By MADOLINE MARKHAM
Homewood Gourmet serves the kind of food a really good home cook with lots of spare time would make—with the added flair of a chef. Its homemade sandwiches, salads, desserts and dinners taste gourmet but not so gourmet that you couldn’t bring their food to a party and pretend you had made it yourself. It’s real food that tastes good.
“We try to make as much as we can,” said chef Chris Zapalowski, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife and fellow chef, Laura. The couple bought it from longtime chef and owner Franklin Biggs last year.
You can stop by the storefront right off Highway 31 near TCBY for a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and seasonal soup or, our favorite, a Baby Blue Salad; there’s a good reason Southern Living published the recipe for baby greens with honey-balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese, spicy pecans, oranges and strawberries.
Beyond an extraordinary lunch, I can’t decide what I like best about what Homewood Gourmet offers: You can dine in or bring home for your family comforting pesto breaded chicken, meat lasagna with homemade marinara, meatloaf and other dinner specials. Or you can place an order for gumbo, jambalaya or a sandwich tray to watch the game. Or work with the chefs to create a custom plated or buffet dinner. Or order tarts for a baby shower or pimiento cheese truffles rolled in spiced pecans to take to a holiday party. Or, perhaps best of all, pick up all your sides and dessert for your Thanksgiving or Christmas
dinner the day before.
The catering menu is online, but Chris notes that their selection is not limited to what’s on the menu.
The Zapalowskis are continuing the dining and catering selections from the legacy of Biggs.
The original owner had taught Laura, a Birmingham native, the basics of restaurant work at Homewood Gourmet while she was studying nutrition at Samford. She later went to culinary school and worked for Emeril Lagesse in New Orleans, where she met Chris.
The couple moved back to Birmingham after Hurricane Katrina. While working for Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club, they stayed in touch with Biggs and would stop by Homewood Gourmet to eat. At one point Biggs mentioned to them that he might want to sell the restaurant if they knew anyone who was interested.
The Zapalowskis eventually asked to buy it, and Biggs said yes immediately.
After a month-long transition with Biggs, the couple took over last summer.
They were sure to keep customer favorites like the Pesto Chicken Sandwich, Turkey-Cranberry Wrap and Carlene’s Salad, which is a Baby Blue Salad with barbecue salmon, on the menu. Really, they were careful to change anything because Biggs had built such a loyal customer base.
Very slowly, they have added New Orleans flavors with a Red Beans and Rice made with Chris’ homemade Andouille sausage special on Mondays and Muffaletta with homemade olive salad special on Wednesdays. Chris’ gumbo has also become popular.
You can also now find a bread pudding with whiskey sauce and a tuna melt made with yellow fin tuna poached in olive oil and Swiss cheese.
Next on the horizon, they plan to add whole wheat bread to their selection of homemade yeast rolls and buns, foccacia, and white Pullman loaves. They also said they will add to the kid’s menu selection and start offering cooking classes.
But most immediately they will start taking orders for Thanksgiving sides and
“We offer a whole Thanksgiving menu—except the turkey,” Laura said. “Last year our own Thanksgiving was all done before the holiday. We just cooked the turkey that day.”
They offer a full selection of traditional sides including cranberry sauce as well as oatmeal pecan, pumpkin and chocolate chess pies and cakes. They sell a lot of Baby Blue Salads for holidays too.
“Some people just buy the spiced pecans to serve as an appetizer or put in their own salads,” Laura said.
The menu for both Thanksgiving and Christmas is available in the store or online; you can call to place your order and then pick up a day or two before the holiday.
And after Christmas, King Cake season starts; the cakes will be available starting Jan. 6.
1919 28th Avenue South, Suite 113
Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.