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Tag: lakeview

Go Green at Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery

charlie thigpen's garden gallery

From the outside, you might think Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery is another a nice local nursery. But “garden gallery” isn’t just a brand. It’s a really apt description of this charming shop and its role in Lakeview’s Pepper Place.

Situated next to Scene, Ovenbird, and the Saturday Maker’s Market, the Garden Gallery may have set the trend for many indoor/outdoor favorites at Pepper Place. Walking through the winding pathways during a warm market Saturday, the outside gardens of succulent trays and herbs are a visual oasis that we swear makes you feel cooler.

Step inside the high-ceilinged indoor space, and you’ll see the wide range of products the gallery sells to make your home feel similarly inviting. There floor cloths inspired by vintage tile, and glam furnishings from humble materials. Our personal favorite is the tractor seat turned bar stool, which boasts comfy curves and a footrest.

Birmingham has “more green space per capita than any other city in the nation,” the city’s website boasts. It’s fitting that a place like Charlie Thigpen’s exists to help us make the most of it in our own homes. That transition from public to private green space feels most natural in historic neighborhoods like Highland Park, but it isn’t limited to them.

The right plants and outdoor goods could make even a nearby downtown Loft District or Lakeview balcony feel lush. Even with no outdoor space, framed botanical art and small statuary — there are charming little birds and even a friendly gargoyle — brings the garden party indoors.

Indoor/outdoor isn’t just a lifestyle at the garden gallery but part of its very democratic feel. Like Pepper Place, it has offerings for the well-heeled and the student budget. It works for the range of Birmingham, from eclectic Five Points rentals to John Hand Building balconies.

Third Thursdays Feature Lakeview’s Blended Charm

third thursday at pepper place

third thursday at pepper place

Third Thursday at Pepper Place is a cocktail party atmosphere with a flat sandal style. It’s exuberantly come-as-you-are, whether that means work pants or white jeans or your favorite cutoff shorts. It’s as scene-ish as you want — or don’t want — it to be, and that’s a special atmosphere indeed. With attractions from beer and corn hole outside the Alabama Outdoors pop-up to art and cocktails at Scene, it’s deliberately and delightfully everyone’s game.

Monthly neighborhood events are a thing in Birmingham now — from Forest Park’s Tour de Loo to the Loft District’s Art Crawl. Each of them designed to highlight what the neighborhood already boasts, with a little extra to feel like an event. The common thread is local businesses supporting art and artisans, along with neighborhood spirit.

So what sets Third Thursday apart? Part of its appeal is the unique layout of the space. There’s the pop-up energy of the 2nd avenue parking lot. Then there’s the indoor/outdoor garden party appeal of Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery and Scene.

It’s also possibly the best night-out deal in town, with unlimited food and drinks available for a suggested donation of $10 (or $5 if you’re only eating), which supports a designated charity each month. If you’re a young professional saving up for a down payment, this is a ridiculously wonderful social option.

While Lakeview is coming to its own as a residential option, it’s still most known as a funny meeting point for folks throughout the city. Third Thursday combines the urban energy of downtown development with the quieter charm of an established neighborhood. It’s also the smaller, calmer, more nighttime version of Pepper Place.

If the Loft District, Avondale, and Highland Park all had a mind meld, it would be Lakeview, and Third Thursday. As far as we’re concerned, that’s reason enough to love it.

Brunch Makes the Weekend at Ovenbird

ovenbird brunch

ovenbird brunch

As Chris Hastings’s newest venture, Ovenbird has never been a hard sell, but its Saturday market brunch is really something special. Not only is it exciting food; it also makes the most of the restaurant’s Lakeview location. Brunch here turns a Pepper Place jaunt into a full-on weekend occasion.

The restaurant’s modern indoor/outdoor design creates an easy flow between the market action and the pause for brunch. It’s not a departure from your Pepper Place experience, in other words, but a framing of it. That flow also creates a fairly kid-friendly ambience for an otherwise very grown up restaurant.

At first glance, the omelette “gramajo” seems like standard brunch food, albeit with fancy ham. Google it, though, and you’ll find out it’s an Argentinian take on hangover food. Order it and you’ll find an egg dish that’s just set and smoky throughout thanks to the jamon. It is a nearly perfect breakfast food, hangover or no.

