Fond in Philadelphia: Chef Lee Styer on Seven Successful Years

Fond in Philadelphia

In 2013, Food & Wine named Philadelphia’s East Passyunk Avenue one of the “Ten Best Foodie Streets in America,” and leading the list of reasons why was Fond. Started by three friends, two of whom honed their skills at the celebrated French restaurant Le Bec-Fin (and are now married), the inviting spot serves contemporary American fare with French influences. Diners can order a la carte from choices like foie gras sausage with pickled lobster mushrooms and housemade mozzarella or opt for a five- or seven -course tasting menu. Either way, save room for desserts like brown butter lemon pudding cake and malted milk chocolate ice cream, expertly crafted by co-owner and pastry chef Jessie Prawlucki. 

Fond just celebrated its anniversary last week, and as one diner recently gushed, “After seven years, I am always thrilled with the creativity of chef Styer.” OpenTable talked with Fond’s co-owner and head chef Lee Styer about working with friends, keeping the menu fresh, and why they love running a restaurant in Philadelphia.

Congratulations on your 7th anniversary! How has Fond developed such a passionate and devoted following in Philly?

I think we have gained a successful following by offering a high quality of food and service while still allowing our guests to remain comfortable. We want our guests to come in and eat good food in a relaxed environment. We treat our guests at Fond like we would treat guests in our own home. I think people have realized that they can come here and enjoy a great meal and feel welcome without a pretentious vibe.

How have you kept the menu fresh and exciting over the years?

Our menu is ever changing, but we do keep a few of the popular items on the menu for a longer period of time. We also always have different specials that we run from week to week. We try to keep our product and menu consistent while changing the ingredients and techniques over the seasons.

Fond was one of the pioneers of East Passyunk Avenue, which has been called one of the best foodie streets in America by Food & Wine. What was the neighborhood like when you opened your doors, and what has changed since then?

Over 20 restaurants and food service establishment have opened in the last seven years since we opened. It’s great to see new places come into the neighborhood and offer a different dining option. The neighborhood has grown tremendously with increased foot traffic and additional families moving to the area. Services like the valet parking enable the neighborhood to sustain its steady growth.

Fond in Philadelphia

What are the benefits and challenges of working with your spouse and friend?

When we opened seven years ago, Tory, Jessie, and I worked all day in a tiny restaurant space. Since then Jessie has moved into Belle Cakery and now is at home with our two small children, and Tory and I are now at a larger location at 1537 South 11th street. Working so closely with good friends has its ups and downs. Some of the positives are: all three partners are working for a specific goal, i.e. the success of Fond. Some of the challenges are that we may have different ways of reaching those goals. It had been a great opportunity to work with Tory and Jessie, but it has been also improved when each of us has had a little bit more room to expand our individual areas of focus.Continue Reading

Where the Obamas Should Celebrate Their Anniversary: 6 First Couple-Worthy DC Restaurants #datenight

Since moving into the White House, the Obamas have done an impressive job of dining out at some of the finest restaurants in Washington, D.C. Almost every month, POTUS and FLOTUS are spotted supping somewhere, doing their part to boost the capitol’s booming dining scene. From Bourbon Steak and Oyamel to Blue Duck Tavern and BLT Steak, they’ve eaten everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. With their 23rd wedding anniversary coming up on Saturday, October 3, we thought we would suggest six First Couple-worthy D.C. restaurants where the Obamas should celebrate their anniversary.

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville, Virginia
Nestled in the verdant hills overlooking the sinuous Potomac River, this backcountry gem is worth the hour-long drive from D.C. The RAMMY Award-winning restaurant is inside a restyled greenhouse at the heart of a 40-acre property featuring a working farm and plenty of woodlands. Chef Tarver King roams the region foraging exotic elements, such as wild mushrooms, pawpaw fruit, and dandelion greens, which are all incorporated into his forward-thinking New American cuisine. Diners choose from one of three tasting menus – Raised, Grown, and Found – each of which is guaranteed to delight and amaze with its unexpected flavors and Instagram-worthy presentations. Given the Obamas’ well-documented love of steak, we suggest they opt for the Raised option, which often features locally sourced beef.

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The Riggsby, Washington, D.C.
Chef Michael Schlow has already wowed D.C. diners with the Latin-loving Tico on 14th Street. Now he’s doing it again at this charming throwback located inside the Carlyle Hotel in Dupont Circle. The menu focuses on continental classics with chef-y accents. We recommend the First Couple start off with jalapeno-boosted tater tots and housemade potato chips with cut-above green onion dip. For a main, the Obamas may want to keep it simple and order the roasted chicken with broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes, and mustard (pictured). Or they can step it up on a notch with the béarnaise-shrouded, barrel-cut NY strip filet accompanied by a passel of fries. For a lighter option, the striped bass on a bed of corn, bacon, and pickled onions is the way to go. No matter what, they should definitely save room for a giant wedge of chocolate cake.


The Partisan, Washington, D.C.
If POTUS and FLOTUS are in the mood for meat – and don’t mind the inevitable jokes the press will make if they eat at a restaurant called the Partisan – this Penn Quarter standout is where they should go. Co-chefs Ed Witt and Nate Anda oversee a masterfully inventive menu that takes a tip-to-tail approach and leaves no cut untouched. The celebrating couple should begin with charcuterie, making sure not to miss the pickled half smoke, pastrami terrine, or curried pork pâté. The beef tartare with fried egg yolk, marrow crostini, and grated horseradish (pictured) also offers meaty satisfaction. The bo ssam-style slow-cooked pork shoulder would be an epic entrée. The pair would surely have leftovers to take home, but the tender roast would make a memorable sandwich the next day as a tasty reminder of their date night.

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Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.
In our book, carb-loading is the perfect way to celebrate a lifelong commitment. Plus, it reminds us of that sweet spaghetti-slurping scene from Lady and the Tramp that makes us tear up every time we watch it. We know we’re saps, but we can’t help ourselves! Anyway, Barack and Michelle would undoubtedly enjoy digging into executive chef Matt Adler’s flawlessly executed pastas at this waterfront eatery in the Yards. Top of the list are the sunny ravioli pocketed with truffled ricotta glistening with brown butter sauce and pappardelle dressed up with lamb-neck sughetto. When agnolotti make an appearance (pictured), they, too, are not to be missed. Further carb-loading can be easily accomplished by sampling a sweet selection from executive pastry chef Alex Levin. Peanut butter and chocolate budino, riso (rice pudding) enlivened with vanilla bean and plums, and the Italian-inflected lemon meringue tart are all worthy closers.

Osreria Morini, Washington, DCContinue Reading

Tweet of the Week: A Special Request for a Special Second Anniversary Celebration

Diner Michael Pellet recently celebrated his second anniversary with his wife at Washington, D.C.’s 701 Restaurant. When booking through OpenTable, he indicated exactly that in the Special Request for the Maitre D. The wonderful hospitality pros at 701 took note and presented the couple with some Champagne. (Insert a collective “AWWW!” here.) Happy anniversary to the Pellets. And, kudos to the staff at 701 for making their celebration all the more special with this generous gesture.


Rave Review: Back to the Black Bass Hotel

There are thousands of reviews on OpenTable, but sometimes one really stands out — as is the case with this charming review. This diner visited the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, 50 years (!) after his very first visit, during which he proposed to his companion. A half a century later, the pair are still going strong — as is the Black Bass Hotel. Congratulations to both on many years of excellence.