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The Story Behind 2112 Morris Avenue – Now Listed for $389,900

It’s 1998 and the scene in downtown Birmingham is 180 degrees different than the scene we know today. The “Loft District” was not yet a sought after downtown community but Elisa Crowder was ahead of the curve. Already occupying space downtown at the Wheelock Building for her business, Elisa was in search of a live-work space that she could customize to suit her needs and aesthetic preferences.

When she initially viewed the space she now calls home, it was the open floor plan, high ceilings and storefront windows that drew her in. Formerly an art gallery, Elisa saw it as blank canvas to design the live/work space she was imagining.

Overall Elisa wanted the condo’s aesthetic to feel industrial and contemporary with a soothing color palette and almost everything in the space is custom. She added curved walls to create visual interest, aluminum baseboards to tie in the exposed ductwork, solid birch doors and earth-toned marble flooring can be found throughout. 3-Form translucent and polyresin architectural panels were incorporated in several areas and feature a design of grass, leaves, and water to bring earthy elements into the mix.

It’s fair to say that beyond the architectural details, this condo offers amenities that aren’t often found downtown. The master bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub, walk-in shower, dual sinks and heated towel racks. A sound system was also installed throughout the home so Elisa could enjoy music in every room.

“Downtown Birmingham is developing so quickly and this property is in the center of it all, “ said Elisa when describing her favorite aspects of the home. She has loved being walking distance to numerous restaurants and bars (The Atomic is right next door), taking exercise classes at Railroad Park, popping into of art galleries and going to shows in the Theatre district. “It’s nice to have everything so close.” From new restaurants like The Essential to The Famous Peanut Depot, Barons games, breweries and clothing boutiques, everything is at right your fingertips.

“Having a work-live space right in the center of and in walking distance to all of this activity has been wonderful and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Birmingham.”

Now this fabulous 2,0000 square foot condo could be yours and features a new price! Contact us today to view this unique 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom loft-style condo in the heart of downtown. View the listing here.

 

Local Spotlight: The Essential

Downtown Birmingham is definitely having a moment. This summer has been full of exciting additions to the area and the H2 office is buzzing about our new across the street neighbors, The Essential, a new concept from the founders of Baking Bandits and Feast & Forest. We stopped by the recently opened restaurant – located at the bottom of Founders Station on Morris Avenue – and chatted with owner Kristen Hall about her vision, how she got here, and of course, food!

 

“When we opened Feast & Forest the long term plan was always to expand and find a bigger space, but that need ended up coming much sooner than expected,” Kristen explained over coffee. Architecture was key to their vision, which led Kristen and co-owner Victor King to search for the right space for two years. When they initially looked at the location The Essential now occupies, it was a bank drive-thru that was partially underground. The building itself dates back all the way to it’s construction in 1887 so needless to say it took some creative vision to turn this spot into a charismatic restaurant. The cobblestone charm of Morris Avenue and untapped potential of the historic street were key factors in selling the space to the restaurateurs. “It has been a long time since this beautiful street has seen it’s full potential,” Kristen noted. In the end, they felt that choosing this new home on Morris Avenue would hopefully spark more businesses to join them.

The renaissance of downtown is evident, making it an exciting time to make the move into the city for professional or residential reasons. Kristen, who is passionate about the ‘rebirth’ of the area, told us there was no doubt in her mind that the new restaurant would follow Feast & Forest’s lead and occupy a home in town as well. “The downtown spirit is so different. There is so much heart in the city and it’s exciting to see so much opportunity for growth. Endless possibilities!”

While it’s apparent that Kristen and Victor have found their professional sweet spots, their paths weren’t always headed in this direction. Kristen, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and masters in public health, had spent her first twelve years working at UAB in medical education and community relations. But, she was always dreaming of new things, and eventually the time was right. “Sometimes things chose you.” The mom of two, soon started baking with her daughters and would leave treats on neighbor’s doorsteps, ring the doorbell and leave. Hence they became known as the “Baking Bandits.” That venture spiraled into Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market and eventually led to Kristen entering and winning Birmingham’s first “Big Pitch “ competition.

