Monday, April 05, 2010

Au Fond Farmtable (Closed)

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Au Fond Farmtable. So much so, that I shouldn't be surprised that I had two guest reviews come in before I could write my own. So I give you the most comprehensive review ever of a restaurant--one that spans breakfast, lunch, and the special Monday Night Family Dinners. Thanks to Jess and Ginger for their great input!

Au Fond Farmtable
938 S. Cooper

Breakfast by Jess

Almost two weeks ago, on a surprisingly pretty and clear Saturday, I headed to the makeshift farmers market in the Tsunami parking lot in Cooper-Young with my 2 1/2 year old daughter (“The Child”). She was excited to see Miss Bonnie (of Dodson farms) and play with sweet potatoes. It was such a gorgeous day that we decided to walk around the neighborhood. We stopped in at Burke's Books and read a story, then continued next door to check out Au Fond Farmtable's grocery section. After walking in and pawing the pasta display, The Child informed me 'I hungry Mama'. I decided that an impromptu second breakfast would be a splendid idea, and queued up to order.

The menu is very simple - a few all-day breakfast items and a few simple lunches - and posted on found-art style chalkboard doors. The posted food is a good selection of simple homey items reasonably priced for a midtown breakfast place (the meals were $6 - $8). They also have an espresso coffee menu, but the doors weren’t flipped the right way to read those selections.

I ordered the brioche pain perdu (served with real maple syrup!) and two eggs scrambled for the two of us to split, and a coffee for myself. The counter attendant pours your drinks and hands them to you with a number-on-a-stick to take to your seat-yourself table. However, since I was navigating with a toddler, the waitress recognized I had my hands full and picked a table for us, carrying the drinks over and setting up the highchair.

The highchairs were the standard restaurant wooden kind. This one was clean and all the straps were still on and not broken. (Dirty and/or broken highchairs are a dining-out pet peeve of mine.) I wouldn't describe the restaurant as “childy”, per se – there are no crayons or coloring books or kids menu. But the staff and other patrons were definitely child-friendly. The service was quick; we didn't wait long at the table for our food to be delivered. The dining room and patio were packed (being 11am to noon on a sunny Saturday) and the tables turned over quickly.

Our meal turned out to be the perfect amount of food for the two of us. The presentation was gorgeous - stacked slices of golden French toast with berries and powdered sugar with real maple syrup and real butter. And the French toast itself was yummy - eggy and not oversweet. The scrambled eggs were just right - yellow and fluffy, not watery or too brown. The black coffee, a house blend, was a little bitter for my taste. Our waitress kindly brought cream to the table when I realized I was supposed to have doctored it at the counter. And this attentive waitress refilled our water and coffees during the meal, and even brought over a to-go cup so I could finish my coffee at home.

In terms of décor, the room was a little echo-y because of the open ceilings and little fountain behind our table.

It is still a new place, and the bathrooms reflected that. There are two large single-sex bathrooms, but they were so new that the paper towels were dispenser-less. The ladies’ room was clean and sparsely decorated. There was no surface (other than the floor) on which to perform a diaper change.

All in all: a simple, homey place for a nice weekend breakfast out. It wasn’t too pricey – our shared meal came to just over $13 including tip – and provided quick friendly service and tasty food.

Lunch by Stacey

I met some friends for coffee at Au Fond the first week it opened, and liked it so much I brought Warren and the monkeys back for lunch. The lunch crowd was much bigger than the breakfast crowd, and I was glad we were there early. I knew several people in line and it seemed as thought the neighborhood was very excited to have a new eating spot.

Since Au Fond serves breakfast until 2:30, the monkeys opted to eat biscuits and gravy. I couldn't resist the burger, and I convinced Warren to get the charcuterie plate. After placing our order, we grabbed a table, and waited for the food to come out. It wasn't quite warm enough to sit outside and the monkeys were very antsy. Being a Monday, they were the only kids in attendance at the restaurant that day. I confiscated their silver ware and gave them each a notebook to draw in. That seemed to calm them down.

