Fodder & Shine, in my old stomping ground of Seminole Heights, opened its doors in December of 2014, a few years after my husband and I moved to the ʼburbs to raise our two children. The restaurant embodies what I miss about Seminole Heights: the highly praised culinary scene and the authentically creative culture, which lacks most of the hipsterish pretense that often accompanies such places. The neighborhood—full of 1920s bungalows in various stages of renovation—is attracting some cutting-edge restaurateurs who are offering high-quality food at an affordable price, which is just what husband and wife Michelle and Greg Baker (the head chef and James Beard Foundation award nominee) have promised to do.
And they are coming through on their promise. First opening The Refinery, in 2010, with its constantly changing foodie-friendly menu, the couple earned the praise of critics and the loyalty of patrons. Now, with Fodder & Shine, the Bakers are exposing diners to a modern twist on Southern comfort food inspired by historic “Florida cracker” cuisine. Like The Refinery, Fodder & Shine offers a farm-to-table menu with the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Entrées range from $14 to $27, with a mix of traditional and original in-house cocktails ranging from $7 to $12.
I arrive at 6 on a Monday night. Right away, I can tell this restaurant appeals to a hang-out crowd. It’s a clean, uncluttered space with an expansive bar that highlights choice bottles on reclaimed-wood shelves and pays homage to the restaurant’s inspiration with the word “Florida” spelled out in lit metallic script. There are pool tables in the back and plenty of cozy booths in a contemporary shade of gray. Even though it’s early, the bar is busy with an after-work crowd, and a few of the booths are full.
The water arrives in mason jars, and my cocktail of choice is the Fountain of Youth, a sweet, refreshing blend of white rum, coconut, and lime. A choice of four house-made spreads is on the list of appetizers, and I opt for the deviled ham. It arrives with salted house milk crackers and Cuban crostini, as well as a generous serving of pickled onions and jalapeño peppers. The spread is an elevated ham salad, with equal parts sweetness and heat, both amplified by the onions and peppers.
For my entrée, I order the cornmeal-fried quarter chicken, which comes with two sides. I choose the creamed kale and the bacon fat cornbread. The crust on the chicken is thin, crispy, and perfectly seasoned. It offers just the right amount of crunch to contrast the tenderness of the meat within. The creamed kale comes with leeks and a Swiss cheese-nutmeg creamy mornay sauce, and the sauce counters the typical bitterness of kale. The leaves are warm and wilted in the sauce, which is just enough to not overpower the kale. The slice of cornbread is huge—enough for two—and it is served with butter and local honey. It crumbles easily (the way cornbread should), and the best part is that delicate layer of bacon-fat crust.
Even though I am stuffed, I can’t resist dessert. Two red velvet brownies arrive drizzled with butterscotch. The brownies, reddened by beets, are so decadent that they nearly have the texture of a dark chocolate mousse. The cream-cheese icing is light but tangy. At the restaurant, I can’t eat more than a couple of bites, but once I am back at my house, I finish the remainder from my take-home box, licking my fork clean.
|Red velvet brownies.|
On my way out, I notice the owners have left impressions of their hands in the concrete with the year the restaurant opened. Obviously, the opening of their second restaurant was a milestone. And it’s a milestone for the neighborhood, too, keeping it on the map for food critics and hungry customers alike. Having just finished a generous meal there (two people, two entrées, two drinks each, an appetizer, and a dessert for $80), I feel like it’s a milestone for me, too. I’ve found a place where I can indulge in guilty pleasures, and I know I won't hesitate to go back.