BHM: Fox Valley Takes a Nose Dive
Although you had to pack a lunch for the trip, we used to look forward to the pilgrimage out to Maylene to sup at Fox Valley. There was something intriguing about eating inventive, delicately balanced dishes in simple, unadorned joint next to a Shell station that could just as easily be serving a meat and three. Their crab cakes were some of the best I've had outside the state of Maryland and their wine list has deservedly won several awards.
But the food is no more. After trekking out there (with several long road construction delays), we were surprised to find a menu that was reminiscent of the bad Florida panhandle restaurants of my childhood - where otherwise good fish is adorned with fried everything and slathered in heavy sauces. (Make no mistake, I love fried everything, just not on top of my $25 entree). The menu had expanded to include - in my estimation - way too many entrees for them to be fresh and prepared well, and was now cow heavy - most of which was also dressed with fried everything and covered in heavy sauces. Even the signature crab cakes were not as good as I remembered - not firm at all and overwhelmed by the sauce in which it swam (and almost drowned).
The service was disappointing as well. When you eat next to the Shell station, you don't expect to have your napkin folded when you leave the table, but you do expect friendly attentive service. We got ignored even though our waiter only had two tables. He disappeared regularly and wasn't particularly helpful when he was around. (He took our orders and then stopped to talk to the next table for ten minutes before he put ours in).
On the upside, the wine list is still very good (one of the best dessert wine lists in town), but not worth the hike when the food is so disappointing. We were very sad at the loss of very good food in a unique venue.
We ate there once, back in the late '90s, and were so unimpressed even then that it was the inspiration for us to start Bhamdining.com. We had heard so many great things about it, but the food was average at best (not worth the price and the drive, especially considering how many really good restaurants Birmingham has), and the atmosphere was the pits. The view of the Shell station was downright depressing, the plastic hanging baskets with the Wal-Mart stickers still on the bottom and the cheap torchiere lamps added nothing to the ambiance.
How disappointing! The few times I'd eaten there were memorable. The crab cakes were absolutely sublime (on par with Highland's) and I always got a perfectly cooked filet. I have not frequented Fox Valley much in the last couple of years because the traffic is horrendous and the time it takes to get there from my home. Do you know if the restaurant has changed ownership or chef? I've never had stellar service there. Most of the really professional waitstaff work in the metro Bham area. Sadly, the suburbs are just not a destination for fine ding.
There must have been some change, as I have heard similar complaints since I started griping about this experience. While I didn't expect stellar service, this was flat out neglectful. Over the last few years, I have been discouraged by the traffic as well; now, I won't feel like I'm missing anything. Save the planet - don't waste the gas.