Our food came out pretty quickly with little fanfare. I was really hoping for an explanation of the charcuterie items (different sliced meats) since the idea of Au Fond is to be a grocery/restaurant, but I can only guess that the busy crowds during the first week was throwing the waiters off of their A game. Judging from the frozen fries that came with my burger, it seemed that the kitchen was thrown for a loop too.

However, the monkeys were quite pleased with their biscuits and gravy, and Warren and I easily cleaned our plates too.

Our meal came to $27, which was pretty good considering the quality of the food (minus the substitute fries!). We agreed that it would be our "go to" place for late breakfasts once they got the kinks worked out.

Monday Night Family Meal by Ginger

Because I’m a girl who likes to eat, one of my favorite parts about living in Cooper Young is that we are within an easy walk of more than a dozen restaurants. The only problem is that with two monkeys (Walt, age 5 and Patrick, 7 months), a lot of options are out (or at least not as enjoyable). Sure, we wear out Young Avenue Deli and Central BBQ, but the idea of taking those two to Tsunami sends a shiver down my spine. Not that I don’t think Ben Smith (a dad himself) would welcome us all, but cost aside, I’m thinking the other diners who came to enjoy a nice meal of roasted sea bass wouldn’t look too kindly on Walt killing the mood with his light saber demonstrations.

But now there’s a happy medium between pool tables and white tablecloths in Cooper Young -- Monday night Family Meal at Au Fond Farmtable. Another Ben -- Vaughn, to be exact -- recently opened this primarily breakfast and lunch spot next to his first Cooper Young venture, Grace Restaurant. My husband Josh and I had both been to Au Fond separately for lunch, but hadn’t braved it with the kidlets yet. So when I got the email from my neighbor and Au Fond’s manager, Chey Fulgham, that the restaurant would be hosting weekly family dinners, I knew we would be all over it.

The ordering system at Au Fond is similar to what you see at all the “quick casual” chain places like Pei Wei or Moe’s -- you order and pay at the cash register up front, take your number to a table and wait for your food to be delivered. But this is no chain -- do they greet you by name when you walk in Pei Wei? (Okay, so maybe if it weren’t our neighbor manning the cash register, that wouldn’t happen here either, but still!)

The deal with Au Fond’s Monday night Family Meal is that for $14 per adult and $6 per kid, you get your choice of one entrée and two sides, featuring local ingredients, all served in generous portions. According to Chey, the menu will change, but when we went, there were seven entrée options and ten sides -- more than enough selection to find something even for a picky eater. After ordering, we went to the dining room to find our table and hadn’t even finished chatting with several of our neighbors who were also trying out the inaugural Family Meal when our food arrived on nice, heavy white plates. Josh poured the wine we’d brought (did I mention there’s no corkage!) and we dug in.

Josh ordered the huge Newman Farm pork chop, French beans and roasted potatoes, and I ordered the meat loaf, mac n’ cheese and candied brussel sprouts -- we both ate every bite on our plates. I even had to order Josh to put the pork chop bone down, as he gnawed the last little bits off at the end of the meal. My meat loaf was three discs of Donnel Century Farm ground sirloin, topped with a kind of tomato jam -- definitely fancier than the meatloaf I make at home. Probably my favorite part of the meal, though, were the candied brussel sprouts. Since discovering a “recipe” for roasted brussel sprouts (cut them in half, douse in olive oil and sea salt and roast until a deep brown), this underappreciated vegetable has become one of my favorite side dishes. And the candied version at Au Fond did not disappoint.

Given the option, Walt would have just ordered three helpings of mac and cheese, and I wouldn’t have blamed him -- it was a refined version of the dish featuring penne pasta coated in the kind of rich cheese sauce that you’d expect from a restaurant that has a refrigerator case full of fine cheeses for sale up front. But he wasn’t given that choice, so he grudgingly chose fried chicken as his entrée and the green beans for his second side. From what I could tell, there really wasn’t a difference in the portion size for the kids plates and adult plates, so if they’ll allow it, you could probably split a plate between two younger kids.

