After years of delay, Michael’s Restaurant has opened the doors to its new home inside of the Negro Southern League Museum in downtown Birmingham.
Now open for take-out service and reservation-only outside seating, Michael’s owner Bernadine Birdsong christened the grand reopening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 3, surrounded by family, her restaurant staff, and officials from the city, including mayor Randall Woodfin.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re excited to bring this restaurant to the city of Birmingham. It just feels right. This is the place that we should be. We’re very excited,” Birdsong said during remarks after the ribbon cutting.
Monday’s ceremony completed a milestone for the Birmingham Negro Southern League Museum and marked a significant moment for the restaurateur and the city: A Black-owned restaurant making its new home inside of an institution dedicated to Black Southern culture and history.
“It’s bringing all of the history together,” said Birdsong. “It’s Birmingham, it’s Black baseball. It’s a Black family. It’s a Black business. It’s a Black mayor. It’s a Black city. I mean, it’s just very monumental.”
In 2018, the Public, Athletic, Cultural and Entertainment (PACE) Facilities Board passed a $1.5 million agreement with the city of Birmingham to build a new space for the restaurant at the Negro Southern League Museum, marking the beginning of a process to help the restaurant relocate from the Aloft Hotel in Homewood to downtown Birmingham’s Parkside District. Under the terms of the agreement, Birmingham would pay for concrete flooring, lighting, outlets, plumbing, and HVAC as well as stoves, ovens, refrigeration and other commercial kitchen equipment.
Michael’s officially closed the doors to its Homewood location in January 2019. But several issues would mire the road to reopening in the museum, including issues with the building’s roof and fire safety.
“I know what she’s endured. I know the wait wasn’t cool at all. But I’m excited,” Woodfin said to news cameras at Monday’s ceremony before turning to Birdsong to offer his praises. “For you, to your entire family. Congratulations.”
During his remarks, the mayor also noted the struggles of independently owned restaurants in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been hard as mayor over the last hundred-plus days to watch small businesses close in our city. We’ve seen other not just small businesses, but Black-owned businesses close, such as Z’s restaurant,” said Woodfin.
Famous for its bean pies, Z’s Restaurant, owned by Ezekiel “Zeke” Hameen and Carolyn Bolivar Hameen, closed its doors in May.
“And so, from that perspective, in the middle of a global pandemic, Mrs. Birdsong, for you (and) your family as a business to open during the crisis, I’m excited about it and I’m happy for you personally,” said Woodfin.
Jefferson County Commissioner LaShunda Scales was a Birmingham City Councilor when the incentives were approved for Michael’s. In a recent interview with AL.com, Scales called the restaurant’s long-awaited relocation “powerful.”
“I was a city council member for the city of Birmingham when we voted for incentives for this restaurant. And to actually be in a position where I can see the fruits of that vote is very powerful, very empowering, and most of all, it says a lot about the city of Birmingham making spaces for businesses that would normally be overlooked to have a seat at the table,” said Scales.
Michael’s nearly 4,000 square foot interior at the Negro Southern League Museum is about the same size as its former location in Homewood. But this time, the restaurant is two stories with two bars and two kitchens. Interior designer Aija Pinx assembled a concept featuring globe and pendant lights. New paintings from artist Nan Braswell line the walls in the dining room. Quilts from Gee’s Bend hang in the stairwell leading to the upstairs bar and the rooftop that overlooks Regions Field and Railroad Park.
Michael’s resumed service this week with a 16-person staff, including executive chef Eryka Perry, chef de cuisine Will Calhoun,and bar manager Israel Williams who helmed the kitchen and bar program at Michael’s in Homewood.
The majority of the menu and bar program at the new location of Michael’s is the same. Patrons should expect to see classics such as the beef tips & rice on the lunch menu and, for dinner, Michael’s signature “Steer Butt” 12 ounce tenderloin.
Williams will bring back the full Michael’s beverage program, including the premiere blackberry cocktail known as the Michael’s Mule. Michael’s will also now offer draft beer at this location. When COVID-19 cases start to significantly decrease, the restaurant will resume offering the popular wine and bourbon dinners. With the prime location next to downtown breweries, Birdsong also plans to add beer dinners to the lineup. Alabama Crown is also working on developing a beer in honor of Birdsong’s son, Grammy-winning artist and songwriter Sebastian Kole, called Bash’s Brew.
Michael’s Restaurant will serve lunch for pickup-only Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner service will be patio-dining only from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday through Friday. Reservations are required for dinner. Michael’s will hold brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Reservations are required.
Reservations can be made by phone at 205.871.9525 or online at https://www.michaelssteakandseafood.com/.
Michael’s Restaurant|1525 1st Ave South| Birmingham, Alabama 35233| www.michaelssteakandseafood.com| 205.871.9525