New Gastropub - Birmingham
Apparently, a new gastropub just opened in Mountain Brook Village. Sounds pretty good--the chef has worked at Bottega Cafe among other places. See the link below for details.
Heh. Just opened 90 min ago, so I'm guessing no one's been yet.
Looks like a great concept. Good luck to them in that risky location.
Don't wait. Get down to Ollie Irene as soon as you can. Dinner last night was simply fantastic. And Zak, the drinks manager, has come up with a nice list of real cocktails, many with housemade syrups, bitters and other mixers.
Order anything with the "surryano" ham, especially the ham plate. This is an air-dried ham -- like proscuito or serano -- but made in Surry, Virginia and smoked before it is air-cured for 400 days. The process produces deep, rich, long-lasting flavors. The thin slices of ham are served with melon balls dressed with basil and a mild vinaigrette, which go very nicely with the ham. Look for the ham also in the Pub Breakfast.
So many items are made in-house -- pickled cherry tomatoes, picked vegetables for drinks, fresh cheese, breads. Here's an example: The Ollie Burger is a grind of brisket and shoulder, cooked perfectly to order (mine was the medium-rare I sought; they recommend medium to medium-rare). It's juicy and served with a blue-cheese compound butter, and the house-made bun soaks up all those juices without falling apart. Adding to this umami bomb are caramelized onion and heriloom tomato.
Prices are decent: small plates, salad (peach salad!!!), soup (chilled cucumber with allepo pepper) and a gnocchi dish all are $10 and under. Entrees, limited but interesting, are priced in the teens or less, although the fish of the day (triggerfish) was $21.
They've got about a half-dozen each of bottled and draft beers (many locally sourced, like much of the food). It also features a decent selection of wines, plus the aforementioned cocktails.
It's a comfortable atmosphere for dining (half of Mountain Brook, it seemed, showed up last night for an early seating), and the bar is a great place to eat.
Open Tuesday - Saturday (drinks and limited menu at 4; full menu at 5) in the Mountain Brook Village near Western, where Browdy's and a short-lived pizza place once were located. Closes around 10.
2713 Culver Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223
re: Big Daddy
I had dinner there tonight with the roommate (former chef and baker) and her husband.
We started off with drinks, a dark and stormy, and one of their special drinks listed on the specials board. We sampled some of the appetizers: the ham plate, cheese and crackers, and boudin balls.
BD, you were so on the money about the ham. It's a must try! The cheese and crackers and boudin balls were likewise delicious, but the ham plate with the marinated melon balls was the talk of the appetizers we selected.
For our entree we tried the Ollie burger, the pork shoulder, and the flatop chicken. You can tell they take the time to select the best ingredients and prepare them in a way that brings out the best of the product.
And, somehow we managed desserts - I had the rice pudding, my roommates had the lemon and blueberry tart and the peach tart as well.
By time we were finished with dinner, we were all sufficiently satisfied with the meal.
We'll be going back there (hopefully next weekend!) and often!
Roomate's hubby, my hubby, and I went back to Ollie Irene's last night. The place was standing room only. We had a short wait (about 15 minutes), but were offered a temporary seat at the bar, which the men in my party declined. The staff were very friendly, and remembered we had just been there last Saturday.
When we were seated, we placed orders for three drinks: dark and stormy for my hubby, the pickled cherry lime Rickey for the roomate's hubby, and the brookdweller for me. We also sent in our orders for a meal of appetizers: boudin balls, the ham plate, and the crab claws.
The boudin balls and ham plate we had enjoyed on our last visit. The crab claws were a new venture. They are a marinated neat stack of tender, delicious crab claws with silverqueen corn salad. Pretty good, but we all decided the ham plate and boudin balls were the stars of the appetizer round.
For dinner the hubby went with the Ollie burger. The ground shoulder/brisket patty was much larger than the one on my burger over the weekend. The husband fell in love with the duck fat treated pub fries, and the flavorful burger.
I opted for the catfish. The catfish was raised from a lowly bottom dweller to the sublime. Two perfectly cooked fillets nestled among chopped bits of tender cajun ham and corn and green onions, with lemon butter sauce. Heaven!
The third member of our party revisited the flat-top chicken. He said it's a thing of beauty, and could not get the tender chicken out of his mind since our last visit. My husband sampled the chicken and declared it to be the best chicken he's ever had. (And I don't mind that their chicken even knocks my own chicken creations off the top spot, it's that good!)
They've added a bowl of cherries with mascarpone to their dessert menu. Don't let the simplicity fool you. Long stemmed fresh cherries surround a cloud of vanilla mascarpone.
The hubby tried out the lemon tart, and savored every bite. Normally he's not much for blueberries, but after one bite, he was sold on the tart.
I had the caramel/flan with a cup of their house coffee. What a way to end a fine meal!
If you have not yet made the trip over to Mountain Brook, do so today! They are located in the Western grocery store shopping center, sandwiched in between the Rite Aide and Smith's Variety.
