Restaurant-wine bar brings European style to downtown Dallas tower
Downtown Dallas just got a sophisticated new restaurant from a pair of savvy pop-up pros: Called Fond, it's a chic new spot in the Santander Tower at 1601 Elm St. #110, where it's open for lunch and an afternoon pre-dinner repast from 3-7 pm.
Fond is from chefs Jennie Kelley and Brandon Moore, who've been at the forefront of the pop-up scene with concepts such as Better Half, which has surfaced at restaurants such as Cosmo's and Lounge Here; and Frank, the Deep Ellum pop-up restaurant Kelley did with TV-famous chef Ben Starr.
Fond is the first brick-and-mortar for Kelley and Moore, who previously helmed the kitchen at Ocean Prime in Uptown Dallas. It's a three-pronged concept under one roof:
- lunch spot
- natural wine bar
- "Aperitivo Hour," an innovative late-afternoon drop-in for snacks and drinks to be enjoyed after work and or a teaser before dinner
With Fond, they're providing not only a new destination for downtown, but also a built-in amenity for the Santander building, formerly Thanksgiving Tower, which is converting 14 floors into residential units.
"It's a place for residents in the building to come down and get quality food," Kelley says.
Their lunch menu features soups like lemony chicken orzo; salads such as a smoked salmon Niçoise; and sandwiches including a club, a veggie on a hoagie roll, and a rotating sandwich such as the one-of-a-kind bologna sandwich on bread made in house, with bologna imported from Michigan.
"When people try it, they say it's the best bologna sandwich they've had," Kelley says. "Our goal is to take the things you might see elsewhere and elevate them a little bit."
A grab-and-go section has items for under $10, for workers on the run.
After lunch ends at 2 pm, they reopen from 3-7 pm with a separate menu for the Aperitivo Hour, featuring Detroit-style pizzas and shared plates which can serve as a pre-dinner appetizer or an all-out dinner feast.
Fond boasts chic chairs, pale woods, Edison light bulbs.Jeffrey Liles
This may sound like Happy Hour, but Moore cautions that it is not.
"When you say Happy Hour, people assume discount drinks," he says. "But this is more like the aperitif hour you find in Europe where you wind down from the day with light snacks and wine before dinner."
This is the only time they offer Detroit-style pizza - Moore is a native of Detroit - with a house-made sourdough crust, "secret" cheese blend, and a variety of sauces including Motor City Red, vodka sauce, and Bolognese. The "Brussell Crowe" has Brussels sprouts, onions, bacon, and garlic; the Better Half has famous Jimmy's sausage, broccoli rabe, and vodka sauce.
"From the Better Half pop-ups, we've developed a repertoire of about 10 pizza options, which we'll rotate through at Fond," Kelley says.
Shared plates include many veg-friendly options such as carrots cooked for two hours via the sous-vide method and served with Tajin aioli; and fingerling potatoes with garlic crisps and Romanesco aioli. There's also soft-serve ice cream for dessert.
The third major element in Fond is the unwavering dedication to natural wines, the only wines they'll serve, plus local beer and batched cocktails. Natural wines are a growing category and indicate wines made with organically or biodynamically grown grapes, with no or low sulfites, which are used to preserve wine but can cause headaches, stomach aches, and other symptoms.
They were originally looking to open in The Cedars, but were encouraged by Downtown Dallas, Inc. to consider the Central Business District. They've given the location a spiffy-chic design with Edison bulbs, plush white leatherette banquettes, and creative floral arrangements.
They landed in the space in a serendipitous way.
"We were walking around downtown, when I spotted these chairs in the space," Kelley says. "They were these very clean, white, modern European-looking chairs. The entire space was appealing with concrete floors and natural wood. I asked about the chairs but they belonged to another business planning to open there. They ended up not opening, so we not only got the chairs, we got the whole space."