Co-owner Victor King who has a degree in entrepreneurship from Samford University has worked in restaurants for most of his professional career. He spent over 3 years working at Highlands Bar and Grill before pursuing a role in butchery. The pair met in late 2014 and realized that their perspectives on food worked well together, and they began building a plan for a brick and mortar. A few months later, construction began on 24th Street and Feast & Forest was born

Photo Credit: Mountainside Photo Co.

So why rebrand from Feast & Forest to The Essential? “Feast and Forest was a season, a chapter in a book, and it was very specific to that space,” Kristen detailed as she described why The Essential needed a story of it’s own. Victor and Kristen’s love for food and produce led them to want to do the minimal amount of things to it in order to make the food taste it’s best. They wanted the space, menu and name to honor this straightforward approach, thus “The Essential “ was born.

Fans of Banking Bandits need not worry though, just like these famous pastries were a part of Feast & Forest, they’ve once again found their new home at The Essential and Kristen is excited to announce the imminent launch of her new blog which will be centered around the fundamentals of baking pastries.

The Essential offers unique options for every meal. The menu will change seasonally so be sure to stop in every few weeks for a good sampling of what they offer. If you’re headed over there for the first time, Kristen recommends trying the Eggplant and Okra “It’s the perfect collaboration for summer.” She also recommends trying the Chicken Liver Mousse Éclair – the perfect collaboration of Kristen and Victor’s pastries and savory tendencies. “It’s the best of both worlds, I love to take pastries to unexpected places.” If that’s not your speed, they make all pastas by hand and Kristen suggests trying the rigatoni, paired with the roasted beet salad, and pork shoulder with peaches, cucumber and peanuts from next door! Try the blackberry almond cake and lemon meringue tart for dessert.

The aesthetic at The Essential is dripping with charm – a unique marble tile pattern lines the floor around the bar and a rich blue tone is carried subtly throughout the restaurant. “One thing we wanted to accomplish was to be open 7 days a week so that we can be part of every person’s, every day – from breakfast to cocktails. We wanted to create a home away from home for people who live and work downtown and love our city.” The end goal with the design was always to transform people’s experience of Birmingham and both owners are proud to know that their Parisian-esque spot transports people out of their typical Birmingham environment.

Photo Credit: Mountainside Photo Co.

Welcome to Birmingham!

            We’re so excited you decided on Birmingham for your new home. This city we love has so much to offer from food to the great outdoors. We know it’s not easy being in a new city so we’ve pulled together a guide of our favorite local spots. Enjoy!

Food

Highlands Bar & Grill

Recently named “Most Outstanding Restaurant in America,” this is an iconic Birmingham spot. Don’t forget to try the award winning coconut cake while you’re there!

Chez FonFon

Another charming Frank Stitt spot. Slightly more relaxed atmosphere and excellent French inspired cuisine.

Hot and Hot Fish Club

Classic Birmingham. We recommend sitting at the chef’s table for the full experience.

Jack Browns

Although Birmingham has some outstanding burgers, Jack Browns is arguably one of the best. The extensive beer offering, secret sauce and outrageous burger selections (try one with mac and cheese or peanut butter) make this spot unlike any other.

Fancy’s on 5th

Another great spot to grab an out-of-the-ordinary burger, or oysters. Fancy’s often has live music on the patio and a creative cocktail menu that never disappoints.

El Barrio

The best Mexican food in town. Try their seasonal guacamole and margarita for a real taste of something different!

Bamboo on 2nd

Right across the street from El Barrio, downtown. You won’t find more delicious sushi!

The Essential

This charming new spot on Morris Ave is known for their homemade pop tarts but don’t miss out on their lunch and dinner menus!

Bottega

Dine on the casual side, formal side or al fresco. Bottega is a classic Highland Park spot with a little something for everyone.