The staff is very friendly, the atmosphere is homey, very comfortable. They've been open four weeks now, and from both visits, they appear to run like a well oiled machine. Things may be different back in the kitchen, but the customer's experience a flawlessly prepared meal.
We must have just missed each other, because I was in yesterday evening as well. Went for the pork -- ham plate and slow-cooked pork (duroc shoulder, slow-braised, then crisped). The latter was so rich, it reminded me of pork belly. They cook the field peas in a pork broth, adding to the depth of the dish.
The "caramel flan" is actually a creme caramel (as I found out recently when I made the same comparison). No eggs, just cream. And it is oh so good.
Here's the review in today's City Scene:
re: Big Daddy
Drat, we'll have to coordinate our dinner's there next time. Would be good to see you and the family again! (As well as seeing Curej and wife, and the rest of the B'ham gang again.)
The slow cooked pork is melt in your mouth goodness. But, I was wanting to try something diferent, so went with the catfish.
I was going to try their fresh catch of the day, shrimp, but the catfish won me over.
The surrayano ham has become somewhat of an obsession, and the dish I order most frequently.
But each trip to Ollie Irene also reveals something new and tantalyzing. It can be something as simple as the cheese and cracker plate -- not just due to the homemade cracker and that wonderfully rich and creamy Stone Hollow goat cheese. It's also the clove/anise flavor in the marinated grapes or the briny crunch of the pickled okra that accompanied them. Chef Chris could do a whole cookbook on pickling.
But Ollie Irene continues to deliver with dishes like the experiment Chris shared with some customers Friday night -- pig extraodinaire. He brined a couple of hog's heads for a few days, then simmered it in a broth that included star anise (giving a slightly five-spice flavor to it). After picking the meat and other tasty bits, he rolled it up, sliced it into puck-sized cakes and pan-fried them. Crispy outside with the most unbelievably intense porky flavor that lingered so long. Anyone who has had any of the head-meat tacos at Gordo's or the Guzman truck knows that depth of flavor. It's not quite a menu item, but Chris hopes something like this will catch on, so ask about it if you go soon.
I'm surprised there's not more buzz and chatter about this place on Chowhound. This place is right up our alley.
re: Big Daddy
We went last Friday (09/16) for a friend's birthday. As a special treat, Chris brought out two plates of the house made "hog head cheese" as he called it.
BD, you are right, it's the most unbelieveable porky goodness I've ever tried.
We also tried another off menu item- the house made "Kit-Kat" bar, with a shot of milk. One bite, and I'll never buy the candy bar you get in the store. Good quality chocolate, crispy crunchy layer, decadent goodness.
Zak, the bartender, was given the challenge of delivering drinks to our birthday boy. The first was the Bankdweller, then they went off menu for a peach/mint combination that was as refreshing as it was eye catching with the fresh peach fuzz covered slices adorning the rim, and a nice long sprig of mint. That was followed by an eye opening playful anise/orange drink.
Like BD above, the ham plate is a must have for each and every trip, as are the house made boudin balls. We had three ham plates and two plates of boudin balls to pass around the table.
For our main, we had the flat-top chicken, slow roasted pork shoulder, catfish, and the breakfast plate.
The breakfast plate was the one dish we had not tried before. The baked egg, the crispy ham, pub fries, and tart salad were a perfect taste combination but the quantities left that diner looking for more.
Of course we all opted for desserts, and spent time passing spoons around for tasting the selection for our two friends who were new initates of Olie Irene's. They were so impressed with the place, they have plans of returning and bringing another couple with them to introduce them to the place. If I play my cards right I just might get the hubby to agree that we need to accept the invite to join them on Friday.
That is typical Jannae, of every trip I've made there, and Ollie Irene has become a minor obsession (my wife would say it's a major one). I love the quality of what they serve and the creativity of preparation. And I always have been impressed by the extent to which everyone who works there has bought into this new thing that Chris and Anna are doing. Folks, this is a jewel in Birmingham's dining crown. Check it out.
Just went for the first time last night. I have to say it is wonderful. The atmosphere is a little noisy but that doesn't take away from the delicious flavor of the food! I got the chicken and it was outstanding. I usually season up my food with salt but nothing I had needed it. It had a perfect blend of herbs and seasonings. We also had the cheese and crackers (homemade crackers) which was good and those little things that look like grapes are muscadines (yum!). My fiancee got the pub breakfast and it was heaven. When you get the bill, you are served with fresh swishy lemon drops. All desserts look hard to choose from but I was too full to eat it this time. Look forward to my next trip there and am glad they have opened up. Please go by and try. You won't be disappointed. Anna, Jeremy & Chris: hats off to you guys!
Tried Ollie Irene's last night. Mixed experience, but mostly great. We arrived around 5:30 or so and sat in the front near the window. My back was to the bar, so I can't comment on that "scene". The restaurant was pretty empty at first, but filled up fast. Eventually, there were several groups seated around us. The chef (I think) spent much of the time we were there talking to one of the larger groups. Nice to see that kind of attention. The wait staff was very attentive and helpful.
