A Perfect Blueprint
Dean Robb and James Huckaby drew up a great plan with their new Blueprint on 3rd.
Written by Joe O’Donnell // Photography by Beau Gustafson
It turns out this blueprint is more than a reproduction of a technical drawing, an architectural plan, or an engineering design. This blueprint is a reunion, and a bit of rebirth for veteran Birmingham restaurateurs Dean Robb and James “Huck” Huckaby, the executive chef.
Two decades after working together at Frank Stitt’s Bottega and careers that took them to other cities and types of hospitality enterprises, they are hard at work on a new polished yet casual American brasserie near Pepper Place, Blueprint on 3rd.
Paying homage to Southern regional cooking with a dash of New Orleans, the restaurant has a chic vibe with an industrial art deco flavor to the interior of the renovated Southside building. A comfortable-looking bar dominates the right side of the front of the restaurant with large windows throughout and a patio out back, complete with fire pits and outdoor seating in the shadow of Sloss Furnaces.
“The most exciting part of opening this new restaurant for me is the energy, effort and commitment by the staff to achieve the standards we have set. Also, I love building new relationships and renewing old ones with our daily guests,” says Robb.
Robb carefully lists the attributes that management and staff have tried to graft onto this new Blueprint. The quality of the food comes first, he says, with a casual, friendly and correct service. The ambiance and vibe seem exactly right. In terms of customer service, Robb thinks diners particularly like the fact that the restaurant accepts reservations and there is an on-site valet.
Robb grew up in a small midwestern farm town in Illinois, where surrounded by cornfields and soybean fields, he developed an appreciation for fresh ingredients. He began his culinary journey at The Victoria, A Country Inn, before beginning a 17-year partnership with Frank Stitt as the general manager of Bottega Restaurant and Bottega Café. After opening Watermark and Miro District in Nashville, Robb returned to Birmingham to be part of the opening team of DoDiYo’s. Later still, he met Jim Keet, then CEO of Taziki’s.
After nearly five years working with Taziki’s during a period when the company grew from 11 locations to 63, Robb left his position as vice president of operations after Keet left his position as CEO. The two soon partnered to create Blueprint on 3rd.
As co-owner and operator of Blueprint on 3rd, Jenny Walls Robb focuses on the front-of-house. Tom Hsu, architect and designer, and Monika Loboda, interior design collaborator, worked together to create the look of Blueprint on 3rd. Monika’s father, Andreas Loboda, is the artist behind each of the paintings displayed throughout the restaurant.
The menu is varied but leans heavily on local sources. Take the duck and dumplings, for example, with local mushrooms, Vidalia petals and charred carrots. Robb cited that dish when asked about his personal menu favorites. “I like the cast iron skillet pimento cheese with pumpernickel toast points; oyster shooter; Huck’s beet salad; etouffee; chicken linguini…actually I really like it all,” he says.