The Winner empire is hard to pin down. There’s a bakery, with a line worth waiting in, that sells sourdough at 7:30am, focaccia at 12pm, and baguettes at 2pm. There’s a cafe in Prospect Park that's a popular meeting spot for Park Slope dogs. There’s a butcher that also makes white bean salads. And finally, there’s Winner on Franklin.
Operating out of the former Hunky Dory space in Crown Heights, this neighborhood spot serves breakfast, lunch, brunch, drinks, and dinner, where you'll find charcuterie, small plates, sandwiches, patties and also rotisserie chicken. In an effort to do the absolute most, it's open all day, every day—and it might actually benefit from being open for less time, and on fewer days.
A meal at Winner on Franklin yields mixed results. Sometimes, your favorite chicken katsu sandwich is available, and you eat it on a stool in the front window for lunch. Other times, it’s not, and you are left to eat a less satisfying sandwich in the bigger dining room in the back, which has a large skylight and a handful of empty tables that look like they’d been half-set for dinner service before someone remembered that they first needed to serve lunch.
One night, we drank orange wine at the bar by the light of red taper candles, and ate a burger so monumental that we added it to our best burger guide. We watched cheeky third dates sharing sourdough and little wedges of funky cheese, and had a great time. Another evening, some of the candles weren’t red, the back dining room was closed, and nothing tasted quite good enough to justify the bill (which we paid via QR code).
When Winner on Franklin first opened, it was briefly called WinBar. We’re not saying that was a good name, but it was an appropriate name. Come here on a Saturday afternoon to drink frozen margaritas and eat chicken katsu sandwiches at the tables out front, next to people who also started their day just down the block at Bagel Pub. Or come by for a solo burger and glass of wine on a night when you wouldn’t mind paying your check without talking to anyone. That's what a neighborhood spot is for, and, when it's not trying to do everything, that's what Winner on Franklin does best.
The Breakfast Sandwich
This is a tried and true sandwich. If you live near Winner on Franklin, we hope you know this already. If not, swing by and eat it. Soon. You should add the optional Chinese sausage, but the custardy eggs with homemade chili crisp will be good even without it.
The patties here are crispy on the outside, smooth and meaty on the inside, and also $6 or more. We like them, but in an area full of excellent patties, we usually opt for something else.
When they actually have it, this is one of the best things on the menu. The dinner version comes on furikake brioche, but we prefer the lunchtime variety, which comes between two thick slices of milk bread, is about the size of your head, and slathered with Taiwanese-style three-cup sauce. An underrated part of consuming sandwiches is eating all the things that fall out of them after, and this sandwich produces a lot of these post-sandwich bites.
Veggie Banh Mi
It’s not as good as the one at the OG Winner (long live the mushroom pate), but this is a crowd-pleasing meatless sandwich, and is also spectacularly saucy. Winner on Franklin is good at sauce.
Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese
We love a buttery grilled cheese as much as the next person, but this one, available at lunch, is greasy to the point of no return. Avoid, unless you are very close to home and can spend the rest of your day lying on the couch.
The fermented chili remoulade on this burger puts all special sauces to shame. This is the burger to sit at the bar alone with, and not just because it comes with a thick layer of onion that you might need to follow with multiple pieces of gum. Pair with a glass of wine or a frozen margarita, and definitely do not share.
This one will probably change with the seasons. And while it won’t change your life, it’s got a creamy, ranch-adjacent dressing and lots of vegetables for that much needed crunch alongside a burger.
You don’t need to order these tempura-style vegetables, but in a world where small plates just keep getting smaller, this is a welcome larger option, especially if you end up here with a group. The veggies are pleasantly crispy and served with a nam prik sauce. Again with the sauce!
If you’re here on a slow night, you might see the bartender cutting themselves little wedges of cheese and a bit of pate. You’ll find it charming, and if you decide to order some cheese and charcuterie yourself, you won’t be disappointed.