The boom continues for Avondale as Tropicaleo opens for business. Nestled at the end of the 4400 block of Fourth Ave. S. sits Tropicaleo – a Puerto Rican-inspired restaurant that offers a fast and casual dining experience.
The name Tropicaleo may ring a bell for some locals around Birmingham who keep up with the ever-growing culinary scene. The concept of Tropicaleo was created by Isabel Marrero and her husband, marketing consultant and environmental engineer, Gabriel Marrero. After moving to Birmingham from Puerto Rico in April 2015, they fell in love with the city’s vibrant culinary scene. But the Marreros, who describe themselves as “foodies”, felt Birmingham was missing one particular thing – a Puerto Rican and Caribbean style place to dine. This is when Isabel and Gabriel decided to bring something truly original to Birmingham – Tropicaleo.
First starting out as a permanent pop-up restaurant at Crestwood Tavern, Isabel and Gabriel were able to bring the Tropicaleo experience to Birmingham. Having the chance to get to know the locals and their taste palates was important to the couple, as it helped them to better create their menu for their setup in Avondale.
How did the family decide on Avondale?
They were already drawn to Birmingham, saying they felt a real sense of community. Though Avondale was almost abandoned when they first discovered the future home for Tropicaleo, it didn’t dissuade them. Instead, it inspired them.
But Tropicaleo definitely offers something unique to the area. The restaurant exudes a Puerto Rico vibe with pastel colors, tropical accents, and laid-back island ambiance. Seating can be found indoors and on the outside terrace. There is also a take-out window for pickup orders.
As for Tropicaleo’s menu, all dishes are made with fresh, local ingredients. What’s especially worth noting is that there is a variety of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, and nut-free items available.
Favored dishes include the jibaritos, which is made with twice-fried plantains and monfongo, an Afro-Puerto Rican dish made from plantains that are fried then mashed and mixed with meat.
Instead of selling commercial beverages, Isabel and Gabriel decided to sell local drinks instead, like Wabi Tea and Wholesome Soda – both of which are made in Homewood. There is also a full bar and late-night menu.
Now that Tropicaleo finally has a permanent location in Avondale, how do the Marreros feel about it?
“We feel at home,” said Gabriel. “We live in East Avondale and have friends in Avondale and Crestwood that come and visit, it feels great. Our kids, who love having a place to call their own as much as we do, have a blast whenever their neighborhood and school friends come to visit.”
Since its grand opening on November 11 and 12, Gabriel said,
“Business has been great. We have more people coming in each day. And now that we have our full bar with beer, wine, and liquor options, and a late-night menu on weekends, we feel pretty confident that the business will keep picking up.”
4426 4th Ave S, Birmingham AL 35222
Hours: Monday-Thurdsay 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Price: Under $15