Hotbox

A unique dinning experience – don’t let the airstream and low key atmosphere fool you, this food is no joke

.

Drinks

Breweries

The Bham beer scene is pretty strong. Head to Good People before a Barons game, take your dog to Avondale or try out the new Back Forty. Did we mention Trim Tab, Cahaba, Ghost Train and Red Hills? Explore multiple stops in one afternoon when you book a Pedal Tour.

The Collins Bar

Let these mixologists create the cocktail you never knew existed and play a few board games while you wait. This is a great spot to grab a drink after work.

The Atomic

Take a time machine back to the 1960’s at this downtown bar. You can even choose a costume off the costume menu. It’s a unique cocktail experience to say the least.

Brat Brot

Birmingham’s first German biergarten. The indoor/outdoor space is uniquely charming and offers bocce and fire pits. Enjoy both German and local beers as well as German food selections.

Lou’s

It might not look like much but you’ll feel right at home with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Don’t forget to play a round of Yahtzi for a chance to win some cash!

Marble Ring/Zeldas

Birmingham’s 1920’s speakeasy experience. Enter through a phone booth in Hot Diggity Dog’s and enjoy a throwback to the flapper era. Now you can enjoy a glitter themed dance floor out on the patio at Zeldas!

Moon shine

This rooftop bar can be found at the top of The Elyton Hotel. Comfortable seating and great view make this is laid back spot to catch up with friends.

Pilcrow

Coming soon to Morris Ave, we can’t wait to try out this Mezcal speakeasy! A first for Birmingham!

Music & Entertainment

Iron City

This restaurant and event space doubles as a concert venue and when they’re not hosting live music, they’re offering family friendly events, sports viewing parties and more.

Saturn

Coffee shop, bar, concert venue and all around entertainment center thanks to their selection of board and video games. There’s constantly something fun going on here.

Alabama Theatre

This Birmingham landmark offers plays, concerts, and even movie nights! Catch a different Christmas movie every night of the week during December!

Lyric Theatre

The oldest theatre in Birmingham has been restored and is used for concerts, ballets and entertainment of all kinds!

Outdoors

Rufner Mountain

Get some fresh air and hike the beautiful trails of this nature preserve. You can also enjoy family and community events a couple times a month at the nature center.

Railroad Park

This 8-block green space in the heart of the city is a great place to spend time outdoors. Enjoy free exercise classes, summer concerts and ice skating in the winter.

Vulcan Trail

This two mile trail has been recently expanded and leads straight to The Vulcan and Vulcan museum.

Zyp Bikes

The easiest and most affordable way to get around the downtown area. You can rent a Zyp bike at one location and return it to another.

Rotary Trail

A nod to Birmingham’s history, this is a great place in the city to take a stroll!

Bham Eats: 5 Reasons to Love Avondale Restaurants

avondale eat shop local sign

2015 is the year of the Avondale restaurant. Don’t believe us? Consider the news: 3 new restaurants have or will open this year, increasing the neighborhood offerings by about 75%. That growth means more exploration of the neighborhood’s food identity, which made us set about trying to define it.

But those definitions are impossible without considering the broader neighborhood. Avondale’s southern section is heavy on bungalows and built around a lovely park, so the overwhelmingly homey vibe is no surprise. And it makes its way into the restaurant scene. Between the park and the brewery, Avondale is the perfect spot to kick back. This is not a “scene.” It’s more of a friendly way station for folks from all over the metro area.

