A lunchtime visit to the new Saw’s Soul Kitchen in downtown Avondale (200 block of 41st Street South, above) was a chance to muse over the momentum in this part of town (an historic working class commercial center that served the surrounding bungalows and industrial concerns). While longtime gay bars (no longer open) drew patrons into Avondale for decades, it wasn’t until Bottletree Cafe opened in 2006 that the neighborhood started getting noticed more broadly. In the last couple years, Parkside Cafe and Avondale Brewery Company have helped make Avondale a multi-faceted nightlife destination [a few professional firms and residential lofts have also been quietly moving into the commercial district]. It was perhaps a matter of time before a new daytime restaurant would open; Saw’s is a twist on the popular original location in Edgewood. Determined to maintain a true “hole-in-the-wall” appearance, the layers of peeling paint, perma-stone, and 1970′s-era Dr. Pepper sign are all intact. What’s new is the great food and outdoor seating–perhaps the first time in history that anyone has sat outside in downtown Avondale to be served lunch.
This understatement continues on the interior (above) where off-the-shelf cheap tables and chairs have a large chalkboard and “roadside shack” decor as a backdrop. The real star is the food: familiar, but thoughtful, and at a great price. Currently open for dinner until 8 PM, they also deliver to drinkers at Avondale Brewery next door. Which is a bonus if you’re enjoying a Saison.
Across the street Freshfully is planning an opening for the first week of May. A brand-new business that connects local farmers to consumers, it will be filled with fresh eggs, produce, farm-raised chicken, fresh dairy products, seafood—all of it from Alabama. This is the first store of its kind that we know of in the state, and will not just serve a foodie population eager to support local farms–but also a neighborhood that’s been without a supermarket for a long time (the historic storefront space, above, was once a Hill’s Grocery). Freshfully won the innovative Occupy Avondale contest sponsored by Main Street Birmingham and Avondale Brewing Co.–we can’t wait for it to open.
Across from Parkside Cafe and just up the street from Saw’s and Freshfully is the newly renovated Avondale Park (above, looking north towards the 41st Street commercial district), which has served Birmingham for well over 100 years (renovation designed by KPS Group). Seeing the rejuvenated park, and the new businesses opening down the way, makes us agree with others buzzing about the place: downtown Avondale is on a roll. Let’s support these businesses–and encourage more to follow.
On a final note–41st Street South in Avondale has far too many car-lanes for its light capacity, which doesn’t help foster the new pedestrian life here. Lose a lane (or two), widen sidewalks, create angled parking–plenty of traffic calming measures are possible. Hopefully the City will contemplate them soon.
[thanks to ditchell for the Park pic; and a reminder to those who don't know the title reference: Miss Fancy was a famous elephant at Birmingham Zoo's original location at Avondale Park before it moved to its current location just outside Mountain Brook Village. She is now the proud logo of Avondale Brewing Co.]