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Frankie's Coming to Former Penny Cluse Café Site in Burlington

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Published November 9, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 15, 2023 at 10:26 a.m.


Cindi Kozak and Jordan Ware - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Cindi Kozak and Jordan Ware
A pair of longtime local hospitality industry colleagues will open a restaurant called Frankie's next spring in the downtown Burlington spot that Penny Cluse Café occupied for almost a quarter century before it closed in December 2022.

Cindi Kozak, 39, and Jordan Ware, 40, recently left their jobs as general manager and executive chef of Hen of the Wood at 55 Cherry Street, respectively, to start working in earnest on their new project a few blocks away at 169 Cherry Street. The business partners expect to open Frankie's, which they described as a 70-seat farm-to-table dinner restaurant with an approachable style, in April 2024.

Jordan Ware at Hen of the Wood Burlington in 2020 - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Jordan Ware at Hen of the Wood Burlington in 2020
Ware, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., is originally from Bennington. He has worked at the Burlington and Waterbury locations of Hen of the Wood and the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington.



Kozak, a Michigan native, came to Burlington to attend Champlain College and began working about a decade ago at Hen of the Wood Burlington as a server, after stints at the original Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury and South Burlington's Guild Tavern.

The news that the Penny Cluse Café space would become vacant prompted Kozak to broach the topic of a business partnership. "I asked Jordan if he wanted to open a restaurant together, and, to my surprise, he said yes," Kozak said.

"We work together very well," Ware said.

The pair will lease the restaurant space from its new owners, father and son Jay and Matt Canning, who bought the building in October from Penny Cluse co-owners Holly Cluse and Charles Reeves with a small group of friends and family. Jay Canning founded Westport Hospitality, which owns Hotel Vermont and the Courtyard Burlington Harbor Hotel.

Kozak, who lives downtown, said the space appealed to her because "it brought so much to the community. It is completely imbued with good vibes." She and Ware acknowledged that it will take "considerable" investment  "to bring it into its next generation," as Kozak put it.

The restaurateurs plan to add a lounge area where the host station currently stands, build banquettes in the main and upstairs dining rooms and maybe offer a small cocktail area in the downstairs prep kitchen.

The name Frankie's was inspired by Frank's, a restaurant that Ware's in-laws owned in Hartford, Conn., for 50 years. "It's a fun, playful name," Ware said — befitting the personality that he and Kozak hope their new restaurant will develop.

"We'd like it to be a day-to-day place, not just for special occasions," Kozak said.

The business partners said they feel a civic duty to invest in the building and in Burlington's downtown generally at a time when the city faces challenges. "We want to open up a new space and fill it with joy," Kozak said.

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