New concept: award-winning chef combines food truck + fine dining for a hybrid eatery

Refined ToGO
Does anyone else hear angels singing? Photo courtesy of Chef James Washington and taken by JS.Raines Photography

When we heard that Chef James Washington, trained by Frank Stitt, was opening a food truck-esque restaurant, we had to see what that entailed. What’s a food truck without wheels and what’s fine dining without linen tablecloths? The answer is Refined to go, it’s open now and we’re extremely pumped it calls Birmingham home.

Refined to go is serving up new concepts + dishes

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It’s like an adorable food truck without wheels. Photo courtesy of Chef James Washington and taken by JS.Raines Photography

The idea of Refined to go is in the name—5-star meals served on the fly. Like a food truck, all meals are served to-go at the window. While the meals may taste like a million bucks, Chef James plans for his food to be affordable and quality.

“I think what’s different about my restaurant is that we bring a food truck concept and merge it with fine dining. I love to say, ‘We give you a 5-star experience at an affordable price.'”

Chef James Washington

For now, Refined to go is only open on Sundays, but come September the team plans to go full-scale Wednesday-Sunday.

So yeah, about this food 😍

Refined ToGo
If you need to stare at this picture for a couple of minutes we understand. Photo courtesy of Chef James Washington and taken by JS.Raines Photography

Chef James says the Oxtails are a must-try, but like the concept of the restaurant, his food can’t be labeled. Turns out no labels are the way to go, because this menu has all of us ready for a second lunch.

“My menu speaks from my heart and soul, I don’t put labels on my cooking. I just cook what my mind and heart feel. The customers can taste the passion and love in my food.”

Chef James Washington

Photos courtesy of Chef James Washington and taken by JS.Raines Photography

Notable items that caught my eye were the shrimp tacos, Asian chicken stir-fry and the chicken Philly. Honestly, I think they only way to sum up the genre of food here is delicious. View the menu for yourself and let us know if you agree.

30 years of experience, including at iconic Birmingham restaurants

Refined ToGo
Chef James and his wife, Star Washington. Photo via Refined to go’s Facebook

In addition to working at fine establishments across the state, Chef James made his way around the kitchen as a sous chef at Highlands and Bottega. He came on to the team as a dishwasher, but training under legendary restauranteur Frank Stitt, he was later voted “Hottest Young Upcoming Chef” and featured in several local publications.

The accolades don’t stop there either, Chef James also cooked for the James Beard Awards in New York City and alongside significant chefs such as Wolf Gang Puck, Chris Hastings and Dean Fearing. No longer having to share the spotlight, he’s able to embark on his long-time dream.

“Opening a restaurant has always been a dream of mine. So many people would say, ‘Man you need to open a restaurant, I would eat there everyday.’ The stars and the moons finally lined up and I was blessed to find this location.”

Chef James Washington

Teamwork makes the dream work

Refined ToGo
Chef James is also a member of Faith Chapel Christian Center where he currently serves as the Executive Chef. Photo via Refined to go’s Facebook

It’s safe to say Chef James isn’t carrying the experience on his own. He has the help of his eight children and wife of 10 years, Star Washington. In fact, he was with his son Devin when he found the property that would become Refined to go. 

Three and a half years ago Chef James stumbled upon the location, but to his dismay, that property wasn’t available. Keeping his dream tucked in his pack pocket, it was just three months ago that his son and he came across the property again by accident.

“I saw the building again, walked up to it and looked in, walked off, turned around and God dropped in my spirit—To Go Box. My mind instantly started racing, what all I could do and how to do it. It was all God!”

Chef James Washington

Hopefully we’ll continue to see more energy like Chef James and his team, but for now we’re counting down the days until Sunday.

For future updates, follow Refined to go on Facebook and Instagram.

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Irene Richardson
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