Chez Fonfon is one of those Birmingham restaurants that we had always heard everyone talk about, but we never knew anyone who had actually been there. I was a little nervous about this one because I really didn’t know what to expect in the way of dress code, the usual clientele, or pricing, but we ended up fitting in just fine.
The restaurant was started in 2000 by the famous Alabama native chef Frank Stitt. As many Birminghamians already know, Frank Stitt is also to thank for Bottega Restaurant and Café, as well as the world renowned Highland Bar and Grill. Chez Fonfon serves French fare and a wide variety of wine and cocktails, and is decorated to look like a Parisian café.
The first thing we noticed after valeting the car (we didn’t really have a choice), and walking up to the restaurant, was how tiny and loud the inside of the restaurant was. It was a rainy Friday night and we only later found out that there is an outdoor courtyard that usually holds some of the overflow diners, but we were able to snag seats at the bar while we waited (an hour and a half) for our table. The bartender was very nice and helpful in picking out drinks, and we decided to go ahead and have an appetizer of “grilled jumbo asparagus with morels and crawfish hollandaise.” I’m not a big fan of asparagus, but it was delicious!
Other than the deafening roar of the music and diners, the night was off to a great start…until we met our waitress. I almost hate to speak ill of the restaurant at all but the service that we got from her was so bad that it ruined our overall experience. It was very obvious that she did not want to be there. Like the appetizer, our meals ended up being wonderful. I had the famous hamburger fonfon and Josh had a nightly special of snapper over mixed vegetables. The hamburger definitely lived up to all the hype and though I’m not much of a fish eater, the snapper was tasty too. We shared the coconut cake for desert by default (it was all they had left), but it ended up being some of the best cake I have ever eaten!
The food was excellent, but this “Taste of the ‘Ham” is getting 3 stars from me, simply because the service was so terrible. We’ll give it another try in the future and see if things change.
-Nate Ennis, Foodie in Training