The floors are finished and the interior is stripped down to the bones, which means Birmingham’s forthcoming casual restaurant and bar Hazel, Ravines and Downtown is well on its way to completing renovations. Owners Beth Hussey and chef Emmele Herrold tell Eater that if all goes well the restaurant is on track to open this fall.
Herrold and Hussey — the duo that largely shaped Kramer Restaurant Group’s most influential restaurants One-Eyed Betty’s and Pop’s For Italian — confirmed that they were striking out on their own with a new partnership in May. Their first solo restaurant project is filling the massive 10,000-square-foot space off Peabody and Woodward Avenue.
Hussey tells Eater that while the street level restaurant lease anchoring several floors of offices and high-end apartments always had huge potential, for prior tenants — first Zazio’s Italian Restaurant & Bar and then the Stand Gastro Bistro — the property never quite achieved its full potential. The biggest challenges for HRD will be designing a space that’s more functional and appealing with better street visibility.
Hussey and Herrold have tapped Ron Rea of Ron and Roman architects to lead the roughly $1 million remodel of suite 100 at 34977 Woodward Ave. Plans for the layout include reinventing the long, hallway entrance and creating flexible events spaces. Hussey and Herrold are also investing significantly in improving the curbside visibility of the restaurant and even went as far as acquiring a variance for the city for a 22-foot high weathervane featuring HRD’s logo. “It’ll have a big impact right on the corner of Maple and Woodward,” Hussey says.
“We think one of the most challenging aspects of the businesses before us was this entrance that they had to deal with, because it’s a Woodward address but the entrance is on Peabody and the way it worked it you felt like you’re walking into a bank lobby of some sort,” Hussey recalls. With the new layout, the original doors that were flush with the facade of the building will be pushed back to create a “grotto” with tile floors and walls illuminated with graphic lighting that will cast a glow across the sidewalk.
Past the grotto, customers will enter into a retail space featuring a grab-and-go cooler with options like nuts, potato chips, and candy, as well as coffee and grab-and-go salads and sandwiches. HRD will also have a liquor license that allows for retail sales of beer and wine. The space will also feature a walk-up window serving simple lunch items such as a French taco — a French sandwich that’s filled with options like vegetables, beef, or chicken and then wrapped in a tortilla and grilled like a panini. The sandwich notably has very little to do with actual Mexican tacos and has become a popular fast food item in Morocco. Hussey and Herrold envision the mini mart opening early around 7 a.m. for the rush of workers walking past the HRD storefront. The restaurant will then open
The Dining Room
Between Zazio’s and the Stand, the space has undergone approximately $11 million in renovations over the years, says Hussey. “With all these beautiful finishes and fixtures and it just seems a shame to let them go to waste,” she says. She and Herrold plan on preserving some of those elements such as the solid oak wood paneling in the new design, while giving the space an updated aesthetic. The main dining room seats 120 people and will feature views of the luxurious kitchen — preserved from the days of the Stand — as well as a raw oyster display and a horseshoe bar with a steel “floating” liquor display.
The Private Dining Space
In order to make the space feel more intimate and also offer more options for private dining, large Roman shades are being added to the restaurant. That will allow HRD to create up to three casual, rentable spaces for customers with the option of a private bar area. Additionally, the Stand’s former enclosed private dining space is receiving a refresh with updated audio visual equipment for meetings.
Herrold and Hussey are taking it as a good luck charm that HRD is the third business to come into the building and the chef has incorporated that somewhat coincidentally into the menu, which is broken up into three different styles of food. Under a column titled “Hazel” patrons will find Herrold’s take on familiar dishes like green bean casserole and grilled cheese sandwiches, while under “Ravines” the restaurant will feature more internationally-inspired dishes like khachapuri (Georgian cheese-filled bread with egg), a British fish sandwich, and Peruvian chicken. Below “Downtown,” Herrold plans to explore trendier dishes and ingredients such as bone broth (served at HRD with roasted bone marrow).
HRD is aiming to open by October. Stay tuned for updates as the project moves forward.