Munch goes to the Franklin Inn

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One of America's chief early patriots, Benjamin Franklin brings images to mind such as the Constitution, lightning and philandering -- an impression sealed by his portrayal in the HBO John Adams miniseries that Munch was briefly obsessed with last year.

One thing Munch never associated with Mr. $100 bill was Mexican cuisine. But Franklin Park boasts the curiously named Franklin Inn, a regionally renowned Mexican joint that has nothing to do with Ben Franklin.

According to the Inn's Web site, the Cibula family bought the restaurant in 1978 and served American fare that would fit with the name. Then two years later, the owners took the cuisine south of the border, and have enchanted the North Hills ever since.

In the mood for enchiladas, Munch enlisted New Roommate of Munch (NROM) and Pescetarian Friend of Munch (PFOM) -- who eats fish but no meat -- for the lunchtime excursion.

Soon after we sat down, our attentive waitress delivered a basket of tortilla chips and a cup of salsa. The chips, fried golden in peanut oil and not over-salted, were touted on the menu as "the best in town." Whether this claim applied only to Franklin Park was unclear, but Munch estimates that these chips are the best in at least a five-municipality radius.

Our table couldn't get enough of them, so we ordered up the Inn's signature black bean appetizer ($4.95), which combined black beans, feta cheese and chipotle pepper sauce, topped with a lemon sour cream sauce. Most importantly, it came with another basket of warm chips.

The appetizer, our table agreed, was a gooey delight. The bitter feta and the tart lemon gave the dish a hint of Greek flavors that got along well with their Mexican cousins. When we decided the dish could use some extra heat, our waitress supplied Cholula hot sauce to perk up our taste buds.

The dish helped extend a streak of approximately 13,438 consecutive times Munch has eaten way too many chips at a Mexican restaurant before the main dish was served. But there was still plenty of Munching left to be done.

For the main course, NROM opted for a chicken fajita wrap lunch special ($6.95), a combination of chicken and roasted peppers and onions that NROM called "delightfully uncomplicated." For sides, there was well-seasoned Mexican rice and a black bean and corn salad that provided a light, cilantro-heavy contrast to the rest of the dish.

PFOM began with a cup of gazpacho ($2.50), which she called not chunky enough, then followed with a "mini burrito" lunch special ($5.95), which she said was more mini than expected. Munch considered changing PFOM's nickname to Picky Friend of Munch -- which would have preserved the acronym -- but PFOM countered that she was merely "offering suggestions."

She did have a point about the mini specials. The mini burrito, which came with sides of rice and beans, was about the size of a deck of cards. Still, PFOM reported at the end of the meal to be satisfactorily full, perhaps trying to shed the "picky" label.

Munch noticed that, even though we were at lunch, the full dinner menu was available. So it was decided that to show Munch's dear readers the full range of Franklin Inn's offerings -- and because Munch's employer would be picking up the tab -- Munch would get the dinner serving of Frisco Enchiladas ($11.95).

The enchiladas came filled with chicken, corn, sour cream, cilantro and lime, providing an unusually creamy interior. Although the dish once again was in need of some hot sauce to satisfy Munch's spice-loving palate, it was an intriguing twist on the typical enchilada. Munch cleaned the plate with gusto, prompting a raised eyebrow from NROM, who is still adjusting to Munch's ravenous eating habits.

NROM will have to get used to it. Pass the chips.



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