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The Closure of Franki’s Li’l Europe


You can file this under the “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” department. The following is a note I just received from Gabriela Kovacic, co-founder of Franki’s Li’l Europe. As the lovely and talented Teresa Gubbins reported from her roost, the restaurant closed a couple of weeks ago. Pour yourself another cup of coffee and read on.

The Closure of Franki’s Li’l Europe, Casa Linda Plaza, Dallas
February 24, 2009

The last nail on the coffin of Franki’s Li’l Europe was pneumatically hammered into place by the landlord, after the bank seized property early last week according to the notice posted on the front door, though the 1 ½ decades of good times, good food and good value at Franki’s Li’l Europe in Casa Linda Plaza had come to an end long before this.

Opened in 1987 with a $20,000 bank loan and some redeemed IRA’s, the energy of this venture and of its founders was the key to its success.  The spirited 37 year old, Franc Kovacic, known as Franki, a popular maitre d’ with great charm and a knack for cooking his home-country favorites coupled with his European restaurant service schooling along with his partner and wife, Gabriela Kovacic, 27 at the time, a hotel management educated administrator, organizer and eventually creator of all desserts that accented the menu gave their heart and soul to the little restaurant that seasoned itself into a Dallas landmark.

The friendships that began among customers and staff members are many; the families whose generations  and celebrations were honored there are more; romantic evenings, marriage proposals, baby announcements, business deals and even a few scuffles along with the fun-filled theme parties that no-one wanted to miss out on, these all served to warm the hearts of hundreds, possibly thousands.

This unique restaurant also gained accolades from dining critics.  The most memorable awards being the Dallas Observer reader’s poll winner of “Best Restaurant” (circa 1995),  Franki’s was wedged comfortably between the winner, The Mansion on Turtle Creek and Old Warsaw in third place. Franki was also selected as Best Host (circa 1999) by D Magazine.

Around 2002-3 the restaurant began it’s decline beginning with a dwindling spirit and attention to detail; Gabriela had long departed, causing Franki’s erratic absences and loss of motivation to continue, Around 2004, Franki sold his niche to a long time employee, Jeffrey Jake Batts, and returned to his native Slovenia.

Talk of what went wrong and why abounds; my observations are that apathy and ingratitude by more than the new owner would be the two causes listed on this death certificate; a sad diagnosis for something so rich in spirit, so full of life; vibrant tastes, good times and countless, countless people whose lives were enriched by the little European eatery tucked in a corner of East Dallas that began because there was an impassioned belief and hope that a restaurant of genuine quality could be well received in a neighborhood who had been overlooked.

I remain a part of this community and have many fond memories, gratitude for all things, good and bad and acknowledgment of its end.  An end however, opens the door to new possibilities, perhaps soon you may learn of an exciting  turn that this story will take; once again, it being developed to serve the unique people and feeling that is an innate characteristic of Casa Linda, and the White Rock Lake area.

Franki’s Li’l Europe