Since chef Tim Rattray opened the Granary at the Pearl in 2012, barbecue has risen in culinary esteem from a casual Texas tradition into an elevated dining experience. Now, Rattray’s second restaurant, the recently opened Fontaine’s Southern Diner & Bar, promises to do the same for Southern diner fare.
Fontaine’s, named for Rattray’s late great aunt Fontaine Shamburger Wilhelm, takes a fresh approach to old-school Southern dishes like fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and cornbread. Fluffy Johnny cakes, for example, get topped with foie gras, syrup and preserves, while diners are offered a variety of artisan country hams.
The menu and restaurant are a tribute to “where my family came from, and what we ate as kids — just executed really well,” Rattray said.
Rattray began his culinary career working for celebrated San Antonio chefs, including Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks and Andrew Weissman of the now closed Le Rêve, Il Sogno and Sandbar. After that, Rattray went on to stage at restaurants in Chicago and New York before establishing The Granary at the Pearl.
Where the Granary showcases Rattray’s culinary experiences through smoke and fire, Fontaine’s celebrates his family’s origins and culinary traditions rooted in Alabama and Georgia.
Formerly home to a gas station, the restaurant interior has been updated to offer a mix of booth and traditional table seating. Family photos and copies of Aunt Fontaine’s recipes line the walls.
Diners can also expect to view the kitchen at work as staff create Southern specialties such as icebox pickles, tomato pie and sweet tea-braised collard greens — all made from scratch.
A small but promising dessert menu, led by pastry chef Sayde Carroll, includes house caramel cake, pudding jars and peanut butter pie — the latter made with chocolate-and-bourbon caramel and topped with meringue, whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers.
Rattray’s mother Candy recently visited Fontaine’s to make sure the kitchen was following the family’s dessert recipes, which have been hand-tested and passed down over several generations.
“We’re going to have a rotating number of Southern desserts, so hopefully people are coming in often enough to try them all,” he added.
Fontaine’s opened with a limited menu, but Rattray expects to service to expand to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service in the coming weeks.
For those looking to imbibe, the restaurant also has a selection of boozy milkshakes and $10 cocktail options, including a Southern peach julep, a fruit cobbler libation made with house preserves and an impressive whiskey lineup that can be enjoyed at the bar or on the patio. Diners can snag a corner booth or pull up a chair on the patio to order iced tea, play outdoor lawn games or people-watch.
“We’re hoping to make this a place for the community,” Rattray said, adding that Fontaine’s plans to host daily happy hour events from 4-6 p.m., and all-day happy hour specials on Sundays.
Rattray plans to stay involved in the Granary, which he credits with teaching him a lot of what not to do and to focus on what really matters to customers.
“It’s important to be a place that people can consistently enjoy themselves and return for the hospitality, flavor or just a great slice of pie,” he said.
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