Once upon a time, there was no brunch in Avondale. It seems out of character for Birmingham, but it’s true. You could nod your cap at it — adding a fried egg to your lunchtime Post Office Pie — but biscuits and Bloody Marys weren’t in the neighborhood. Then came Rowe’s, which offers a brunch so truly Avondale it’s hard to imagine the area without it.
The menu is compact, straightforward, and appealing. It includes items like toad in a hole that aren’t broadly available, plus plenty of non-egg dishes if you prefer lunch food with a festive brunch drink.
We think the beer-raised waffle will put you in the mood for brunch staples, though. It has a slight yeast-y flavor that we loved, and which prompted a fierce internal debate over whether or not to request butter. (In the end, we chose not to.)
The chicken tender sandwich is perfectly fried and heavy on the honey mustard. It’s served with nicely crispy french fries that also come perfectly salted, which is always aces in our book.
The huevos rancheros was the underdog surprise — it sounded far less exciting than either the waffles or the chicken. Yet it was creamy and salty and satisfying, and a dish we’ll surely order again.
Let’s be honest, though. Brunch is as much about the beverages as it is about the food. Bloody Mary bars have become popular on the Birmingham brunch scene, but the quality varies wildly. The biggest gripe we hear tends to be a lack of hot sauce options.
Rowe’s apparently heard it too. They’ve dedicated two wall-mounted shelves to DIY Bloody Mary prep, and one is filled entirely with hot sauces. The other is split between Bloody Mary mixes and pickled garnishes.
The atmosphere echoes the menu — appealingly casual. There are concrete floors and raw wood rafters. You secure your place on the waitlist by pulling a ticket from the counter. Drinks come in disposable cups and food on plain steel trays. It’s low on frills, befitting a space that was once a working service station.
“In keeping with the most recent history of the neighborhood, I didn’t want to steamroll the character of the space or turn it into something it wasn’t, and instead, take advantage of the history that’s already built into it,” Co-owner Cliff Atkins Jr. told AL.com. As Atkins suggests,this embrace of the past is a neighborhood ethos. There’s something nostalgically American about the area: a simultaneous ode to working class roots and the picnicking fun of Avondale park.