Avondale Common House and Distillery

Executive Chef William Rogers

Dinner, Saturday, July 1, 20174

By now, most have heard of  the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Avondale here in Birmingham.  Most of the new developments are along 49th street and on fifth avenue across from the park.  After reading about this new restaurant on the main drag in the former Wooden Donkey space, my wife, Angela and I decided to give it a try.

We arrived around 6 pm hoping to avoid the crowds. However, the restaurant was almost filled up even this early on this soon to be very wet evening. Outdoor seating was not recommended by our hostess due to a pending thunderstorm, but luckily, there was a two top available, and we were seated promptly. We were just in time, as a line started to form almost immediately after we arrived.

All seats at the bar were taken, filled with a variety of mostly young casually dressed individuals. The decor is basically the same casual decor as the Wooden Donkey restaurant that was here previously.  Very loud music made it difficult to carry on a conversation, so the sound of people speaking loudly over the music dominated the atmosphere!

Just as we sat down the waiter promptly showed up asking for our drink orders. Since this was our first visit, we asked for some water and more time to peruse their unique drink menu. They have a nice selection of Avondale Brewery beers and several interesting and unique cocktails on the menu, many made with their on site distilled spirits, including rum, gin, and vodka drinks. Two wines are available, both custom blends by the chef.  Angela ordered the white wine blend and I ordered a Blackberry Old Fashion. Both were delicious. Even though the same folks own this restaurant as own the brewery and distillery, it would be nice if they would have at least one or two other local beers to choose from.

The menu is a wonderful list of savory salads, sandwiches, and creative entrees. It was hard to choose! We settled on one of their unique appetizers, the “Loaded Tochos”, which are tater tots covered with a queso sour cream sauce, bacon and green onion. I was disappointed in this dish, as it simply reminded me of a baked potato with sour cream and bacon.  I wonder if they have tried putting actual nacho toppings, like black beans and jalapeno pepper on the tots? That might have been more memorable. It was a pleasure to eat, but not as unique as I had hoped.

For her entree, Angela ordered the “Alabama Grown Vegetable Plate”, a beautifully presented dish with a delicious “Summer Squash Gratin’, perfectly cooked “haricot verts” (a type of green bean), charred tomatoes, a tossed salad with a smoked tomato vinaigrette, and house corn bread.  The gratin was the star of this dish. With melted cheese and crisply cooked summer squash, it was a nice blend of gooey and crisp textures with a summer taste. Angela reported the beans were cooked and seasoned perfectly and the salad was a good accompaniment.

I ordered the “Cast Iron Hanger Steak”, medium rare which arrived hot and perfectly cooked,  dipped in their “Common House” Steak Sauce. It was served with a soft poached egg topped roasted sweet potato hash, a nicely dressed mixed green salad, and shaved red onion. I think this steak was among the most delicious I have ever had, probably due to the slightly sweet but savory sauce. This particular cut can be tough if not cooked correctly, but it was so tender I wondered if it was really filet mignon!  The hash was delicious with the soft and runny egg, but a bit bland without it. Overall, though a great dish I would order again.

With dinner, I ordered a glass of their red house wine blend, of which I was less impressed than the white wine blend.

After discussing the desert menu with the waiter, we decided to pass, though the “Apple Pie Nachos’ certainly sounded tempting. The entrees were so satisfying and generous, we did not feel like we had room for more.

Service was excellent, with fast just in time delivery of all ordered items. We felt  a bit rushed, but that seems to be the norm for small restaurants in this price range taht need to turn the tables several times a night to be profitable. We were happy with it all overall.

In Summary, I would give the Common House a rating of 4.5 for the food , a 5  for service and a 3 for atmosphere. (Need to turn down the volume a bit). We will be back to try some of their other items soon,!



In a previous post I wrote long before the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) revealed its plans to rebuild the interstate that runs through downtown Birmingham, I suggested that the highway was destructive to the inner city and should be torn down and replaced with a boulevard, a trend pursued successfully in other cities around the country.   I found this article today that I would like to share with you:


The writer, Mark Kelly points out that the main reason this highway is so destructive is the ALDOT mindset that downtown Birmingham is an obstacle to traffic flow rather than a destination. This was true when it was first built 40 years ago and is still true today. So, ALDOT is proposing to rebuild a bad idea!

Since there is an alternative bypass around the city (Interstate 459) and plans to build a northern route for this, I and several others feel that we have a great opportunity to reinforce downtown as a destination rather than an obstacle by tearing down this eyesore.

