2007 11th Avenue South between 20th Street South and Richard Arrington Junior Boulevard
Birmingham, AL 35205
I was excited to try my first Frank Stitt restaurant after learning that he’s basically the kingpin of Birmingham fine dining. The Highlands Bar and Grill is on my list, but that necessitates a special occasion.
Although this was certainly a special occasion in itself, as Brother was in town. We eschewed the pay lot by the restaurant for street parking about a block down. There was an attendant in the lot but he didn’t give us any guff. Despite being nearly 1:30 PM (curse you, 280 lunch traffic), the dining room was practically full. A cordial host seated us at a table towards the back. The crowd was mixed: older, younger, but more on the professional side.
It was sweet to possess a four person table to ourselves. Chez Fonfon is one of the most attractive restaurants I’ve been to in Birmingham, with bright windows and wood accents. And a general historical feeling. Our waiter was attentive enough though his attentions waned a bit during the end of our meal. Server fatigue I suppose.
The menus were dated a few days earlier from our dining date. There was a wide range of items to fit all price points, from sandwiches to fish. I ordered the Hamburger Fonfon ($13.50) while Brother ordered the Croque Monsieur ($10.75). Hamburger Fonfon is a misnomer because there is cheese atop the burger, a little something French called Comté. It turns out that this was the common cheese of the restaurant, as it is also used for the Croque. It’s somewhat pungent but otherwise not very sharp. A good melted cheese as it looked right at home laying on the beef. The patty was quite peppery, black peppery. And it seemed to be ever pepperier as I ate towards the middle of the circle. The burger came with lettuce and pickled onions, but no tomato. Ketchup was served on the side, along with the house Dijon aioli. That went well with the frites which were crunched to perfection. Delish.
I couldn’t resist dessert. Two words: gingerbread cheesecake. Not having seen a cake such as described before, I was eager to try it. There was no price on the menu, but it ended up being $7.50 for a fair-sized slice. The cake came with a cheery gingerbread man. The cheesecake was incredibly rich and gingerbready. Freakin’ delicious. The crust also deserved special note since it contained what I took to be pecans.
Brother and I left Fonfon, satistifed. Now I really can’t wait to try Bottega and Highlands Bar and Grill.