Still, it’s a destination nonetheless. So here are the 5 reasons we love eating out in Avondale:

  1. It embraces history: Avondale brewing has always tapped local lore for its brew names, but Avondale restaurants have their own references. Rowe’s Service Station was Rowe’s Auto Service in a past life, and the new owners saw no need to erase that history. “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. Then, of course, there’s Chef John Hall of Post Office Pies who grew up in the neighborhood, honed his culinary chops in New York City, and came back to offer delicious pizzas and salads in–you guessed it–a former post office.
  1. It’s continuously casual: The dining vibe tends toward picnic casual and is super to-go-friendly. Disposable plates and utensils abound, making it that much easier to tote your food to the brewery backyard in mild summer weather. In fact, AL.com’s Eric Velasco recommends that very trick as the best way to enjoy the “food truck without wheels” experience of Wasabi Juan’s.
  1. It’s deliciously healthy (sort of): Veggies aren’t just a health-minded afterthought. They’re part of the culinary draw, and they tend toward the seasonal. We have an abiding love for Post Office Pie’s salads, but Rowe’s is offering an unexpected seasonal asparagus side, and Saw’s Soul Kitchen has been known to serve pink eyed peas. Even a place wholly dedicated to the cheese arts like Melt offers a surprising array of non-iceberg salads.
  1. It’s a combo special: Comfort food with a chef’s touch and food truck fusion are Avondale’s two complimentary food trends. There’s a homestyle-but-better feel to Avondale eating at Melt and Saw’s Soul Kitchen, which we chalk up to its culinary vision. Like the trajectory of Maurizio Papapietro or the Somershield/Lockert partnership downtown, we think it’s a case of folks with big name experience looking to offer accessible food. Meanwhile, Wasabi Juan’s and the upcoming Hotbox spin-off Wooden Goat are exploring the potential of what Velasco calls “cross-cultural mashups,” and that’s exciting too.
  1. It’s established a neighborhood DNA: Cross-pollination is absolutely a thing in Avondale, with owners of one institution partnering up with new blood to bring something else to the neighborhood entirely. Proof: Saw’s Soul Kitchen’s Mike Wilson and Brandon Cain are partners in Post Office Pies, and the Atkins duo behind 41st Street Pub & Aircraft Sales is bringing us Rowe’s. Like Somershield and Lockert downtown, Avondale’s food heavyweights are continuing to invest in the neighborhood. We think that’s a good sign for both food and real estate.

So welcome to the neighborhood Rowe’s Service Station, Wooden Goat, and Mr. Harry’s Chicken De-Lux. You’re in fine company, but you already knew that.

Bham Brunch: Local Hour at El Barrio

Image via Yelp user Jane A.

There’s a special curse that happens when your favorite neighborhood places are popular beyond neighborhood bounds. After all, a steep wait time during peak hours offsets the convenience factor of a great place down the street. Admittedly, El Barrio’s margaritas make even the longest wait fly by, but it’s nice sometimes to stroll right in. That’s why we think of brunch at El Barrio as the locals’s hour.

Show up around eleven, and you’re practically guaranteed a seat. This despite foodie friends in the know swearing brunch is El Barrio’s best offering. And we’re hard pressed to argue.

The flavors and textures here are bigger than your average brunch, less expected and more interesting. Consider the sopaipillas for breakfast, a savory take on what’s usually a dessert item. At El Barrio, it’s a delicious blend of sweet and savory, of classic pork and apples with the fried dough texture of a beignet. Meanwhile, the Oaxacan donuts soothe a morning sweet tooth without the overbearing sugar rush of a French toast breakfast. And of course, you can usher in your day with a batch of El Barrio guacamole. The only real questions is this: Are you hungry yet?

If you’re in the Loft District, you should be.

This is the neighborhood of simple food re-imagined, of a gastropub take on any cuisine. And El Barrio is part of that. It’s a place to get hearty, reasonably healthy real food when you either don’t feel like cooking, or simply prefer a sense of occasion. It’s also a great way to bring friends to you if you’re in the mood to socialize but not to drive.

And the broad appeal of places like El Barrio is a secret strength of this live/work neighborhood. The Loft District saves you a long workweek commute, without sacrificing your weekend social life. In our last brunch post we suggested this meal makes a neighborhood, and we think El Barrio is further proof. The joy of city living, after all, is having everything at your doorstep, and that includes the weekend.

Five Points Spotlight: Everybody Comes to Fat Sam's

fat sam's sandwich

Our favorite thing about Birmingham’s food scene: There’s almost always a local answer to chain options. What’s more, the local answer’s almost always better. A case in point is Fat Sam’s Sub Station, a Five Points South neighborhood staple.

