Tag Archives: Urban Standard

Catfish + politics

HRC 2nd Row.jpg

Do we have time for shrimp and grits?

Spotted a bit earlier today on Second Avenue North were Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) and Mayor William Bell of Birmingham. They flank Denise Peterson, owner of Yo’ Mama’s restaurant in the 2nd Row development (Second Avenue North between 23rd and 24th Streets). We’re thrilled Clinton stopped downtown to mingle with a local small business owner; as the frenetic few days before Super Tuesday’s primaries unfold, we hope other candidates stop downtown on their way to their events (Clinton was headed to Miles College for a rally).

And regardless of your personal politics, it’s easy to agree on the deliciousness of Yo’ Mama’s cooking. Try it out if you haven’t already!

UPDATE: We didn’t realize Clinton also stopped into Urban Standard (below she seems to charm a barista before downing an expresso). We’re proud that on her surprise visit to downtown our own project, 2nd Row, was her destination!

US Clinton

[thanks to Terri Sewell for the  Yo’ Mama’s pic and Clare Huddleston/WBRC for the Urban Standard pic]

Building blocks

How long will YOU walk for that cup of coffee

Over at Fast Company’s Co.Design is an interesting dialog about how important it is for cities to figure out what their fundamental goals are. While this sounds basic, governments, planning agencies, and citizens can get too wrapped up in individual difficult issues; without having big-picture guideposts, solutions to these issues can be disconnected or even harmful. The article is a discussion between a city planner in Gainesville, FL and an urban designer from Perkins + Will, the global design firm.

Same reality, different perception

One of the topics discussed–and one mentioned on this blog previously–is the importance of perception in the urban environment. Above is a diagram of a portion of Manhattan from the article, making the point that if you’re standing at Lexington and 32nd, and a friend calls to say “meet me for coffee at Lex and 42nd”, you’d start walking the short 10 blocks without hesitation. If that same friend says “meet me at 6th and 32nd”, despite the fact it’s exactly the same distance, you’ll brace yourself for a less amusing crosstown schlep. Why? Short blocks with more intersections to cross mean more diversity and visual interest; long blocks with fewer intersections mean less diversity and more visual monotony.

The same could be said for blocks containing empty storefronts, parking lots, few awnings or projecting signage: it becomes a chore to walk. It becomes a delight to walk when you’re visually stimulated on a regular basis along the route. You think less about the distance, and more about the pleasure of being in the street. Food for thought as you think about your next cup of coffee.

[thanks to Co.Design for the diagram]

In the mix x 2


We were able to sample the soft opening selections at Mix this week (a new bakery-cafe-bar that opened on the corner 0f 19th Street and 4th Avenue North). Besides a good variety of pastries, muffins, and donuts, the fresh bread stood out in a city where artisanal fresh bread is often hard to find. A baker was bringing out a fresh batch once we’d finished lunch; loaf sales have been brisk.

Getting fresh

The interior has been lightened and feels much less formal than the old restaurant. Wonderful art by local artist Amy Pleasant adorns the walls (with more to come). Chef/Owner Chris Dupont spoke with us about his plans, which include an evening bar menu, movie and poetry nights, and lots more bread. It’s an ambitious effort to overcome a tricky location, and to introduce a quirky, hip vibe into a somewhat unquirky, unhip building.  Perhaps if someone can do it, it’s Chris, who helped pioneer a new attitude about downtown dining at his Cafe Dupont a few blocks away.

Two facts make us optimistic: a large awning with the Mix logo has been approved to cover the sidewalk patio area, and a 1960’s New Wave film was projected on the wall when we dined. You can’t help but feel good about large outdoor seating areas and New Wave films. By the way, the food was delicious.

Grilled not boiled

To round out our foodie lunch week, we stumbled into the Peace Dog stand today at the corner of 6th Avenue and 20th street North downtown. This is not your normal Birmingham hotdog stand–I felt transported to Austin. Hebrew National and veggie dogs, grilled to order, local small-batch mustards and relishes, Urban Standard provisions—all in a neat, compact, pedestrian-friendly package on the corner. You can find the stand there most Mondays, but for other days of the week follow their tweets to find out when they’ll be where (they also go to the Summit Shopping Center some days): @peacedogbham

We need more street vendors and taco trucks!

A publican, a grocer, and a chef

A high gravity pour coming soon

The Central City Neighborhood Association approved lots of Liquor Licenses today (all approvals are contingent on final approval of both the Public Safety Committee and the City Council).

First off was Pale Eddie’s Pour House, to be located in the former Shift Work space directly east of What’s on 2nd (Second Avenue North between 23rd and 24th streets).  The neighborhood decided to adopt a new procedure, asking this bar (and all future applicants) to sign a “Good Neighbor Agreement” chiefly to prevent violations of the City Noise Ordinance. This has become a problem with the Rogue Tavern, as well as some other bars downtown. The owners seemed eager to do what it takes to satisfy those residents who may appreciate a toddy at 9 PM, but not necessarily a loud band amplified into their bedroom at 1 AM. A large selection of gourmet and high gravity beers will be available, a patio will be out back, and they hope to be open by August.

Walking across the street for a bottle of milk

Next up: Mamanoes, a new grocery and convenience store opening in the former Gypsy Market space. Antonio Boyd, the owner, has signed a lease and expects to be open by mid-June. He will sell Mr. P’s meats and deli sandwiches, a full selection of wines and beers, grocery staples, and ice cream. The neighbors seems especially appreciative of the ice cream. Boyd has experience at Whole Foods in Rockville, MD and we are all eager to see the paper come off the storefront to reveal an essential neighborhood service.

I was surprised at some disapproval voiced in the room regarding the grocer’s plan to sell single beers. Neighbors stated that such a policy encouraged homeless, recovering alcoholics, and other unfortunates to patronize a store–thereby annoying other customers. Others, however, stressed that it’s customary for gourmet beers to often be “split” from their six-packs and sold individually, for much higher prices than Colt 45, I would guess. So, in the end, Boyd will sell single beers at his discretion (there is no law saying he can’t, by the way).

About to open for dinner

Finally, the neighborhood gave the nod to favorite local coffee shop Urban Standard, which plans to start serving a new dinner menu–with beer and wine–in the near future. I’m sure that I’m not alone wondering what culinary treats Chef Meloy has in store.

A new pub, a new grocery, and dinner next door. I’ll drink to that.