Steaks and meatloaf

In limbo

Wedged between the Public Parking Deck #3 expansion and the former Regions Bank headquarters (which replaced the original Tutwiler Hotel) is a small, older building whose marquee still proclaims “La Paree Steaks/Seafood”. For roughly 60 years La Paree was considered one of the better downtown restaurants, until finally closing in 2003.

Most recently, when the former Regions Bank was slated for a Marriott Renaissance Hotel, the old La Paree was to be demolished to make room for a new steak house associated with the hotel. Now that the larger building has instead been sold to West Second Street Associates out of Flint, MI (for office or mixed-use), the future of the La Paree building is uncertain.

Back when the bellhops could get it delivered

Above is a shot of the restaurant soon after it first opened; notice the Tutwiler Hotel to the right. The impressive neon marquee survives in a later incarnation. It’s important to realize that, until the last few decades, Americans did not eat out very often; when they did in a medium-sized city there were few choices–a handful of well-known steak or seafood places like La Paree; an ethnic restaurant or two; or cafeterias. So the fact that La Paree had white tablecloths on the tables instantly made it one of the “best”, although it was by no means fancy or inventive. The current influx of restaurants into downtown is not a renaissance as much as a new thing–downtown’s restaurants were always perfunctory (with the exception of Joy Young perhaps), rather than noteworthy.

Uncertain futures

While we should be concerned about the future of La Paree and the historic building that houses it (as well as the future of our transit system, as we are reminded in the pic above), we should also be happy about two things: 1. while the Regions Building won’t be a Marriott, perhaps it will soon be filled with offices and even a boutique hotel; 2. we expect an announcement about a very, very cool new restaurant that will open downtown soon, and hope to report on it shortly. As usual, stay tuned.

[thanks to Birmingham Public Library for the historic pic]

7 responses to “Steaks and meatloaf

  1. Nice blog- and thanks for reminding us that dining in the City Center has never been nicer- never.

    It sure would be fun if some savvy entrepreneur would open a 21st Century version of Joy Young. Downtown could use a Chinese restaurant, especially one open at night. Let’s hope the lofting of the City Center continues, so that one could warrant opening a new Joy Young.

  2. A really great Chinese restaurant open at night, that delivers, and serves dim sum would be killer!

  3. Puts the matter of restaurants in good historical perspective. There were no ‘good old days’ locally. Like that Carole King song (hope I’m right): These are the good old days.

  4. I much prefer the old facade, with the terra cotta roof and interesting neon sign, to the more recent version.

    Restaurants like Trattoria Centrale, Brick and Tin, Cafe Dupont, and Urban Standard have been really critical for the revitalization of downtown, and are packed every time I eat there. I hope the success of these places is convincing more people to move into business downtown.

    Unfortunately there is still not much downtown in terms of late-night dining. A kabob cart situated on 2nd Ave N on the weekend evenings would be really nice.

    • Yes–I think an economical, late-night restaurant near or on 2nd Ave would be fantastic. We may be getting one soon, which I hope to report in the coming weeks!

      The old fa�ade is great–the 1960s redo is a very interesting period interpretation of the old version, especially the font changes. But yes the old one is the more compelling.

  5. bhamarchitect–I went back to try and find your post about the downtown yogurt shop project you guys are working on and could only find a teaser. I can’t remember if the Paramount project was announced in the newspaper and your blog or just the paper. Curious to know the project’s status if there is new info. you can share.

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