Birmingham native and professionally trained chef Tom Saab
July 20, 2014
Birmingham native and professionally trained chef Tom Saab joins the other culinary talents that are inspiring a revival of businesses on The Green in Birmingham. Bistro 218, located at 218 20th Street North in a revived historic building, complements the other chef owned eateries in the loft district.
Tom created Bistro 218 on a model that combines the traditions of a French bistro with the modern American bistro. “My favorite restaurants are small, independent, chef owned restaurants, “ Tom says, “because chefs are in the business to share their passion for food, influences and culture.” Tom supports the local community by using fresh, local produce as much as possible.
Bistro 218 features an elegant, minimalist interior design that stays true to the historic roots of the building. Menu offering rotations include seafood, roasted chicken, stuffed crepes, salad entrees, gumbo, steak and fries, bread pudding, and crème Brûlée.
Bistro Two Eighteen a nice addition to downtown dining in Birmingham
July 20, 2014
Bistro Two Eighteen recently opened on 20th Street North between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. This area of downtown has become something of a “restaurant row” in recent years, with neighboring eateries including Café Dupont, Brick & Tin and Trattoria Central.
The newly restored Bistro Two Eighteen space boasts an original tile floor and an exposed brick wall, which runs along one side of the long, narrow downstairs dining room. Neutral tones and the strategic use of mirrors and banquette seating make the area feel more spacious. There is also a small dining area upstairs. Background music lends a New Orleans flair.
For lunch, we arrived around 11:30, to find the restaurant practically empty, but by noon all tables were full. The menu is a hybrid of French bistro and casual American—offerings range from quiches and crepes to burgers and steaks to hearty, comforting entrees such as pork chops and roasted chicken.
From a small selection of starters, two of us shared the steamed mussels ($12). A generous portion of mussels, seasoned with garlic and green onion, were served in a sumptuous broth, which made for tasty dipping, with and assortment of breads, which included French bread, olive bread, and mini cornbread sticks. These were served to our table free of charge.
Other appetizer choices included pommes frites (fries) and mini crab cake sandwiches.
One diner made a meal by pairing a couple of the soup and salad selections. A bowl of shrimp and fresh corn chowder ($7) was piping hot and extremely creamy and tasty, with fresh crispy kernels of corn, bits of diced carrot and celery, and lots of tender small-to-medium shrimp.
The BLT salad ($10) featured a flat slab of iceberg lettuce, as opposed to the more typical wedge, along with tomato, soft boiled egg, and morsels of thick sliced bacon, all dressed in a delicious buttermilk ranch dressing. New Orleans gumbo ($6) was an alternate soup selection.
We were told the menu changes frequently. On this day a selection of specialties included herb roast chicken, beef short ribs Bourguignon, shrimp and vegetable risotto, and pan-seared Gulf flounder. These lunch entrees were priced from $14 to $18.
There were a couple of steaks—flat iron and top sirloin—each priced at $14.00, and served with a baby greens salad and pommes frites. The bistro burger ($12) is made from a Creekstone Farms chuck brisket blend.
A slice of Quiche Lorraine ($12) was generous and tall, with a thin, tender crust and a gently set, creamy, cheesy, oniony filling flecked with diced bacon. A salad of mixed baby greens was dressed in a very light vinaigrette, with bits of diced tomato and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar alongside.
The beef short ribs were falling-apart tender—similar to pot roast—served on a bed of fingerling potatoes and crunchy-tender hericot verte (green beans), and surrounded by pearl onions, sliced carrots, button mushrooms, and bits of thick-sliced bacon, all in a shallow pool of tasty, braising juices. A fresh spring of parsley garnished.
The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside, also served with haricot verte and pan juices.
We shared a couple of desserts, priced from $5to $6. Chocolate molten cake was gooey, warm and delicious. Beignets were light and puffy and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The dinner menu showed many of the same entrees, plus a few additional selections, with prices in the $19-$29 range.
Service at Bistro Two Eighteen is fast and friendly and the food is excellent. For folks working in the area, this is a wonderful new luncheon option when price is not a concern. However, for those who are not within walking distance, parking can be somewhat challenging at lunchtime. Bistro Two Eighteen does not yet offer valet parking, but we were told it is much easier to find a nearby parking space at night, typically within view of the front door.
- Our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Bistro218
- Link to the article on Bistro Two Eighteen “Bistro Two Eighteen a nice addition to downtown dining in Birmingham”