Fiona is permanently closed
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Like reading physical books without distraction, becoming a morning person is pretty aspirational. No matter how many successful people you hear about who get up at 5am, drink hot water with lemon, and meditate with the sunrise, it’s hard to muster up the willpower to do the same. Plus, there’s something glamorous about being a night owl. But thriving during the day is a different kind of glamorous, even if you’re only in it for the early-morning Murphy Brown re-runs. If you need more inspiration beyond meditating billionaires to become a morning person, have breakfast or lunch at Fiona.
Fiona is a bakery and restaurant on a prime block of Fairfax that’s mostly filled with night owls. There are Animal and Badmaash for dinner, Canter’s Deli for late-night weirdness and pastrami, and Jon & Vinny’s - that admirable but annoying friend who’s up for anything, morning to night. Aside from coffee shops, Fiona is the only true daytime spot. It’s a modern neighborhood hangout, a place that could be the sitcom setting where a cool group of 30-somethings gathers at some point in every episode. The well-designed space is packed when it’s light out with people having casual business meetings, friends catching up on their lunch hours, and well-behaved kids staring at the chocolate chess pie as if it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen (they’re not entirely wrong).
The menu can initially seem like a jumble, stretching from very American biscuits and gravy to Vietnamese beef stew. But somehow, it works. Order any of the American comfort food classics and you’ll have a satisfying meal. The South East Asian-influenced dishes are generally more interesting, but they can also be hit or miss. The curry leaf-topped dahi toast is fantastic and unusual, but other dishes can be inconsistent with seasoning, depending on the day of the week. Whatever happens, you need to order at least one of the baked goods in the display case up front. No one leaves Fiona without at least a slice of something - these are some of the best pies and cakes in the city.
Fiona does serve dinner, but daytime is when this place is at its best. At night, there’s some carryover of the lunch menu, plus additional entrees, and a short list of natural wines. But a lot of the daytime charm doesn’t really translate. The atmosphere is more subdued, and there are some solid appetizers - like a rough-chopped beef tartare with smokey eggplant that doesn’t taste like every other tartare you’ve ever had - but the entrees leave something to be desired. A hangar steak lacks flavor and feels less refined than other dishes, and the duck two ways came out way too oily.
So come here during the day and you’ll experience Fiona at its peak. Have a salad and a sandwich or a slice of dahi toast, and chat with the owner when she personally brings you your food. Get a slice of the chocolate chess pie, and maybe another one to take home for later. You’ll discover there’s something cool about functioning best during the day, even if you don’t buy into the whole meditation thing.
Every baked good we’ve tried at Fiona, from bread to cookies, has been fantastic, but the pies are the true stars. The chocolate chess is fudgy but somehow not too rich, and the key lime is basically the essence of lime baked into pie.
There’s a whole toast section on the daytime menu. While the luxurious sesame butter is the most popular and least camera shy, we like the crispy curry leaf-topped dahi best.
Buttermilk Biscuit & Gravy
A no-brainer. The biscuits are perfect, the gravy is rich, and adding on the bacon lardons is non-negotiable.
Shredded Cabbage & Chicken
Even if you think you don’t like salads, this one could convert you. Crunchy and light, with enough going on that every bite doesn’t taste the same, the ginger dressing here is the star.
Celery Root Pancake
Like a giant hash brown that feels somehow better for you because it involves the word “celery.” The not-too-creamy remoulade on top cuts some of the fried-ness of the pancake, and it gets even better when you add the smoked fish on top.
Beef tartare is a dish you’ll find on one in four menus in Los Angeles, but at least this one is different. The roughly chopped beef comes on top of smokey eggplant, with a generous serving of extremely buttery, extremely good toast.
Vietnamese Beef Stew
Possibly the best way to have dinner at Fiona is to come by yourself and order this huge bowl of stew. Or do the same thing at lunch. Or both.
Grilled Hangar Steak
Although $21 is a pretty good price for a restaurant steak, we’d still skip this one. The meat was perfectly cooked, but didn’t have much flavor, the potatoes weren’t crispy enough, and the tallegio overpowered everything else.