A True American Restaurant: Local Wounded Warrior Launches B. Franklin’s American Tavern | News
A local wounded warrior and his partner have opened a restaurant that honors and celebrates the founding fathers and their quest for freedom as well as the modern patriots who maintain it.
Josh Himan, a 36-year-old Navy veteran who grew up and still lives in Woodbridge, and his partner Ed Keels launched B. Franklin’s American Tavern on Memorial Day. It is located near the Potomac Mills shopping center in a building that used to be The Knife restaurant at 14425 New Bedford Way.
Himan is a retired Marine corporal who suffered spinal cord injuries from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in September 2009 and is paralyzed from the chest down. He graduated from CD Hylton High School in 2002 and grew up playing baseball for Dale City Little League.
Keels has worked in the restaurant industry for 40 years. He started and managed about 20 businesses, including business consulting firm Breakeven Inc. Himan received training from Breakeven Inc. and befriended Keels before launching the new restaurant together.
“[Himan] is one of the reasons why in our business. We honor not only our founding fathers, but all who fought to maintain our freedom,” Keels said. “[Himan] is a true man of honor and who lives daily for those who did not survive. Because of that and his always positive attitude, the decision to partner with him was easy.
Himan said they wanted to do a real American restaurant.
“We went back and looked at what the founding fathers used to eat,” Himan said. “We took the recipes for the food they used to eat at 18and century and brought it up to today.
“The concept started with: this is Virginia, the first colony. Ben Franklin has been dubbed the first American, so where better to start our first chain of hopefully 13 colonies? says Keels.
They also decided to focus the menu, in part, on the tastes of the founding fathers.
Ben Franklin was a vegetarian for the first half of his life and loved apples.
“So we try to put apples everywhere we can,” Keels said. This includes apple crisps for dessert, a grilled cheese sandwich with applewood bacon, cheese and thin slices of apple.
“All we do is a bit of modernization and a nod to the founding fathers,” he said.
Another tip to the founding fathers is the restaurant’s mac and cheese. Thomas Jefferson loved French cuisine and brought a slave with him to France to attend culinary school, promising if he did he would set him free. Jefferson freed the slave who learned to cook mac and cheese. “This guy is responsible for America’s first mac and cheese recipe,” Keels said.
B. Franklins has wine from Jefferson’s vineyard and Bierworks of Brew Republic made a beer for the restaurant based on Franklin’s original recipe. “The Robert Hares Porter is probably the best beer I’ve tasted in my life. We were lucky with that,” Keels said.
A cherry slipper pays homage to George Washington and the fable of the cherry tree.
“We’ve done a lot of research and continue to do so to stay relevant,” Keels said.
The menu gives a modern touch to the 18and century cuisine and also includes many of today’s American favorites.
Facing a modern reality: the pandemic
B. Franklins opened on Memorial Day, but due to pandemic restrictions it was limited to curbside and delivery for a time, then outdoor dining only. Once Virginia entered Phase 3 of the state’s reopening on July 1, it opened for indoor and outdoor dining.
Himan said opening a restaurant in a pandemic has been difficult, especially financially.
“Obviously it’s a tough time for business right now,” Himan said, adding that he doesn’t expect the pandemic to continue into the fall.
“The restaurant is doing quite well. We get a lot of return customers. I just don’t have the massive traffic coming from the mall,” he said.
Still, the restaurant is following mask-wearing, sanitizing, and social distancing guidelines. Given the restaurant’s size, nearly 9,000 square feet, social distancing isn’t difficult, Himan said.
The restaurant has two dining rooms, the Liberty Lounge with sofas and wingback chairs, and the Chef’s Counter where diners can watch the chef prepare their three-course meal. Reservations are required for the chef’s counter.
“It’s fun. The grates get hot and you can watch the chef cook. A lot of people enjoy it,” Himan said.
Diners will experience the rustic tavern feel in the restaurant which also features copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence along with famous quotes from the Founding Fathers on the walls.
Himan said he loves being in the restaurant business. “I like having a place where family and friends can come,” he said. “I also love that every day when I go to a restaurant, I meet someone new.”
Do you know of a new business that should be featured in the Prince William Times? Contact Aileen Streng at [email protected].