thing.
“I hate to see a place go down,” he said. “Our place went down, but that was another story. So, I think it's great that he's going back there, and I will be going back to support him.”
June resurrections are a bit of a theme among Burbank restaurants. Granada reopened last June, and continues a brisk business selling burritos and stiff margaritas. Frank's proudly, and officially, reopened on Friday.
Dale Greves, sitting at the counter on Friday in her usual seat — third from the center — said she'd been coming to Frank's for 20 years. After working all day making food “for half of North America” at Martino's Bakery, and later, Universal, Greves said she often just wanted someone to fix her meal for her.
When I asked what her reaction had been when she heard Frank's had closed, Greves puckered her lips in a frown, running fingers down her cheeks to indicate tears.
“But when I heard it had reopened, I was nearly shouting,” she said. “I was so happy.”
Also happy is Sam Patel, the owner of the Portofino Inn and the new owner of Frank's. Patel, though, was a bit more circumspect about the vagaries of the restaurant business.
“We're thrilled to serve the community as long as we can, as long as we can keep the doors open,” he said. “Hopefully it will work out for both us and the community.”
DAN EVANS is the editor. When he's not searching out the best Denver omelet in Los Angeles, he can be reached at email@example.com or (818) 637-3234.