There are also alternative ways this interstate highway could be rerouted around north Birmingham since the northern bypass is decades away and faces its own opposition.

There is considerable local opposition to ALDOT”s plans. Here is just one article I have found

Residents Upset by Plan for I-20/59 Redesign through Downtown Birmingham

If you agree that more time should be spent studying alternatives, you can find a petition here.


Below is a link to an interesting article about one city’s approach to building on its walk ability to compete with suburbia.  Trussville, Homewood and Mountain Brook  as well as over the mountain suburbs like Hoover, Pelham and Helena could all learn from this example.

Complete Streets » Red Wing, Minn Writes an Rx for Business: Complete Streets.

And on another note,  a complete streets bill has been introduced to the Alabama Legislature.  This bill would require the Alabama Department of Transportation to plan for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users as well as motorists when they build roads. (Federal Law requires this for federally funded projects, but ALDOT regularly ignores this it seems, or finds a way out of it).

Let your representative know you support including all modes of transportation in our street and road planning by supporting this bill. See this  for more information!

According to USA Nation, educated 20- and 30-somethings are flocking to live downtown in the USA’s largest cities — even urban centers that are losing population:

Urban centers draw more young, educated adults – USATODAY.com.

However, Birmingham seems to be bucking the trend. According to the report, Birmingham’s city center lost 600 of these young people over the last decade. Compare this to the more than two-thirds of the nation’s 50 other largest cities, where the young college educated population living within 3 miles of the city center grew twice as fast as the rest of the metro area.

Given that this demographic is very interested in the urban lifestyle, my guess is  this could be due to fact that most of the inner city neighborhoods near downtown are very run down and/or lack quality housing that this demographic can afford. Thus, many of them are living over the mountain or on the 280 corridor instead of near downtown. It may also have something to do with where the jobs are. Downtown has been shedding jobs for years.

If it is due to a lack of safe, quality and cool affordable housing, then I sense an opportunity  that multi-family developers might want to look into.

Here is an interesting article about how destructive it has been to run expressways thru our central cities, often destroying and dividing thriving communities in the process of their construction.

Freeways without futures | Kaid Benfield’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

Here in Birmingham, Interstate 20/59, creates a major barrier between downtown Birmingham and the civic center district. It has been proposed that it be rebuilt below ground, at enormous cost, as a means to eliminate this visual and physical eyesore. I have another idea:

Since the powers that be insist on building a northern interstate bypass that is not justified by traffic studies, but is desired as an incentive to build more sprawl, how about just tearing down the intercity route and replacing it with a boulevard instead, as proposed for New Orleans in this article?  If tearing down the entire highway is too scary to most, perhaps just tear down, as a minimum, the section between I-65 and the Airport. This boulevard would provide a complete street connection between our  eastern neighborhoods, the airport and downtown.

If we were to tear down the entire highway from the airport thru its’ connection to 459 southwest of Bessemer,  as a bonus, the interchange known as “malfunction junction” would no longer be needed and could be demolished as well!

Traffic on this highway is not any faster than boulevard speed anyway, especially during rush hour, so it would not impede traffic flow into and out of the city. And with the northern bypass in place through traffic would be re-routed and there would only be local traffic anyway.

What do you think? Win-Win for the developers and misguided Mayors who want the northern bypass and a win-win for downtown well?

Something to think about…..

I plan to watch this with a skeptical eye.

I agree there are serious environmental and social problems associated with suburbanization, but I do not agree that the automobile as a means of transportation is unsustainable. IMHO, we need to simply stop government subsidization and promotion of cars and urban sprawl and let the market decide the fate of the automobile.

The utility of the automobile, SUV and pickup truck is not easily replaced, especially by mass transit. A free market will not run out of energy and will find substitutes for oil should it become scarce and thus more expensive. Or you can make it scarce by making it  illegal or taxing and regulating it out of existence.  Is that consistant with a free society?

Finally, the economy of scale and inexpensive goods found in big box retail are here to stay as well. The corner grocery store with its limited range of items is nostalgic, but expensive. It will return en-mass only if forced on us.

I also believe land planning needs to be a local and state driven process, not dictated by the Feds. I can almost take bets on what position this program this take!

Enjoy. No doubt there will be some value in this program to make it worth watching. Just don’t suspend your brain.



This is pretty cool!

AIA Announces the Best Housing of 2011 [Slideshow] | Co.Design.