Fog City Restaurant
48 Kenmount Rd.
St. John’s, NL
Ph. (709) 726-4949
Malls are in trouble. The Atlantic published a piece about it by Derek Thompson several months ago. Thompson cited three main reasons for the decline of malls: online shopping, too many malls in the first place, and a shift on the part of customers to spending most of their disposable income on travel and entertainment. He singled out restaurant dining as one form of entertainment benefitting greatly from this trend. Good news and bad news for restaurants inside malls.
I was concerned for our own big (biggish?) malls after reading the article. Then came word that Crombie Reit, owner of the Avalon Mall, intends to spend $54.5 million sprucing up the iconic property. Like night comes after day, this good news was followed by the sobering information that Sears, which operates the Avalon Mall’s anchor store, asked for court protection from its creditors. Fingers crossed that the Avalon Mall Sears weathers the upheaval and hangs on. Malls that lose anchors, and cannot replace them, often shut down.
I’ve always been a fan of large malls for people living in the unhospitable parts of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the only sensible way to shop in a place with weather like ours. Think about it. Once you enter a mall, you’re no longer going from store to store trudging through snow or slush. No more icy winds, that sometimes lash your face with freezing rain or ice pellets, no more road salt to stain your footwear or clothing, no more torrential rain to soak your clothing, and no more snow to carry, uninvited, on your cap and shoulders into shops.
Troika of themes
Apart from what’s in the food court area, the only full-service restaurant inside the Avalon Mall is Fog City. It looks like a theme restaurant with a troika of themes. One part loosely resembles a Disney, French sidewalk café with vintage, ornamental lamp posts and big fake tree. It’s the kind of tree you might expect the Jolly Green Giant to jump out from behind. Another section looks like an old timey country diner and, finally, there’s the 1980s style mall bar and grill.
If Fog City’s menu has a theme, I guess it would be international. A quick scan of the card revealed Italian, Mexican, Thai, Newfoundland, American, Greek and French dishes – at least, I’m pretty sure French onion soup is a Paris invention.
I took my friend Linda with me. We ordered drinks right away. A Budweiser Prohibition for me and a coffee for her. Prohibition is a non-alcoholic beer that most real beer drinkers would probably say should be prohibited. My favourite near-beer is O’Douls’s. It tastes close to the real thing and it’s available in many restaurants and bars, but not, apparently, at Fog City.
Service at Fog City was friendly enough but slow. I’d received my beer but Linda’s coffee seemed to have been forgotten about until I got up and walked over to our server to remind him. After placing our food order, it took ages for anything to arrive. Eventually, Linda, who normally has the patience of Job, uncharacteristically blurted out, “Karl I’ve got to say, I’ve never, never waited this long for food to arrive.”
Fog City’s specials board had a couple of items that interested me: fish cakes and roasted garlic with chicken pizza. Linda wanted only one item, a burger with fries. There was nothing about our order that should have taken an inordinate amount of prep or cooking time.
The fish cakes, when they finally arrived, were about as big as a small hamburger patty. They had a golden, slightly crunchy exterior. Inside, the potato – more main ingredient than binder – was smooth, like creamed potato. Think croquette potato with a little fish mixed through. I like croquette potato so I wasn’t totally unhappy. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that finding a fish cake with a decent amount of fish in it, in local restaurants, is about as rare as seeing a herd of unicorns on Signal Hill.
Linda’s burger was excellent and she was fulsome in her praise. It was loaded with a moderately thick beef patty, melted cheese, an onion ring and sliced jalapeños. The combination of ingredients, the spiciness, the freshness and juiciness of the meat, and a flavourful sesame seed bun, all worked well together. I thought the fries were overdone but my companion seemed happy enough with them.
Plenty of peppers
My personal roasted garlic with chicken pizza was less garlic and chicken and more sweet peppers and cheese. Red, yellow and green pepper dominated. There were small cubes of white chicken on the pie but I wasn’t getting a lot of roasted garlic flavour. Roasted garlic can be quite subtle. Even so, Fog City’s pizza didn’t live up to it’s billing.
Linda wasn’t interested in more niggling waits for coffee or food, so she declined dessert on behalf of both of us. I was surprised. She’s a dessert fiend, but I knew better than to challenge this unilateral decision. It was something I saw in her eyes, a kind of, this is not up for discussion look. We paid and headed for the exit.
On the way, she revealed a secret dessert plan. We would take the escalator downstairs to the Laura Secord shop where she’d treat us to an ice cream dessert. How could I possibly turn down a Laura Secord ice cream? It wouldn’t be patriotic in Canada’s 150th year to rebuff ice cream bearing the name of the heroine of the War of 1812 … Laura Secord saved the day. Again.
Price Lunch for two with one beer, coffee, tip and tax costs approximately $55.
Service Friendly but slow.
Atmosphere Lacking zest. Fog City’s sad décor needs an update.
Sound level Moderate to high.
Open Sunday: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Reservations Walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major.
Parking Avalon Mall parking lot and parking garage.
Beverages Full range of beers, spirits and popular wines.
Best bets Fish cakes and burgers.
Wheelchair access Yes.
* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional