Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
75° F Dallas, TX

Fond is the New Neighborhood Restaurant Downtown Dallas Deserves

Brandon Moore and Jennie Kelley formerly ran Better Half, a pop-up known for French-inspired menus and Detroit-style pizza. The couple is now serving sandwiches, aperitivo, and natural wine at the base of Santander Tower.
| |Photograph by Steven Visneau
Better Half sous vide carrots
El Carrot at Fond is a dish that's appeared on the menus of Kelley's former concepts. The dish at Fond includes three large carrots cooked sous vide for two hours, Tajín aioli, cotija cheese, sunflower seeds, and cilantro. Steven Visneau

In the culinary world, “fond” is a term used to describe the caramelized, browned bits of meat and vegetables stuck to the bottom of a hot pan. Those savory pieces are the foundation of flavor.  

Fond has a few other meanings for chefs Jennie Kelley and Brandon Moore, the husband-and-wife duo who opened a new lunch and aperitivo spot in downtown Dallas by the same name.  

“We’re fond of providing a cool culinary experience,” Kelley says. “We’re fond of hospitality, we’re fond of Dallas. We’re fond of each other.” 

For seven years, Kelley spent her time putting together exclusive dinner parties through the wildly popular Frank, which operated out of Deep Ellum until 2019. After closing Frank, she partnered with Moore to run Better Half Bistro, a pop-up known for French-inspired menus and Detroit-style pizzas. Moore, a pickling aficionado, also ran The Pickling Collective.  

A brick-and-mortar was always the dream, and over the last two years, the couple came up with a concept to showcase what Moore says is their “greatest hits.” Fond quietly opened in September in a sleek space at the base of Santander Tower. 

“We’re excited to be able to fully kind of play around with things, roll out new things, and do new specials and have some fun with it,” he says.  

Kelley says that after securing the location, the couple concluded that downtown Dallas needed an elevated lunch program. Lunch is served from 11 am to 2 pm, and it reopens at 3 for aperitivo hours, which run until 7. Fond is only open Monday through Friday.    

The idea is for guests to drop in for a tasty lunch or after the workday wraps up (or, OK, maybe right before it ends) to get a few bites and drinks in before the dinner rush.  

The lunch menu features shared plates, salads and soups, sandwiches, desserts, daily specials, and a grab-and-go section. All the items are slightly elevated, enough to taste the difference: the turkey on the Tower Club sandwich—named after the social club on the 48th floor of Santander Tower—is cooked sous vide for 12 hours in-house. It’s thinly sliced and piled high with cheddar and Swiss cheeses, tomato, aioli, and crispy, salty pork belly in place of bacon.  

The lunch and aperitivo menus include batched cocktails, local and specialty beers, and an exclusively natural wine program. Kelley and Moore dove into the natural wine world around the same time, and Kelley also believes natural wine pairs better with food. The couple wants to feature natural wine producers from Texas, such as Soto Vino and Crowson Winery, and Moore says he tries to stock the shelves with as many bottles as they can.  

When it comes to their greatest hits, Better Half Bistro fans will recognize Moore’s Detroit-style pizzas on the aperitivo menu, each with different sauces and toppings on a fluffy sourdough crust. The Better Half pizza features sausage from Jimmy’s, broccoli rabe, parmesan, and a house-made vodka sauce with a secret cheese blend.  

Fans may also recognize the El Carrot, a dish that’s been featured on previous pop-up and private dinner party menus. Fond’s debut El Carrot is a take on summery elote: three large carrots cooked sous vide for two hours, with Tajín aioli, cotija cheese, sunflower seeds, and cilantro.  

“The carrot is showcasing a very basic vegetable and cooking it the way you would a piece of filet mignon,” Kelley says. “How can you elevate something that you’ve had your whole life, but just in a different way?” 

This story originally appeared in the November issue of D Magazine with the headline “A Fond Hello.” Write to [email protected].


Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

View Profile
Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…