Avondale Common House and Distillery reimagines comfort food
By Jan Walsh Photography by Beau Gustafson
Chef William Rogers, and wife Ellen Rogers opened Avondale Common House and Distillery in May on 3rd Avenue South in Avondale. William is operator and executive chef. And Ellen is operator, general manager, and business and events manager.
Inside the restaurant, a rough-hewn ambience greets guests with metal chairs and bar stools, an L-shaped bar, and wooden-plank tabletops below a ceiling of wave-shaped wooden slats and bottle groupings incorporated into the lighting. A banquette lines the window to the left. And to the right of the restaurant is the open kitchen where friendly faces wait for orders, and where Rogers and his staff are cooking. Lively music fills the space, adding happy notes to the upbeat ambience. Patio seating is also available.
Chef Rogers comes to Avondale Common House and Distillery from The Grill at Iron City, where he was executive chef since 2013. Before his tenure at Iron City, he and Ellen both worked at Ocean where they met and later held their wedding reception. Ellen left her position as business and events manager at Sky Castle to run the new restaurant.
Avondale Common House and Distillery proudly serves Avondale Brewery’s beverages, and from a window at the bar you can even watch the bottling of their vodka and gin. We start with one of their brews, an Eat A Peach cocktail, and my version of the Blue Indian, without the splash of Sprite. Our server happily agrees and brings the cocktail minus the splash of soda. Good decision. It is served in a low ball, on the rocks. This rummy and fruity drink includes blueberry puree, is cranberry in color and lusciously thirst quenching.
When it comes to the food, this place lends itself to sharing. Our son, Jordan is with us tonight, so we order a round of appetizers to split: sticky bourbon maple fried wings, black-eyed pea hummus, fried green tomatoes, along with a watermelon BLT salad. The tender and meaty wings are large, golden, and glistening with their maple glaze. They are served with a side of creamy house buttermilk dressing. Black-eyed pea hummus with roasted jalapeño cream is the best black-eyed pea hummus I have ever had. Fresh pea flavors sing in this dish, which comes served on warm pita. Chef Rogers’ fried green tomatoes appetizer is cutting-edge comfort food as the golden, sliced tomatoes are layered with slices of crisp pork belly, and dollops of the most delicious, house made pimento cheese, tomato chutney for a touch of acidity, and colorful micro greens. Highly recommended! And the marinated watermelon BLT is another imaginative original. The plate is encircled with chunks of Alabama watermelon, and a crown of local arugula, candied bacon, shaved red onion, feta, Owl’s Hollow Farm tomatoes, carrots, spicy almonds in an aged balsamic vinaigrette. We pair each bite of melon with a slice of the candied bacon. And the synthesis is sweet and salty heaven. As entrees we order Common burger, Alabama veggie plate, and Southern fried chicken breast.
v51a8962The Common burger is a must on this menu, made of a one-half pound patty covered in melted cheese. Also between the bun: crisp lettuce; ripe, in-season Alabama tomato; purple onion; tart pickles; and smoked mayo. The vegetable plate is a tasty trio of summer squash gratin, the tastiest haricort verts ever, charred tomatoes, and tossed salad greens drizzled with smoked tomato vinaigrette. The plate is served with a generous slice of warm house cornbread. The Southern fried chicken breast is deep gold in color on the outside and juicy and white on the inside. It rests atop a bed of Battlefield IPA braised greens and smoked mashed potatoes. And this plateful of comfort is topped with creamy sawmill gravy. For dessert, we split sweet blueberry biscuit crumb cake. Two scrumptious blueberry-filled wedges are topped a with tart lemon glaze and whipped Chantilly cream, surrounded by fresh blueberries and raspberries.