Iron City is going through changes and introducing new flavors to the Iron City Grill menu, spearheaded by General Manager James Claborn and new Head Chef Ian Barker. Keep reading to find out what’s cooking at the Iron City Grill, and what new developments are on the horizon for the business as a whole.
Ian Barker, head chef at Iron City Grill, worked his way up from dishwasher to head chef.
Ian, who began cooking professionally at age 18, got an early start in the kitchen. He was only two when his mom found him at the stove attempting to cook her breakfast. It was then when she started to teach him the ins and outs of cooking.
“I started off in Huntsville, where I’m from, at a little Italian deli making sandwiches and washing dishes and worked my way up through the industry.”Ian Barker, Head Chef at Iron City Grill
He eventually made it to Birmingham where he opened the Seasons 52 in the Summit, became the sous-chef at Ocean and helped with the transition and designing of the 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar. From there, he took a corporate executive chef position and hated it. After a two year break and some freelancing, he was ready to get back to work.
Transforming taste buds
Barker has only been at Iron City Grill since December, but he’s already given the menu an identity—something it never had before.
“When I took over the kitchen there were a lot of dishes that didn’t really have any cohesion… so I’m changing the menu to be a southern-style grill with a little bit of international influence.”
In most of his dishes, you’ll find nods to traditional southern-style cuisine.
For example, instead of your traditional Mediterranean hummus, they have a sweet potato hummus.
They have a cottage pie, traditionally an English dish, and they are using Southern braised short rib.
“For Creole, we’re doing Fried Green Tomatoes stuffed with pimento cheese smothered with crawfish etouffee—you really don’t get more Southern than that.”
Other new dishes include a Southern take on the Italian caprese salad with baked mozzarella and roasted green tomatoes and BBQ chicken tacos with a cranberry maple barbecue sauce.
Why be good when you can be unforgettable?
“I don’t want to have anything that anybody else has…We have to set ourselves apart—we have to be different. Good restaurants are closing in Birmingham every single day and if we’re not great, we’re not going to survive…Why be good when you can be unforgettable?”
His favorite dish?
“I’ve gotta say it’s the cottage pie—with slow braised short rib, house-made demi-glace into a gravy, roasted carrots, peas, mashed potatoes and cheddar baked over-the-top. My mom used to make shepherd’s pie when I was a kid, and I hated it. Now, that’s kind of like a taste of home for me.”
Barker wants his cooking style to be approachable, but also evoke emotion from his guests.
“I like when you take a bite out of something and you have an emotional response… Food should tell a story. It should progress. It should be the development of flavor… that’s how you make food that is unforgettable.”
The Iron City updates don’t end with the food—things are changing from the inside out.
James Claborn, the new GM at Iron City, brings a lot of restaurant experience to Iron City Grill. His Birmingham restaurant roots include 14 years at Frank Stitt’s family of restaurants, and three restaurants of his own; the late, great City Hall Diner in Vestavia Hills and two locations of Big Bad Breakfast.
“We want Iron City Grill to be a destination, not just on concert nights, but every day.”James Claborn, Iron City General Manager
Claborn really emphasized wanting to serve the UAB community and all of downtown for lunch, which their new menu really appeals to.
“Our new Chef Ian Barker has put some unique twists on classic sandwiches and entrees, and Ashley Thompson makes extraordinary desserts, in-house, every single day.”
Not only is the food delicious—trust me, I’ve tried it—but the staff is all smiles.
“Simply put, our food is excellent and our dining room manager Tyler Smith runs the friendliest wait staff around.”
So what makes Iron City Grill special?
“I’m invested because this place has been built by our owner, Steve Demedicis, as a love song to the city of Birmingham. He’s fully invested in Birmingham, and it’s easy to follow his lead.”
Don’t miss out on all the exciting things happening at Iron City and the Grill. They have weekly events at the Grill called ‘Sound Sessions’, where local bands perform for those dining in. Here’s what’s happening at Iron City from March 1-March 15:
- Fri 3/08 – Walker Hayes
- Sun 3/10 – Big Head Todd And The Monsters
- Tue 3/12 – Travis Greene See the Light Tour
- Thurs. 3/21 – Switchfoot The Native Tongue Tour
- Tues. 3/26 – Buckethead
Have you tried the new dishes at Iron City Grill? Planning to see a show? Tag us when you do on social @BhamNow!