The prestigious award of “Yard of the Month” is usually reserved for a gorgeous landscape belonging to the resident of a neighborhood. This “Yard of the Month,” however goes to a new favorite restaurant in the “Magic City” of Birmingham, AL.
The Yard of the Month
007 and I had the pleasure of attending Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival this past weekend, and stumbled upon a place that is already near and dear to my heart.
They opened in July of this year. There is so much history and nostalgia in this place, that I’m sure all Birminghamians will start planning their next family reunion at this historical landmark. THE YARD at the new Elyton Hotel is without a doubt the newest happening place in town.
The restaurant gets its name from the many coal yards and steel yards of our city’s history, but it reminds me of my own childhood. How many times have you heard your momma say, “Go on out in the yard and play” ? Or, “The yard needs cutting”? Or from my particular childhood, “Go out in the yard and cut me a switch!”
Backyards and Frontyards
Fortunately, from the minute we walked into THE YARD, there were no thoughts of switches or mowing. Instead, I thought of backyards and frontyards with gardens of every kind. Vegetable gardens, flower, rock, fairy and herb gardens. Memories of neighbors propped on fence posts talking about family and the hard work of the day. I thought of brick yards, shipyards and railway yards, all places with production and activity buzzing from all corners.
Heaviest Corner of the Earth
Speaking of corners, we had a lovely conversation with Grayson Davis, (the manager at THE YARD.) She reminded me that the Elyton Hotel sits on the “Heaviest Corner on the Earth.”
The Elyton Hotel by Marriott is part of a $45 million dollar renovation to the Empire Building on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street. This corner also houses the Brown-Marx Building, the Woodward and the American Trust and Savings Building. When they were built in the early 1900’s, they were the tallest in the South and that’s where the corner got its name.
While the corner may be deemed “heavy,” the atmosphere and decor within THE YARD are definitely not. From the original exposed brick to the 40’s style photography, the feel of this nostalgic place is modern and comfortable.
One single rose adorns each table, the dishes are stoneware and the tabletops in the bar are made from an elevator shaft in the original Empire Building. Chandeliers adorn tin ceilings and are made of iron in honor of Birmingham’s iron ore resources.
Another great Birmingham resource is the executive chef of this fine establishment. He is none other than Haller Magee. His resume includes Satterfield’s of Birmingham, a degree from The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, and awards as one of America’s Best Chefs. He also worked with a friend of his way down south in a favorite Fairhope restaurant for a while. Our favorite restaurant in our hometown is Camellia Cafe, where he helped with a few renovations and menu updates recently.
Haller is bringing fresh, southern ingredients to THE YARD in new progressive recipes. For instance, I had the lunch portion of his delicious slow-brined beef ribs with mac-n-cheese and collard greens. The mac-n-cheese is made to order. Yes, you read that right! They don’t mix your favorite southern comfort food until you order it. If I’m not mistaken, the macaroni was actually tortellini and it’s made with sharp cheddar cheese. The garnish of scallions add a touch of green and just the right amount of onion to the dish. Best in town, hands down!
007 (as I affectionately call my hubby with the same initials as James Bond) had the cider glazed pork chop with baby carrots and ginger along with collard greens. As we say here in the south, “It was so good he wanted to slap my mamma!” (He would never slap his own). Sorry Mom!
They of course, have a full bar and an absolutely gorgeous wine cellar, but let me tell you about my favorite drink. They bring you a glass of freshly brewed, unsweetened iced tea with the cutest little crock of simple syrup. I made myself the perfect glass of sweet tea with pure cane sugar!
Here’s a little hint for you guys at THE YARD – I would purchase this little jewel, if it were for sale.
The hospitality was even sweeter. We were served by a dawlin’ with the name Randilynn – not another one on the planet that I know of. Until this post. Now there’ll be little Randilynn’s all over the south. She was perfect. Friendly, attentive, interested and quick. Haller came out of the kitchen to make sure our meal was just as we like it. We talked about the little town of Fairhope, local chefs and a little magic-city history. And then there was Grayson. She already comes from a great family, (Bankhead) but, the word adoption keeps floating through my mind. Let’s just say she made us feel like part of the family.
Now before you stahrt the caahr, let me add one more tidbit. They don’t have a true “yawrrd” as we’d say down here, but something much bettah. Take an elevator ride past 16 floors of gorgeous hotel rooms and suites and step out onto the rooftop bar. It is appropriately named, “Moon Shine”. Not that there was evah any moonshine in the state of Alabama, mind you. I’m sure the name is really all about the moon illuminating the magic city.
So, no… This “Yard of the Month” is not a corner lot in a suburban neighborhood. It’s The Yard with a view, The Yard where all the neighbors want to hang out, and where they’ll get the freshest southern viddles in town. When you go, tell them Heart for Dixie sent you, and ask Grayson to share her favorite southernism with you.
“Join me in the baar, won’t ya dawlin’?”