Toro, Franklin Cafe, or Orinoco
Which of these three options would you suggest for a fun yet laid back weekday birthday celebration for a few women in their 20s?
We're adventurous eaters and love fabulous food and cocktails. I understand Franklin Cafe doesn't take reservations, which could be an issue (potentially? On a Monday?).
Please help us; we're Libras and indecisive!
All have great food and atmosphere, though quite different from one another.
None takes reservations, which means you very often will have to wait for a table, typically at least 30 minutes, often longer, even on weeknights. All are difficult for groups bigger than six people, though Toro is probably best at accommodating large parties if you don't mind waiting an hour-plus. Orinoco is closed Mondays.
All have good, reasonably priced wine lists, though the Franklin has the best deals, a fixed markup over retail. Toro has the broadest one. The Franklin and Toro both have excellent cocktail programs (Orinoco South End, the one I think you mean, is beer/wine only, though the Brookline Village location has a full bar); the Franklin recently got a much-needed overhaul via an excellent new bar manager, and has a fine new cocktail list, much more craft-y than before.
I love the food at all of them: Orinoco does pretty authentic Venezuelan food at a mid-priced fine dining level; the Franklin very reasonably priced New American with a comfort food slant; Toro mostly does tapas with a non-traditional bent and a strong emphasis on cured meats, offal, and charcuterie thanks to chef Jamie Bissonnette. Toro is the most expensive; the other two roughly comparable (no entree over $20). Desserts aren't a long suit anywhere; Toro is the best with its handful of options, Orinoco has only a couple, The Franklin none at all.
Orinoco is most sedate, a good date place. Toro is the liveliest, often to the point where the crowds and noise are annoying, and the likeliest to rush you through a meal to turn the tables. The Franklin is a dark, hip bar with a few booths (unless you add the newer Southie location, which is bigger and brighter and shinier). I'd give Orinoco the nod for the most attentive, friendliest service.
Can't make that call for you, but that's my take. I frequent all of them, would be happy with a group of friends at any of them.
I love Toro, though it can get pretty pricey especially if yoy are drinking a lot. I would opt for Franklin personally. Orinoco does not seem likely enough to me for a group of young women.
I went to Toro with 4 of my roommates for my birthday and we had a great time. Although, I would suggest getting there between 6 and 6:30 if you want to be seated promptly. It gets really crowded.