I don't want to get involved in the "should you bring your children to restaurants?" debate because, frankly, I don't care -- as long as they're seen and not heard. Bars are another thing, though. Are you going to feed your 2-year-old deep fried onion rings and a cold beer? Of course not. When I go to a brewpub, and people are setting baby toys on the bar and holding crying toddlers on their laps, I feel like my space is being invaded. But I suppose I'll have to learn to share.
Franklin's, P.G. County's only brewpub, is first and foremost a restaurant. And since it's one of the few non-chain, family-friendly restaurants in the Hyattsville area, all the locals are flocking there. Problem is, it gets full, and diners are facing 45-minute waits for a table. There's a very tiny waiting area downstairs, so the staff sends everyone -- children included -- to the bar area upstairs until their table is available. This is where the problem begins.
You see, for all the hype in the local beer community, the bar only takes up about a third of the second floor, counting 16 barstools and a few tables nearby. The rest of the space is tables for dining. When you add a few dozen diners to the hopheads -- there for the Firkin Friday promotion, for example -- the bar area quickly hits capacity, and the bar itself is almost inaccessible.
That's a shame, because the beers are good. There are eight of brewer Charles Noll's creations available now, with more on the way. Eventually Noll will have always nine microbrews on draft. Of those available, the ESB and Blonde Ale were the favorites in our group, the ESB winning points for its rich, hoppy flavor, and the Blonde making fans of the usual "light beer" drinkers. We also fell in love with the cask version of the ESB. Every Friday, one of Noll's creations is tapped in "real ale" form -- this is a beer that's still undergoing a secondary fermentation when served, and poured without extraneous carbon dioxide. The result is a beer with less carbonation and a more complex flavor than your average pasteurized beer.
Although we were having a good time, we grew tired of the servers running up the stairs and yelling -- at the top of their lungs to be heard over the din of conversation -- "Brett, party of five!" We grew tired of the "parties" bumping into everyone as they tried to make their way to the bar, and the children fussing and being caught underfoot.
The solution: Go to Franklin's. Sit at the bar and enjoy one of the fine house beers. But I'd advise you to arrive outside of the dinner hours, or weekend afternoons, when I'm told Franklin's sees a lot of children. Open until 11 during the week, the bar is open till midnight on weekends. Later is probably better for those of you who, like me, find it difficult to share the bar with toys.
-- Fritz Hahn