Café DuPont downtown has a timeless feel to it. You enter the building, which dates to the 1870s, through the “new” bar section, where tiny black-and-white octagonal tiles from a time gone by perfectly complement a new custom-made bar of gleaming warm woods. There’s a hint of that wonderful old-library scent, mingling with tantalizing aromas from the restaurant. It truly has a downtown feel, and reflects chef/owner Chris DuPont’s admirable commitment to the downtown area.
Like other (and perhaps more famous) local chef/owners, Chris is dedicated to the use of local and regional ingredients. But there are a couple of things you’ll find at Café DuPont that I haven’t seen elsewhere in town.
One is the option of a tasting menu. You can choose a five- or seven-course tasting menu ($75 or $90, respectively). Choose your own courses or opt for chef’s choice, and you’ll get smaller versions of the selections. You also can do a tasting of the entire menu for $110.
Because the portions are smaller, that sometimes means the side dishes aren’t exactly the same (I really would have liked to have tried the goat cheese flan that came with the butter-braised scallops and shrimp), but for someone like me, who will often make up a meal just of appetizers in order to try more different flavors, it’s a fantastic option.
C’mon, it was just too hard to make up my mind between smoked duck breast and duck confit with organic arugula, pickled cabbage, heirloom tomatoes and sherry vinaigrette, or smoked rainbow trout Napoleon with warm potato salad and roasted peppers, or fried green tomatoes with marinated crab claws and seafood remoulade, or country pate, or fried oysters and okra with cayenne butter sauce, horseradish crème fraiche and soy glaze – and those werent even all the appetizers!
Entrees? How could I choose between the scallops and shrimp, the grilled Georgia quail and seared duck breast with sweet potato and fennel has and tempura fried snap beans, or the braised beef short rib and grilled flank steak with pommes frites and grilled patty pan squash, or grilled Scottish salmon with creamy shrimp and bacon grits? (My mouth is watering just writing this.)
Unlike tasting menus we’ve seen in New York, at Café DuPont, you don’t have to commit the whole table to it to do it. On our recent visit, in order to pace my meal along with my husband’s, they brought out my two appetizer choices at the same time as his single appetizer, and likewise on the entrees. Then we shared my fifth course for dessert (they were unfortunately out of the Petals from the Past blackberry tart, so we went with bananas Foster with banana chiffon cake and praline gelato.) On another visit, I simply got extra courses in between hubby’s.
The other thing we were delighted to see on our recent visit was that they serve coffee and espresso from our favorite local roaster, Primavera Coffee Roasters in Cahaba Heights. Most other restaurants go with Royal Cup, but we really think Primavera’s small-batch, locally roasted, location-specific coffees are better. They never seem to be as good anywhere else as a freshly made espresso or cappuccino actually AT Primavera, but it’s still nice to see a local restaurant offering their coffee.
(Photos courtesy Virginia Jones, Birmingham Daily Photo, one of my favorite Birmingham blogs.)
113 20th Street North