One part Waffle House, one part Jimmy John’s, and all Five Point’s, Fat Sam’s offers high quality comfort food perfect for time-pressed, cash-strapped college students and everyone else.

Its section of five points is distinctively utilitarian, after all, designed to serve the UAB district and its neighbors to the south. There’s a computer repair shop and a laundromat in the same block, a hair salon and package store in the same strip. So it’s no wonder that Fat Sam’s ambience is a serviceable one.

But what’s so special about Fat Sam’s? There are fresh-cut French fries with a hint of skin for extra crispiness, and a 99-cent chicken biscuit on the breakfast menu. There are hoagies you can barely wrap your mouth around, smothered in Russian dressing. It’s not fancy, but it’s fast and delicious and far better than cold cuts have any right to be.

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Five Points is a neighborhood of long-standing establishments, and Fat Sam’s is no exception. They’ve been open for a quarter century, and we expect at least that much more.

Great neighborhoods, after all, hold onto small businesses like so many beloved family members. And that’s the way of it with Five Points South. The problem, though, is that you almost have to be part of the family tree to keep track of its many member branches.

With quick shifts between single and multi-family homes, the ramshackle and the sleekly renovated, the purely residential and the pockets of commercial, you almost have to live in Five Points to be truly in the know. It’s not a neighborhood for everyone, but–like Fat Sam’s–it tends to welcome everyone. And it just might be the neighborhood for you.

What Black Market Bar Says About Neighborhood Cycles

Image of Black Market Bar owners George Cowgill and Elise Younglood via AL.com

We’re used to cycles in life, to daily circadian rhythms and the more long-form evolution of a single human span. But like 100 Houses interviewee Chris Hatcher, we think neighborhoods go through those cycles too. There’s the old business trope of a local institution and its next generation successor, the son who takes over his father’s shop, for instance. But that cycle doesn’t have to stay within a literal family. Sometimes, the neighborhood is the family. That’s how we’re reading the news about Black Market Bar’s impending move, anyway.

We’ve talked about Black Market Bar before, about its wonderfully junk/punk vibe along with tasty burgers and trivia entertainment. But it’s about to be something more than a great neighborhood hangout. It’s about to be a success story worthy of epic poetry, or at least a testament to the power of place.

As home of The Mill, Five Points South’s northeast corner was iconic for folks who remember the neighborhood of the late nineties and early aughts. And AL.com’s Kelly Poe describes The Mill as “the longtime anchor restaurant of the district.”

Since The Mill’s closure, though, it’s site has been more of a restaurant revolving door. AL.com points to three incarnations of the restaurant (including a return to The Mill branding) before opening as MetroPrime in 2011. Even in a neighborhood of loyal followings, nothing really stuck.

But the new Black Market Bar location — mere blocks from its current spot — seems poised to work. After all, Five Points has fundamentally shaped owners George Cowgill and Elise Youngblood, who got their start working together at The Mill, Cowgill said on Facebook, along with several Black Market staffers. “It’s kind of a lateral move,” Cowgill told Poe, “but we inherit the patio. It’s going to solidify that we’re a restaurant as well as a bar.”

The move was not a long planned event but one driven by opportunity, Poe reported. The corner “has a lot more visibility and foot traffic,” Youngblood told her.

As our city neighborhoods are gaining more attention, the time is right for a new permanent anchor, and we can’t think of a better one. We like the  atmosphere of Black Market Bar and think it deserves the higher profile of the new location. Five Points South is a place of neighborhood institutions, after all, and Black Market Bar has the perfect local origin story.

“We’re sitting in a postcard right here,” Cowgill told Poe. “It’s full circle.”

It's Nice To Have You In Birmingham

You may have noticed this already, but just to be clear: We really (really, really) love Birmingham. Like, we love it so much we want to marry it. (And we might as well have, since we’ve built our livelihoods around it.)

