When California native Jennifer Ryan moved to Birmingham two years ago, one of the first things she noticed was how few options there were for healthy and nutritious food on the go. After petitioning several national make-your-own salad chains to franchise in Birmingham (think Sweetgreen) to no avail, she decided she’d take on the challenge herself. Seeking advice from members of the city’s robust culinary scene, she asked Robin Bashinsky, a seasoned chef, recipe developer, and two-time James Beard award winner, to help curate a menu. The result was her company, blueroot co., which offers a lineup of locally sourced, nutrient-dense, and delicious foods for those on the go.
The produce-forward menu features more than 10 different salads and grain bowls, which lean heavily on locally sourced and organic ingredients. One of blueroot co.’s more popular salads is called The Farmstand; its ingredients change with what’s available and in season, meaning you can always count on something new to try. The spring rendition included local lettuces; roasted cauliflower and red and golden beets; roasted and shaved rainbow carrots; baby Swiss; broccoli sprouts; and creamy dill dressing. Other options include a Cobb Salad, Curry Chicken Salad, and a miso grain bowl that features brown rice, pickled carrots, daikon slaw, and tamari-glazed tofu. For breakfast, blueroot co. offers toasts, their signature Naked Eggs (soft-boiled farm eggs topped with salmon and avocado, bacon and cheese, or veggies, and served in a jar for convenience), and breakfast jars like oats and chia pudding. Another early favorite is healthy snack option Not Your Mama’s Rice Crispy Treat, which is made of toasted millet, sprout rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, raw almond butter, and coconut flakes.
Currently, you can find blueroot co. popping up at the local farmers markets, including Pepper Place, Woodlawn, and West Homewood; collaborating with local fitness studios and retailers; and catering small events around town. Longer-term, Ryan intends to open a brick-and-mortar location later this year. Until then, be on the lookout for this exciting new concept that’s taking root in our city. bluerootco.com
A Georgia-based seafood restaurant is reportedly making its way to Alabama, with locations in Huntsville and Birmingham. Krab Hut, a Cajun seafood boil restaurant, features all types of seafood from white and Manila clams to mussels and snow crab legs. If you don’t want to go all-out for a boil, try a fish meal, where you can get three pieces of fish, coleslaw, fries, and hushpuppies for around $8. krabhut.com
When Biscuits Fly
Another breakfast option is landing soon in the 280 corridor. Flying Biscuit Café plans to open its first Alabama location this summer. The restaurant specializes in Southern comfort food, including breakfast options like Chorizo Hash, Organic Oatmeal Pancakes, and Smoked Salmon Scramble. For something a little unexpected, try the restaurant’s signature Love Cakes, three black bean and cornmeal cakes topped with tomatillo salsa, sour cream, feta cheese, and red onion spears. flyingbiscuitcafe.com
After mourning the loss of beloved neighborhood hangout Silvertron Café last summer, new plans are being made for its building in Forest Park. Jay Draper and Mark Thompson, owners of garden and gift shop Shoppe, plan to turn the space into a café. They also plan to move their home and living goods into the new space, which is adjacent to their current shop and iconic greenhouse. The café will serve light breakfast and lunch, in addition to tea and coffee. The pair plans to open by early fall. shoppebham.com
Rayford Cook has taken over the shuttered Homewood brewery, Red Hills, opening The Grocery Brewpub in its place. Cook, who owns Off the Hook seafood food truck, is working to open a kitchen at The Grocery, which will include a smoker. Named for the A&P grocery store that once occupied the space off Homewood’s Central Avenue, The Grocery’s 20-barrel (620-gallon) system will produce India pale ale, porter, wheat, and other beers for its 24 taps, which also will include “guest” beers from local, regional, and national breweries. Customers can buy wine to take home or uncork there. Renovations include a 750-square-foot deck in back. thegrocerybrewpub.com –EV
I Scream, You Scream
Popular dessert truck, Bendy’s Cookies & Cream, has found a permanent home in a new brick-and-mortar in Cahaba Heights, where they’ll serve up their popular cookies and ice cream, as well as floats, milkshakes, and sundaes. The shop is located next to Martin’s Bar-B-Que at 3029 Pumphouse Road. eatbendys.com
Welcome to Miami
Downtown Puerto Rican restaurant Miami Fusion Café is making waves with several new concepts meant to expand the business. miamifusioncafe.com
- A Miami Fusion food truck is in the works. Called El Conquistador, the truck will travel to Southside, several hospitals, and other spots along U.S. 31 in Pelham.
- Construction on a tiki bar adjacent to the restaurant will begin next year.
- The restaurant’s existing upstairs event space will expand across both buildings for a larger venue.
- Plans for distribution of the restaurant’s signature dessert, Jesus Cake, are in the works for local grocery stores.
Drink to That
Birmingham’s cocktail scene continues to grow, with new bars and restaurants opening regularly. To keep up with the latest hotshot stirrers and shakers, check out local bartending contests. In a recent competition by Woodford Reserve, contestants concocted original cocktails using its bourbon or rye; finalists faced off in a Manhattan battle. Stephen Stutts of Paper Doll on First Avenue North won the People’s Choice Award. Allie Pfifer of Queens Park in the downtown loft district was overall champ; Alex Correa of Automatic Seafood and Oysters on Fifth Avenue South placed second. Next time you’re in those establishments, ask them to show their creative chops. –Eric Velasco
Under the Sea
One of the more anticipated openings in recent years has been Alabama native Adam Evans’ first Birmingham restaurant, Automatic Seafood and Oysters. The Lakeview eatery lives up to the hype, with fish both familiar and little-known. Gulf grouper and snapper share space on a fish-focused menu with swordfish poached in duck fat and braised monkfish. The raw bar recently featured eight different oysters. But folks on a landlubber diet have plenty of meat choices, including quail, steak, and chicken. Head bartender Jose Medina Camacho’s cocktail creations are designed to complement the seafood. The wine list includes eight sparklers (for that perfect oysters and champagne pairing!), including six by the flute. Evans developed a national reputation as a seafood conjurer at The Optimist in Atlanta. The Muscle Shoals native and his wife, Suzanne Humphries Evans (from Arab, Alabama), moved to Birmingham in 2017 with plans to co-open their own restaurant. Automatic is open seven days a week, from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. automaticseafood.com –EV
Highland Plaza’s planned demolition and makeover continues to have ripple effects on several restaurants and related businesses. Hot and Hot Fish Club’s announced move to the Martin Biscuit Building off 29th Street South includes Cantina Tortilla Grill’s relocation after more than a decade in that building. Cantina will move into the old Wasabi Juan’s space in Avondale. By fall, Beard Award-winning chef Chris Hastings and his wife, Idie, plan to move out of Hot and Hot’s original location on 11th Court South, where it opened in 1995. That building also is slated for demolition as part of a Highland Plaza redevelopment project. The Hastings also launched a separate catering business called Hastings Catering in April. Among Highland Plaza’s remaining tenants, Taj India and Highland Package Store are still looking for a new homes (legit suggestions welcome, they say). –EV
This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s June 2019 issue. Subscribe today!