FRANKLIN, Ind. -- Over the last several years, Franklin has transformed from a sweet small town on the outskirts of the big city to a small town with a whole lot of new places to come and see.
One of those places is RFD Franklin, which opened this past May. Located at 55 W. Madison Street in the heart of town, RFD gets its name from “Rural Free Delivery,” which was the postal service's initiative in the late 1800s to bring direct mail delivery to people living in rural areas.
Nowadays, instead of mail, RFD Franklin is delivering delicious food right to your table. And it’s always served with a side of history.
“This is a 1930s former post office,” explained co-owner Lesa McDaniel Talley. “It opened in April of 1937 and served the community as a post office until it became City Hall in 1981. When we had the 500-year flood in 2008, City Hall moved out and it was vacant for about 10 years.”
Talley (who was a 12-year board member of Franklin Heritage) and her husband, John, have always had a love of historic buildings, so they bought the building in 2017 and began the lengthy process of breathing life back into what we now know as RFD Franklin.
But in this case, restoration was as important as renovation.
“One of the gems of this building is its lobby. It’s the original lobby, the original tile,” she said. “We have brought back in a lot of postal artifacts and we have consulted the original blueprints that are in the county museum to help guide us in our renovation.”
RFD is now a full-service restaurant and bar. Their motto is “real food, fresh dining.” And the menu does not disappoint.
“We have a focus on seafood and steaks but there’s something for everyone,” Talley said. “It’s a small menu but a lot of variety and if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, we can accommodate that too.”
During our visit, the chef whipped up a few house favorites like the wedge salad with pickled onions, mac and cheese (with multiple types of cheese), penne with shrimp, broccolini and sun-dried tomato and a delectable ginger glazed salmon with lemon orzo and asparagus.
Staying true to their motto, one key component is their desire to keep things fresh and seasonal through sourcing locally and having a direct link to the source of their food.
“The idea is that you can come here and it’s not all pre-made, not all frozen... it’s real food like hopefully your grandmother put on the table but maybe if grandma was a very, very good cook,” Talley said.
“We just got in some fresh peaches last night that will end up on the menu this weekend. And when fall comes around, we’ll feature persimmons and apples of course [and] pumpkin,” she added.
Grab a seat at the bar or on RFD’s brand new patio and enjoy a summery traditional or flavored mojito or the vibrant purple cocktail called the “Aviation.”
And don’t be afraid to chalk up conversation with a local--because they may have quite a story to tell.
“Somebody was telling me last night that when they first got their license, this was the first place they were allowed to drive… We’ve also had former employees come through and tell us where they worked or where their sorting desks were,” Talley recalled. “You can tell this was really a prominent feature in the community and we’re glad to get it back into service of the community.”
Four Things You Need to Know About RFD Franklin:
- RFD Franklin is a historic building in downtown Franklin that initially served as a post office in the 1930s. In 1981, it became City Hall until the flood in 2008. After that, the building sat vacant for 10 years before Lesa McDaniel Talley and her husband, John, bought the building and transformed it into RFD Franklin. Today, it serves as a full-service restaurant and bar, offering fine dining within a much-loved historical landmark.
- RFD is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4-9 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
- If you have a group or special event, you can actually book one of their private event spaces including the old postmaster’s office, downstairs in the basement and inside the old vault. It makes for a truly unique experience! Plus, they also have space outside where tents can be set up for outdoor events.
- Their new patio is always a great place to dine on a warm summer night while taking in the sights and sounds of Franklin’s flourishing downtown area. “A lot of people are coming down to shop and dine and we have a very active festival committee,” said Talley. “[There are] all kinds of different events along with the Historic Artcraft Theatre [located] just across the parking lot from us.”
For more information about RFD Franklin, you can connect with them on social media via Facebook and Instagram. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile by clicking here.
While in Franklin, check out some of the town’s other top-rated hot spots: