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Here’s what to know about Nighthawk: AM, Unplugged, Bayleaf Authentic Indian Cuisine and Domestique Panache—all set to open in spring/summer 2019 in Orchestra Partners’ highly anticipated redevelopment of Five Points Lane in Birmingham.
“We look for cities with an established cuisine culture but still pockets to fill, and a young population that’s looking to go out and eat and drink. We always like university towns. A university culture begets a good social culture.”
That quote’s from Henry Costa during his recent visit to Birmingham from Los Angeles, explaining why he and business partner Jeremy Fall are expanding here. With those parameters, it’s easy to understand why the Magic City, with UAB and a bevy of James Beard Award winners and semifinalists, would attract their attention.
Then there’s the personal connection. Costa is a longtime friend of Austin Renfroe, brother of Hunter Renfroe. (Hunter is a principal at Orchestra Partners, which launched The Woolworth in historic Five Points South this summer.) Austin has been telling Costa about Birmingham’s revival for a while and introduced him to Orchestra Partners.
But when it came to the final decision, Costa had to come to Birmingham to see it for himself.
“I came to Birmingham and fell in love with what’s happening here,” Costa said. “There’s really good people here. The last time I came on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it amazed me how crowded some of the restaurants and bars were. We don’t get that as much in L.A. People really only go out Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”
Birmingham’s weeklong night life reminds Costa of the energy he experienced in New York, when he worked on Wall Street for nine years after graduating from Georgetown University in D.C.
Nighthawk: AM is a fast casual, breakfast-all-day concept with a nostalgic nod to the counter-service milk bars of the 1950s. The first opened in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, near DePaul University. The second opened in the Beverly Center, a recently renovated mall in L.A. There, the fast casual concept draws mall employees and Cedars-Sinai hospital employees who are looking for something fast, good and cheap.
When Nighthawk: AM opens in Five Points Lane in 2019, it will satisfy Southside’s craving for three square breakfasts a day, morning, lunch and bar o’clock. Come midnight, it’ll be there to serve “those who’ve had a few too many drinks and are looking for something on their way home,” Costa said.
Those who’ve got a need for caffeine and a bit of a sweet tooth will be able to grab a coffee topped with cereal milk whipped cream.
Nighthawk: AM is a sister restaurant to Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar in Venice Beach, California, which was Costa and Fall’s first restaurant project together. (The AM concept doesn’t serve alcohol; the Breakfast Bar concept does.) Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar quickly gained fans and media praise, and brought the Food Network calling.
Operating as the J. Fall Group, Costa and Fall have also opened Paperboy Pizza, an East Coast-style pizza joint in Santa Monica, California, as well as Easy’s Diner, which shares a kitchen with Nighthawk: AM at the Beverly Center.
Nighthawk: AM is not all the J. Fall Group has in store for Five Points Lane. The courtyard space out back is slated for a new bar concept that Costa and Fall have been thinking about for a while. Fans of ’90s grunge rock and the golden age of MTV, hold on to your flannel. Here comes Unplugged.
The concept is loosely inspired by the nostalgic connection we feel to the ’90s and a nod to the early days of MTV. Those of us who used to pop a VHS tape in our VCR to record “Unplugged” so we could watch it over and over again will get it. So will post grads who’ve discovered the awesomeness of ’90s alt rock.
“The bar itself will be a hybrid of existing historic building and shipping containers,” said John Boone, a principal at Orchestra Partners.
Unplugged will serve Alabama craft beer and cocktails made with local ingredients. The menu will be inspired by the ’90s, too. Think elevated renditions of Hot Pockets and Dunkaroos, as well as Gushers cocktails.
While the specifics are being hashed out, Costa said Unplugged’s interior design will feature local artists and artisans and infuse historical aspects of what Birmingham was like in the ’90s.
“The age group we’re targeting, which is right out of college into their early forties, spend their money on food, drink and experience more than anything else. It’s all experiential and that’s very important to us—restaurants and bars that provide not only really good food and really good drink but also a unique experience, something you can’t get somewhere else.”Costa
Unplugged will share the Nighthawk: AM kitchen, which will maximize bar space in the courtyard. At the times of day when both are open, patrons will be able to order from both menus at either establishment.
Bayleaf Authentic Indian Cuisine
What else do hungry university students and night-lifers fueling up for the evening crave? Really good Indian food. The third tenant opening in Five Points Lane is Bayleaf Authentic Indian Cuisine, a second location following the success of its first in Greystone off U.S. Highway 280.
“The tenant mix here was intentional. Bayleaf will fill a void left by the closure of Sitar down the street. Five Points South is already the most diverse business district in the state, and keeping a South Asian food presence here meant a lot to us.”John Boone, Orchestra Partners
Chef Kiran Chavan trained and studied in India, then worked at several U.S. Indian restaurants before he and his business partner opened Bayleaf’s 280 location, which ranks no. 1 on Yelp for Indian food in Birmingham metro.
At the new location, expect a larger menu than the original, with flavors from both north and south India, according to Boone. The owners recently traveled to India to see family and research. They will start construction soon.
Finally, rounding out the tenant lineup at Five Points Lane will be Domestique Panache, a coffee shop that features single origin coffee from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia—all grown on farms committed to fair labor and sustainability.
You’ll recognize the faces behind Domestique, a locally owned roaster that operates Satellite coffee bar inside Saturn in Avondale and also distributes to several restaurants and stores in town. Founders and brothers Nathan and Michael Pocus are Birmingham natives.
The roots of Domestique stretch back to 2013, when Nathan and Michael biked across the southern peninsula of Haiti to film a documentary.
Nathan Pocus (left). Michael Pocus (right). Photos via domestiquecoffee.com
“During that time, as we went from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel, we found a love for the island and the coffee.”Michael Pocus, co-founder, head coffee roaster, Domestique
Upon their return to Birmingham, Michael began working at Urban Standard downtown and became a coffee expert through an education program offered by Counter Culture Coffee. Michael also helped found The Woodlawn Cycle Café in 2016; today, the café carries Domestique’s nitro cold brew on tap.
Though the brothers run Domestique Satellite inside Saturn, Domestique Panache in Five Points Lane will be the first café that embodies their full vision.
Proximity to UAB is part of the reason Domestique Panache is a good fit for Five Points South, according to Michael. As a top medical school, UAB has a significant international population. Domestique Panache will be where they can come to get a cup of home, roasted here in Birmingham.
Domestique Panache will offer pour over coffee, batch brew and a variety of kegged products from nitro cold brew coffee to draft kombucha. You’ll also be able to pick up a quick bite, ranging from pastries to simple, pre-made sandwiches.
“We’re also looking to get our liquor license and have draft cocktails and beer,” Michael said.
Five Points Lane is located at 1024 20th St. S. It was the site of the former Base Camp.