We’ve made a habit of passing along the great Birmingham stories we’ve seen, but it seemed like we could do more. We live, work, and play here, after all, and we can think of lots of reasons you should too.

Topping our list right now are the folks behind the Magic City Mural Collective, who are set to begin their fourth project this month with Trim Tab Brewery. Their most ambitious piece to date, the completed Trim Tab mural will shout “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham” from 120 feet of rooftop to all passersby on the Red Mountain Expressway.

The funding process was ambitious too, relying on an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign. (Remember? We shared it back in July.) In the end, they raised $9,652 dollars in 44 days from 168 people.

The mural will be a lovely visual, but why put so much energy into what is basically a giant, non-profit love letter to distracted drivers? Because just like all of us at H2 Real Estate, the collective believes that spaces can connect people.

“As a community we are creating landmarks,” they explained. “Ideas and Energy that we are choosing to broadcast, and there’s something important about that choice. Choosing to do it together may be the most important part of all.”

You could say it’s the chance for a little bit of magic. We look forward to sharing more of it with you.

Bham Eats: Best Food Neighborhoods

Consider last week’s Thrillist challenge on Atlanta food: “What if some weird rule — or a really generous house arrest setup — meant you had to eat and drink in the same ATL neighborhood forever? Would you pick the best place to find fried food, choose to maximize your beer options, or something else entirely?”

Thrillist offered readers a ranking of the best Atlanta food neighborhoods and the fare in each. We considered doing the same in Birmingham, but we caved. After all, how do you choose between El Barrio and Ocean?

Instead, here’s our take on the food personalities of Birmingham’s top 3 food neighborhoods. Consider it your very own culinary color chart: You’ll know exactly where to go if you’re an Autumn.

El Barrio’s grilled chorizo meatloaf (Image via Yelp user Erin O.)

The Loft District:
Arguably Birmingham’s fastest-growing food scene, the district offers your best range of cosmopolitan comfort food. There are the impressive gastropub options at John’s City Diner, the Paramount, and Carrigan’s – arranged on a spectrum from gastro to pub. Then there are the distinctive daytime-only spots like Trattoria and Tau Poco. Café Dupont has your fine dining needs covered, and Urban Standard offers the finest city snacking. The Loft District in a dish: grilled chorizo meatloaf served with spinach, cotija-mashed potatoes and ranchera sauce at El Barrio.

Swine Pie (Image via AL.com)

Avondale:
A haven for crafty, affordable food, Avondale offers the best pizza outside New York City at Post Office Pies and an entire menu built around gooey cheese at Melt. Wasabi Juan’s fuses sushi and southwest in a combination that’s so wrong, it’s right. Hotbox gives you fancy food truck burgers and Asian noodles at the back end of Parkside, while Saw’s Soul Kitchen makes anyone poetic about pork. The local gas station even sells amazing $2 tamales for the most broke of foodies. Avondale in a dish: the tomato sauce, pepperoni, house-made pork sausage, and bacon Swine Pie at Post Office Pies.

“Chicken Fried Steak” (Image via Hot and Hot Fish Club)

Southside/Five Points:
Any neighborhood that houses Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings had to make the list. It boasts twinned hi-low restaurants – Highlands and Chez Fonfon, Ocean and 26 – that we think of as the original designer Target collaboration. And we like that the neighborhood is a study in contrasts: the Waffle House has a view of fine dining, and the vegetarian staples at Golden Temple are downwind from the smokers at Jim ’N Nicks. Southside/Five Points in a dish: Hot and Hot’s take on “Chicken Fried Steak,” a Wagyu sirloin with fried chicken skins, fingerling potatoes, braised greens, and buttermilk gravy.

Lakeview also deserves an honorable mention. Front porch entertaining at its best, Lakeview is the place where literally every restaurant has a patio. It’s a less common food destination, boasting instead a quality handful of mostly mid-priced options with a strong neighborhood vibe. Lakeview in a dish: The Lakeview at Slice.