“The truffled grilled cheese is more geared towards adults—but, hey, if your kid is down with truffles, go for it,” chef James King said at Au Fudge’s private media luncheon. Growing up, I didn’t know a single kid who knew what a truffle was, let alone one who would want the fungus in their Kraft American grilled cheese. But, if such a precocious tot were to exist anywhere in the world, they would exist on Melrose Avenue.
It’s easy to poke fun at Au Fudge from afar—New York mag calling it the “Soho House for kids” conjures up images of toddlers eating Osetra caviar on a sun-drenched rooftop—but inside it gives off a homier, less ostentatious vibe. If you hook a left after walking in the front door, you’ll find the “creativity room” filled with toys, games, stuffed animals, craft supplies, and other things to keep kids busy while parents get down with champagne cocktails at the bar. The dining room acts as a middle ground between the adults’ and children’s playpens, where the whole family can share a meal under the watchful eye of a super twee stuffed and mounted unicorn head.
Preventing unfortunate pipe cleaner incidents and making sure the arcade lines move at a reasonable pace are Au Fudge’s trained au pairs—basically a set of in-house babysitters. It costs $15 per head, per kid, which, according to this babysitting price index, is only about 75-cents more than the going L.A. rate. Consider it a corkage fee, except instead of wine, it’s for a tiny human.
Au Fudge’s menu reads like Fig & Olive and Chuck E. Cheese collaborated on a pop-up and decided to stick with the former’s pricing structure. A simple fontina grilled cheese, cut up into little toast soldiers and served adorably in a metal cup, will run diners $12, $15 with the truffle supplement. A full-sized “vegan Caesar,” which goes heavy on the vegan, easy on the Caesar, costs $19, and tack on an additional ten to throw a salmon filet on top. But if you want to point to a single outrage menu item, let it be the $16 avocado toast.
We sampled some of the items at the media luncheon—the grilled cheese, salmon with baby squash, burrata and tomatoes, and a farm board with an array of grain salads, spreads, and dips. The food won’t blow your mind with creativity, but it’s all prepared by a crew who understands cooking and seasoning, which is something you can’t say about every restaurant in L.A. The pate a choux churro ice cream sliders were a definite highlight, and may even be worth the $13 pricetag.
Sure, you can look at the truffles in the grilled cheese, the ungodly expensive avocado toast, and the child-watching charge and write Au Fudge off as a celebrity-backed playpen for the rich and famous with a soft pink, glitter-dusted façade and cobranded children’s book (it officially drops on April 1!). But Au Fudge will also be hosting cooking and gardening classes for children, alongside donating to charities like Baby2Baby, which provides basic necessities to underprivileged kids. Au Fudge is also the first restaurant to ever get the “green seal” from the Environmental Media Association.
People who have the means to do so get to bond with their family, eat some thoughtfully sourced and organically farmed food, and wind up giving part of that money back to a worthy cause in the end. Seems like a win-win. Plus, the restaurant’s name refers to accidentally saying “fuck” in front of kids (get it? “Oh, fuck” vs “Au, fudge?”), and that’s hilarious.