The full Spanish breakfast is a Latin riff on a heavy English feast, featuring boudin rouge as the spicy, creamy the star of the meal. Tasted separately, the rest of the plate may seem bland. Incorporate boudin in each bite, and you’ll realize how magically composed this dish actually is. It’s a full range of textures – thick grits, creamy avocado, saucy egg yolk — all there to complement the sausage.

A three-beignet order is a light dessert for two, and you may first mistake it for a tidier take on your French Quarter favorite. But a molasses-y caramel filling brings a more complex sweetness than the simple fried dough and powdered sugar combo you’re used to. (It’s dulce de leche — an amped up version of caramel — the server told us.) If you need to surreptitiously lick your plate, we’ll gladly look the other way.

For all of Pepper Place’s charm, it hasn’t typically been a brunch spot, and that’s a big hole in coverage for our city’s favorite meal. We’ll always love the market for making Lakeview a foodie playground. And we’ll always love Ovenbird for bringing brunch to Pepper Place.

Bham Eats: Sky Castle Gastro Lounge

sky castle burger


Avondale’s business district has built its reputation on a strong sense of place. Parkside, Avondale Brewing Co., and Fancy’s on Fifth all reference Avondale Park, while Rowe’s and Post Office Pies nod at the former occupants of their spaces. It’s a new Birmingham place that owes its ambience to the past. Lakeview’s entertainment district, in contrast, has long time businesses but a less present history. Until Sky Castle Gastro Lounge, the newest venture for the Bajalieh restauranteurs and chef Haller Magee.  

The original Sky Castle was a forward-looking radio studio, the restaurant’s website notes, conveniently situated above Ed Salem’s Drive-In. Drive-in customers stayed around to see radio happen in real time, according to the site, creating an early combination of food and entertainment. The restaurant describes itself as a place “giving a nod to the past while shaping the future,” and we’re inclined to agree. With its throwback name and place in Lakeview’s premiere mixed-use development — 29 Seven — it has feet firmly planted in both local lore and present progress.

Like its name, the styling is nostalgic without being full-on retro. It’s the set of Mad Men filtered through a CB2 layout. Burnt orange chairs and formica-inspired tables line an olive-toned banquette, effecting a classic diner gone chic. Coordinating couches and chairs form a low-slung lounge zone along the front windows. Dramatic waterfall wood paneling, Lakeview photo murals, and a copper bar backsplash create a solid visual brand: the sleek modernism of 29 Seven tempered with the palette of a former age.

But all that style and story would be worthless without a menu that could stand on its own. Sky Castle’s is full of delightfully hard choices — Pimento cheese or poutine? Tagliatelle carbonara or chicken and waffles? It wouldn’t be unreasonable to develop a strategic plan for your gastronomical approach, phased in over a series of regular visits. For now, we can recommend the pimento cheese fritters or roasted cauliflower appetizers, along with the Sky Castle burger or oyster & bacon sandwich entrees.

We could wax on about the subtle creaminess of tahini sauce or the sweet tang of caramelized onions and tomato jam. What really stands out, though, is the overall lightness of some truly heavy menu selections. We’re not saying fried pimento cheese offers any health benefits, of course, but by rights we should have struggled with the weight of excess. Instead, we left feeling delighted (albeit not hungry for a very long time).

The gastropub (lounge) has come to mean casual fare with a serious foodie attitude. Or, put another way, comfortable favorites through a fine dining lens. It’s a highly calibrated balance that Sky Castle achieves from branding to styling to the food itself. Head here for its new retro vibe and its heavy food favorites cooked with a light hand.


Want more? Check out our Sky Castle-inspired styling tips.

Bham Events: YP Socials

Image via YPBirmingham


Networking events can feel like a chore, a necessary evil in the name of building professional connections. But Young Professionals of Birmingham has a different proposal for your professional development. In their effort to help folks “get out, get social,” they hold cocktail gatherings at some of Birmingham’s hottest places. Places you’d willingly hang out anyway, now with a handy productivity excuse. So check out YPBirmingham board member Brailyn Hardy’s advice below for optimizing your experience, then join us tonight at 5:30 at Lakeview’s Sky Castle Gastro Lounge for the March social.


Feeling shy? Remember you’re there with a shared purpose.

