It’s a funky restaurant off the Berkeley campus, filled with family memories for Alex Giardino. And this weekend she will say farewell to Fondue Fred.
My mom loved fondue. It was the 1970s in California, after all, and fondue seemed to go well with cigarettes and California wine. She especially loved going to a place called Fondue Fred, a restaurant tucked away down a brick courtyard just off of bustling Telegraph Ave. Sitting in that dimly lit courtyard made you feel as if you had traveled much farther away, like Switzerland.
Fondue Fred had the best oregano salad dressing, thick garlic fondue, generous pours of cheap red wine, and chocolate fondue with pink marshmallows. The plates were all-you-can-eat. The restaurant felt abundant.
When I was growing up, we went there a lot, for fun and also for nearly every major life event, like graduations and birthdays. My mom even ate one of her last dinners at Fondue Fred. Many years later, I had dinner there the night before my wedding so that I would feel as if my mom had joined us, too.
The other night, my oldest friend and I took our kids to Fondue Fred because, sadly, the place is closing down this weekend. Fondue Fred opened in 1958. The brick courtyard will be demolished and a new upscale apartment building will be built in its place. Like so many other old Berkeley gems – think Cody’s Books, for example – I will really miss Fondue Fred.