Executive Chef William Rogers
Dinner, Saturday, July 1, 20174
By now, most have heard of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Avondale here in Birmingham. Most of the new developments are along 49th street and on fifth avenue across from the park. After reading about this new restaurant on the main drag in the former Wooden Donkey space, my wife, Angela and I decided to give it a try.
We arrived around 6 pm hoping to avoid the crowds. However, the restaurant was almost filled up even this early on this soon to be very wet evening. Outdoor seating was not recommended by our hostess due to a pending thunderstorm, but luckily, there was a two top available, and we were seated promptly. We were just in time, as a line started to form almost immediately after we arrived.
All seats at the bar were taken, filled with a variety of mostly young casually dressed individuals. The decor is basically the same casual decor as the Wooden Donkey restaurant that was here previously. Very loud music made it difficult to carry on a conversation, so the sound of people speaking loudly over the music dominated the atmosphere!
Just as we sat down the waiter promptly showed up asking for our drink orders. Since this was our first visit, we asked for some water and more time to peruse their unique drink menu. They have a nice selection of Avondale Brewery beers and several interesting and unique cocktails on the menu, many made with their on site distilled spirits, including rum, gin, and vodka drinks. Two wines are available, both custom blends by the chef. Angela ordered the white wine blend and I ordered a Blackberry Old Fashion. Both were delicious. Even though the same folks own this restaurant as own the brewery and distillery, it would be nice if they would have at least one or two other local beers to choose from.
The menu is a wonderful list of savory salads, sandwiches, and creative entrees. It was hard to choose! We settled on one of their unique appetizers, the “Loaded Tochos”, which are tater tots covered with a queso sour cream sauce, bacon and green onion. I was disappointed in this dish, as it simply reminded me of a baked potato with sour cream and bacon. I wonder if they have tried putting actual nacho toppings, like black beans and jalapeno pepper on the tots? That might have been more memorable. It was a pleasure to eat, but not as unique as I had hoped.
For her entree, Angela ordered the “Alabama Grown Vegetable Plate”, a beautifully presented dish with a delicious “Summer Squash Gratin’, perfectly cooked “haricot verts” (a type of green bean), charred tomatoes, a tossed salad with a smoked tomato vinaigrette, and house corn bread. The gratin was the star of this dish. With melted cheese and crisply cooked summer squash, it was a nice blend of gooey and crisp textures with a summer taste. Angela reported the beans were cooked and seasoned perfectly and the salad was a good accompaniment.
I ordered the “Cast Iron Hanger Steak”, medium rare which arrived hot and perfectly cooked, dipped in their “Common House” Steak Sauce. It was served with a soft poached egg topped roasted sweet potato hash, a nicely dressed mixed green salad, and shaved red onion. I think this steak was among the most delicious I have ever had, probably due to the slightly sweet but savory sauce. This particular cut can be tough if not cooked correctly, but it was so tender I wondered if it was really filet mignon! The hash was delicious with the soft and runny egg, but a bit bland without it. Overall, though a great dish I would order again.
With dinner, I ordered a glass of their red house wine blend, of which I was less impressed than the white wine blend.
After discussing the desert menu with the waiter, we decided to pass, though the “Apple Pie Nachos’ certainly sounded tempting. The entrees were so satisfying and generous, we did not feel like we had room for more.
Service was excellent, with fast just in time delivery of all ordered items. We felt a bit rushed, but that seems to be the norm for small restaurants in this price range taht need to turn the tables several times a night to be profitable. We were happy with it all overall.
In Summary, I would give the Common House a rating of 4.5 for the food , a 5 for service and a 3 for atmosphere. (Need to turn down the volume a bit). We will be back to try some of their other items soon,!