“Everyone who attends our socials is there looking to meet new people, so don’t hesitate to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to someone new,” Hardy says. “We select venues that provide a light-hearted, open, inclusive, and low-pressure environment to make networking a little more casual.”


Wear your expertise like a badge (literally).

Hardy suggests YP-ers take advantage of event name tags that include your industry affiliation. “When you arrive at the door you have the opportunity to select a name tag that specifies your field, so it’s easier to determine which people are in the same or opposite professions in hopes to make new connections and contacts,” she says.


Arrive early for full event perks.

“Sky Castle will be providing small bites to give attendees a taste of what to expect on from their Southern Progressive menu,” Hardy says, “ including the official Sky Castle Burger, Lakeview Chick chicken sandwiches, Korean and Honey Bourbon BBQ Wings, and Hummus.” But be one of the first 150 YPBirmingham members through the door, and you’ll get a free drink ticket as well, she adds. There’s also a free drink waiting for 150 new members.


H2 Real Estate specializes in helping young professionals live in Birmingham, from choosing physical homes to finding communities. That’s why we’re also proud sponsors of YPBirmingham. Say hello tonight — we’d love to meet you — and be sure to follow our series of YP Tips.  

Bham Eats: Babalu Tacos & Tapas



Lakeview is no longer just an entertainment district. It’s now a place where people live, and that’s changing the options available — for the better, in our view. Developments like 29 Seven and Iron City Lofts are offering new residential space, but transitioning from an entertainment destination to a complete neighborhood means offering more than novelty options. There has to be substance there, too, for it to attract a sustained resident crowd. With Babalu Tacos and Tapas, Lakeview has managed both the flash of an entertainment district and the depth of a neighborhood restaurant.

We have to admit: We’re often suspicious of the tapas-style approach. Too often, small plates turn into large checks as you cobble together a meal from teasingly dainty portions. Happily, the small plates at Lakeview’s Babalu tend to pack a satisfying punch. At the very least, you’ll feel that you had a complete meal, which is the genius behind assertive taco plates and wonderfully layered tapas.

As dedicated tasters who insist on sampling around the table, this relatively affordable small plate concept works well for us. If you’re not into sharing, rest assured there are still options built for one, including generous meat-topped chopped salads and the Baba burger. It’s best to have a consistent table strategy, though, so plates arrive in proper sequence.

No matter what, you’ll want to start with tableside guacamole. It’s fresh and delicious and not too much of a spectacle. Plus, you’ll need the time to strategize your order. Go ahead and choose your drink, which may take some time. There’s a long cocktail list, but Babalu is also a good bet if you fancy experimenting with the wide world of sipping tequilas. Consider saving room for dessert as well, since the sampler option offers the taste of multiple sweets we always crave. Whatever combo you choose, we’d suggest including the dulce de leche cheesecake.

The bottom line is that Babalu is punchy and fun. It feels new and young without having too specific a crowd. It’s thematic but not overblown, which fits well with surrounding Lakeview entertainment. Where, say, the Loft District or South Avondale tend toward a polished industrial style, Lakeview is a little more all over the map. It’s where role-playing mystery games happily coexist with barbeque from an old house on a hill, sports bar trivia, and late night dancing. Like its neighborhood, Babalu is full of a quirky but appealing energy. It’s the kind of place you could easily be a regular, especially if you lived upstairs.

Bham Eats: Winter Restaurant Week

winter restaurant week


Birmingham Restaurant Week used to be a late-summer fling, something to look forward to before the busy fall season and the inevitable march of winter kicked in. Now, it’s also a post-holiday beacon, shining through the cold, dreary slump between Christmas and Valentine’s Day. As inveterate fans of Birmingham’s food scene, both restaurant week and otherwise, we couldn’t resist weighing in on the premiere winter season offerings. We combed through the posted options within Birmingham, and flagged the following dinners as our dream menu options.


Bottle & Bone (Uptown):

We’ve mentioned our love of bacon flights before, and now’s your chance to score a bargain tasting. We’re all in for their $20/person menu, of a bacon flight, joyce farms free range airline chicken breast stuffed with crackling corn bread with potato gratin and green beans, and bacon praline bread pudding. All of our pork-y dreams surrounding a delicious-sounding entree? Yes, please.