We saw at least two different gentlemen apparently bringing in their own wine, so I guess that's an option. I had a glass of a local brew (Good People, their pale ale) that was awesome, with a thick creamy delicious head and nice body. My wife had a glass of Riesling that was nice, too.
We tried the chicken liver pate and boudin balls for appetizers. The pate was awesome, dense but smooth, buttery, and delicately flavored. The boudin balls, on the other hand, were disappointing. They were thinly breaded and crisply deep-fried and served on coarse mustard. Regrettably, they were very bland/tasteless. I wouldn't get them again.
My wife got ordered the flat top chicken for dinner, while I opted for ricotta gnocchi with sweet potatoes, Virginia ham, pumpkin seeds, fried sage and brown butter. The chicken, as everyone has noted, was killer. The flat top-fried skin imparts a "fried chicken" taste to the meat that is, well, awesome. Very nicely done. This was served with cherry tomatoes that were perfectly cooked (?skinned, stewed, but intact) and delivered an unusually rich, delicious burst of tomato flavor in the mouth. There was also a tasty serving of cut silver queen corn that was delicious. The gnocchi was very good too. I really liked the sweet potatoes and the crispy-fried ham "flakes" in the dish. A really nice blend of flavors and textures.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate pie. It comes with a very nicely done meringue (actually my favorite part of the dessert). The filling was relatively light (not as dense as some chocolate pies I've moaned over) and was set in a tart shell (forgive me if I've described this incorrectly). This pie was good but not really memorable. My wife was disappointed with the cookies. Can't say a lot more about that.
All in all, the place is a VERY nice addition to the Bham dining scene. We'll definitely be going back again. Their were a lot of other very tasty-sounding items on the menu.
It was great to see you and your wife at Ollie Irene's last night Curej. It was a mini-Chowhound reunion when BD arrived.
There are a few new items on the menu. I had the snapper with leeks, parsnips, mussles, and this sauce that was quite nice. Also, I tried their new shrimp bisque. I could have supped on that and their bread alone last night and been satisfied.
My table tried several of the new items including the snapper, shrimp bisque, shrimp salad, roasted garlic and cauliflower, the sauteed rapini, the newly revised flat-top chicken with rapini instead of the corn Curej had above, and the sweet potato and gnocchi.
The shrimp salad, an Asian influence salad, was good overall, but had a bit more of a bite than our diner was looking for last night.
The takeout I ordered for my husband was pretty good, even after it waited for him to eat some three hours later. The cooling in the fridge did not seem to mar the crispiness of the skin on the chicken, and it was as good reheated as he has had on site. That speaks well for the portability of their food, I think.
Drinks were spot on again last night. We tried their new punch, and think it would be super as a hot drink as well.
Can't wait to go back in a couple of weeks!
@Jannae: My wife also got a bite of something unexpectedly hot in her Thai salad. Funny. We figured it was a cayenne pepper. I would have probably expected a little heat in a Thai shrimp salad....
I had the snapper on Saturday night...it was ok, not great, a kind of bland experience working there with the snapper and vegetables. I had the burger on Friday night, and agree with BD that it's dee-lish. Only complaint is that the roll is a little too firm and the burger contents were constantly being forced out the sides when I bit in. That's one of the things I like so much about Chez Fon Fon's burger...nice soft delicious burger-girding roll. Maybe I should take smaller bites.
My wife loved the "build your own crostini" (Saturday). We tried the ham plate on Friday and (apparently heresy) weren't wowed by it. I guess I envisioned a drier-smoked ham version of this dish. I wish OI would work on a local cheese plate. There a are a ton of excellent regional cheeses, and not just goat (Wright Dairy/Yellow Moon, for example).
I'm a pate nut. I've had their pate appetizer all three visits (why mess with a good thing) and it's great. I actually had to stop at Whole Foods and pick up some pate (truffle mousse) after dinner on Saturday. It wasn't even close to Ollie Irene's, but a lot of that had to do with the difference between a "mousse" and the wonderful very dense buttery texture of OI's pate.
We've tried the peach tatin and the creme caramel desserts since our first visit. Both were very good. So far, though, I've not been blown away by their desserts.
So far my faves: The burger, the flat top chicken and the pate. Others disagree with my take on the boudin balls (which I found really bland), so I think I'll have to give them another try. Maybe next time....
Yeah, we missed you Saturday night, Dax. I really do think you'd like it.
Another recommendation to add to Jannae's: the tomato-braised rattlesnake beans, which has huge flavors for a vegetarian item. Be prepared for strings, though.
The slow-cooked pork shoulder also has been reviswed for fall, celeraic puree instead of field peas.
Yessiree, we like it, Dax. But we're gonna give it a rest for a week or so. Getting acid reflux from all of the pate I've been eating ;)
I forgot to mention that we'd had the slow cooked pork....My wife had that on Friday night. It was quite good, pressed into a cube, which was kind of funky. I think I'd miss the field peas if I got it now that the menu had changed. Not a huge fan of the celery puree. Truth be told, while I eat it, I'm not a huge fan of celery.