Is soul food really good for the soul? You can answer this easily after your first trip to SAW’S Soul Kitchen. The authenticity, flavors and quality of the foods you’ll experience will permeate deep down to your soul…and that can only make you a better person.
The vibe at SAW’s Soul Kitchen is what keeps customer clambering into this small, cozy place in record numbers since its opening in May 2012. Like its sister restaurant SAW’S BBQ, this location features traditional southern dishes in a no fuss-no muss atmosphere full of piggy paraphernalia. Founder Mike Wilson’s original Birmingham eatery had been going strong since its inception in 2009. He didn’t want to open just a “SAW’S #2”, he wanted to feature the popular cuisine with a few extra twists and some surprises.
Enter partner and chef Brandon Cain. Mike and Brandon met a few years ago at a golf tournament. The two hit it off, and got talking about their love of Southern cuisine and in particular, began debating the techniques of slow roasted barbeque. Brandon had started his restaurant career in New Orleans working for Emeril Legasse in his NOLA Restaurant, as well as Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse and Mr. B’s Bistro. He learned the pace of short-order cooking serving up breakfast at the Camellia Grill. In Alabama, he was the chef de cuisine at Ocean, in the trendy Five Points district of Birmingham’s south side. With a background in great seafood, you can bet the dishes at this new venture were going to feature some seafood offerings.
Mike brought Brandon on board as chef and co-owner when he finally settled on the location to expand his growing SAW’S brand. Brandon committed right away. What makes the two establishments distinctly different? Cain has introduced a few menu offerings that aren’t always seen elsewhere.
If you go by the number of orders they serve up on a typical day, or by the big chalkboard that mentions it as the signature dish, the Pork and Greens is the favourite. The stellar reviews have come in far and wide! Dig in to Styrofoam tray of cheese grits, piled with greens and pulled pork, topped with curls of light onion ring as a crowning glory! Everything is cooked to order…so it may be worth a little wait. And the food is plentiful!!
What else has Chef Cain got to offer? How about a fried oyster po’boy, catfish sandwich, or turkey with fried stuffing. All fantastic! Or go for a smoked sausage sandwich, pork belly salad or signature burgers. Even the Carolina hotdog is to die for … smothered in caramelized Vidalia onions and tangy slaw.
Be lucky enough to be there while Chef Cain is offering up one of his specials. They are not always on the menu. You could sample the new SAW’s bowl – a mountain of cornbread, braised pork cheeks, green beans, caramelized onions and slaw. It’s been selling out every time it’s been offered. Some of these favorites have had a habit of making their way on to the permanent menu. If you have room for dessert, there are featured specials from time to time. Banana pudding is a staple, but you might get a chance for some bread pudding or buttermilk pie.
Here’s a little secret that has been working its way around town. SAW’S has had to keep up with demand by being open later. Too often patrons were showing up too late when the food was gone and the doors were closed. Late night offerings on the weekends go as late as 2:30 and feature a few things only for the night owls. You can enjoy smoked wings, burgers, pulled pork, and sweet tea chicken sandwiches, as well as something new – a chicken pot pie. Patty melts and grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches can lean towards breakfast when Chef Cain tops them with bacon and fried eggs.
By being open late, Chef Cain can offer up something of the restaurant workers, and other late-night appetites in the neighbourhood. SAW’s Soul Kitchen is at 41 South Street in the historic, but hip, Avondale area of south Birmingham. During regular meal times, the place is packed tight to he elbows, and patrons spill out to the patio and even the alley beside to get a seat. Regulars know that two doors down you can take your Soul Food to the Avondale Brewing Co. and enjoy their licensed establishment.
There’s even a menu for SAW’S on the wall at the Brewing Co. Good neighbours! Cain is honest about the relationship: “Without the brewery there wouldn’t be a SAW’S Soul Kitchen.” Delivery to the Brewing Co. is just an order away. He adds, “What I’m hoping to do is bring the industry people to Avondale and give them another reason to come out and check out Avondale after hours.” Less crowded, better music, smaller menu what you’ll find at SAW’s Soul Kitchen in the late evening.
What’s next for Brandon Cain and his hopes for the Avondale district? In October, Brandon paired his food styling with a neighbour across the street. The Avondale Bricks Gallery offers a Weekly Gallery Dinner and Brandon brought over his soul food/seafood/ country haute cuisine for a tasting event. Each course was paired with a beer from another neighbor, Avondale Brewery. The feast finished off with a Brandon’s chocolate cayenne dessert and a Vanillaphant Porter from the Brewery.
With pairings like that, only more good things to come to the neighborhood!