The Wine Loft (Loft District):

Just down the street from our offices, the Wine Loft has a $20/person menu basically guaranteed to warm the cold nights. We’d start with the cup of house made clam chowder, move on to the pan seared salmon with fried corn salsa and oven roasted brussels sprouts, and finish with the oven baked apple pie drizzled with port reduction and a side of ice cream. Between this menu and the restaurant/bar’s cozy interior, our money’s on the Wine Loft as a perfect date night plan.


BYOB (Lakeview)

One of our friends swears by the BYOB experience because you can actually have your burger at the temperature you crave — no solid gray medium-well nonsense when you want a true, pink medium. Burger cooking preferences aside, they had us at the golden tots appetizer with house made queso, cilantro, garlic, scallions, and ghost pepper cheese. We’d go classic Topper Price for the entree — essentially a classic cheeseburger jazzed up with lemon aioli — though the Cheesebroker, which includes bacon and pimiento cheese, may be the winner for heartier appetites. The dessert of white chocolate and raspberry bread pudding with lemon whipped cream and fresh mint sounds fresh enough to end a heavy dinner on a high note. Bonus points to BYOB for offering an old fashioned-inspired Bulliet bourbon cocktail accompaniment. Dinner menu is $30/2 people.


Iron City Grill (Five Points South):

You’ve been to Iron City for shows, but have you had dinner at the grill? We’d start with crispy chang mai cauliflower with crispy Asian slaw and sweet soy reduction, then move on to blackened gulf coast shrimp, whose sides include sweet corn couscous and an avocado lime crema. The vanilla creme brulee is a more classic dessert pairing, but we say lighter flavors might as well culminate in true decadence: salted caramel cheesecake with dark chocolate custard, graham cracker crumbs, and house-made marshmallows. It’s our version of culinary balance.


The J. Clyde (Five Points South):

The thing we appreciate about J. Clyde’s $30/person menu is that it’s an all-in experience. There are no tough decisions here, since the slate has already been paired down to a single “reception,” appetizer, entree, and dessert, all with suggested beer pairings. The brilliance of their menu is that it seems to balance hearty, heavy flavors like smoked riblets, gouda grits, and brown butter with lighter notes of leeks and apple cabbage slaw. But this menu that begins with a “traditional Scottish winter soup” closes with a pub-appropriate dessert (Fatso pudding) that’ll surely have you ready to brave the rest of winter.

YP Tips: Try Locked In's Twist on Teambuilding

locked in birmingham
Image via The Birmingham Escape Game

You know your company values team building exercises. They want to sculpt a cohesive group of folks who get along as people, after all, and not just unwitting sharers of office space. But it’s hard to find an activity that doesn’t feel forced. Enter Locked In: The Birmingham Escape Game.

Remember when the board game Clue came to life as a live action film? Locked In feels a bit like that, only better. We imagine a cross between adult role playing and NPR puzzlers, packaged as challenging live entertainment for adults.

But team building isn’t just an afterthought application for Locked In’s entertainment brand. The company has special tweaks for team building groups, and points to team building as “a large aspect” of its market. In fact, Locked In promotes the game as a new workgroup diagnostic scenario: “These advanced sessions help companies identify natural leaders and show how workgroups perform under stress in a fun and challenging environment.”

They’re not kidding about challenging, by the way, with success rates for their scenarios ranging from 65% to 25%.  As AL.com writer Carla Jean Whitley writes: “Escape rooms are designed as emotional, mental rollercoasters. Locked In’s Laboratory is designed to intimidate. But solve a few clues, and your confidence will rise. The result is an adrenaline rush, prompted by mental activity rather than physical thrills.”

That focus on “mental activity” also hints at increasingly cerebral entertainment options in the Lakeview district. There’s a broadening of the traditional bar/venue scene to include more eclectic options like ArcLight Stories and now Locked In. And both options shore up our belief that the Lakeview neighborhood is a masterful shapeshifter.

Locked In is more than an entertainment expansion, though; we also think it points to a diversifying business environment in the neighborhood. LIVBirmingham describes Lakeview as a design business hub, and we like the way Locked In combines a creative ethos with science and tech influences that would be equally at home in Innovation Depot.

That being said, Locked In is perfectly positioned in the 29 Seven mixed-use development, also home to YP-friendly staples like Neighborhood Bar and Babalu. So check it out. Even if you do poorly, neighboring tacos and tapas are sure to cheer you up.