Archive for the ‘Urban Lifestyle’ Category

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,!

END

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.

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.

“SPRAWLING FROM GRACE: THE CONSEQUENCES OF SUBURBANIZATION” WILL PREMIERE APRIL 20TH ON CNBC – CNBC.

 

This is pretty cool!

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

Interesting summary listing of census data for  Metro Areas over 1 million in population. Birmingham is 23rd in growth  with 7.20 % growth and an increase of almost 76,000 people in the last decade. Other cities are listed as well, or course.

The Urbanophile » Blog Archive » Metro/County Census Results So Far (Plus a Brief Look at Jobs).

This is the second of two articles I have seen recently that claim that, although many central cities (like Birmingham) are loosing population overall, many are seeing residential growth in their inner urban cores, demonstrating a growing attractiveness of the urban lifestyle.

Streetsblog.net » Downtowns Are Back, and They’re Bringing Central Neighborhoods Along.

I am looking for evidence of this in Birmingham in the recent census data, but have so far not been able to find a database that allows me to compare the population of different neighborhoods in Birmingham. If anyone knows of such a data base, please let me know.