Walt, who is certainly an expert on the subject, having tried a version at every restaurant in town, proclaimed the mac ’n cheese delicious. He wasn’t as effusive about the green beans or chicken, but having sampled both from his plate, I can assure you that both were quite tasty -- the boneless chicken breast was juicy on the inside and nicely seasoned and fried outside and the green beans were bright green and plentiful.

I will say that the $42 tab for three of us to eat is high enough that we can‘t make Au Fond our every-Monday-night destination (tempted as we may be), but when you consider that you can take your own bottle of cheap wine and not have to pay corkage, we probably didn’t spend much more than we would for the average trip to Young Avenue Deli when we order beers, lemonade for Walt, sides of fries, etc. And though we love Young Avenue, this was a decidedly “finer” dining experience (plus we got to finish our bottle of wine after we got home and got the kids in bed!).

Josh took Walt to the restroom and, though clean, it did not have a changing table. I can’t say for sure that the women’s room didn’t, but I would kind of doubt it, given that most days it’s a fairly grown up place. Fortunately Patrick cooperated by not needing a change, and also by just generally amusing himself with his toes while we ate. They did have high chairs, but he cooled his heels in the stroller. Our only real quibble with the experience was there was no music playing in the dining room, which would have definitely added to the dining experience.

All in all, though, the Spickler family declares the first-ever Family Meal at Au Fond a success and will definitely include it in the regular rotation. Because the kids need to learn that not every dining out experience involves toothpicks in the ceiling or plastic forks.

Au Fond Farmtable on Urbanspoon


Courtney said...

Yea! I've been waiting for the DWM review to try this place, although I've been to Grace (sans kids) and it was AMAZING. We'll be putting it on our must eat place, although I'm a bit worried about the crowds ...

Also nice to see Ginger doing reviews!

Ginger said...

Thanks for the props, Courtney! I was worried it would be crowded too but the night we were there (first family meal night), it wasn't crowded at all.

Anonymous said...

We have been a few times, with and without the boy. The food was great, especially the cinnamon roll. Love that they offer local meats. However, they need to work on customer service. Every time I have been, once I am seated and the food arrives the server seems to disappear. For water refills, extra napkins, etc. I have had to get back in line. And while we enjoyed the family dinner as well, $45 it too high. But we look forward to brunch their soon.

Mel Spillman artwork said...

OMG, frozen french fries...really?
I cannot accept that from a restaurant. Potatoes are very inexpensive and cook/ fry veryt quickly (if prepped by blanching first). I have heard so many great things about "Au Fond" but this is yucky bad news.

poo-poo, no thank you!

Stacey Greenberg said...

Mel it was a temporary set back. I heard they are back to real fries!

Amber said...

I actually kind of like that they were so busy that they had to use frozen fries. Real potatoes don't take long, but that's only when you're prepared for such a big's nice to see that they are so swamped! Hopefully it means they'll be around for a long time!

I'm a total DWM lurker, even though I have no kids, and I'm so glad you reviewed them...I can't wait to try it!

Susan said...

We went Saturday for lunch based on the positive reviews here. The food was excellent, however like Melissa said, cutomer service is lacking. There was one server for the entire room and outside patio. We were a table of five and the plates came out by twos. Except for the 5th. She waited for her Pain Perdu until everyone else was almost done.
We would have ordered cinnamon rolls for dessert, but the line at the counter was too long to go back to order them.

Anonymous said...

Read about this and wanted to go. Enjoyed. But if one is going to sell me a ham and brie sandwich for $11, it had better be better than not bad. It was not. Not too keen on ordering at the cash register at these prices, either. Like to see people trying this sort of thing, but this was too much for too little for my money (pun intended).

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