El Barrio Open for Dinner
Tonight was opening night for El Barrio. Like lunch, they didn't advertise because they wanted a small crowd in order to practice before they got slammed. I was upstairs packing for a business trip. The hood vents run behind and above my loft, so I can't smell the cooking in my place. I was bringing my bag to my car through the storage units; in the storage units I could smell it, and immediately became hungry. I hadn't heard any noise in my loft so I figured that the crowd was, in fact, small. I decided to walk downstairs to grab some pozole.
When I came out the front door and looked inside El Barrio, I was shocked. The place was packed! Every chair, barstool, and standing area was dripping with people. Appleseed blew two feet of foam insulation between the restaurant and loft. I had always assumed that I would hear a descent bit of noise anyway, but I had no idea anybody was down there despite the place being standing room only.
Luckily Jerry and Roxane were sitting in the lounge and I was able to crowd in with them. People often ask me if I have a "reserved table" or some other kind of special treatment; I've never even broached the subject. Personally I think that would be an infringement on what is starting out to be a great business relationship. When I'm there I'm just another customer.
Jerry and Roxane were entertaining a couple that is looking to move downtown; the (soon to be) new neighbors were having a great time and I can't wait to hang out with them some more. We talked about crime and the non-existence thereof, and where we shop for groceries (within walking distance), and the reason we all stay downtown.
We move downtown because we like the asthetics. We stay here because we get so wrapped up in the community. Tonight, just walking to get a loaf of bread a quart of milk and a stick of butter, I ran into Alfred and Kelly (walking Cocoa and Pootin' Nanny), and Larry: the self-described "most hated man in downtown." While I was sitting inside El Barrio, Bob (who had some clients visiting from San Diego) and Gary (who I thought was still in Russia) stopped by to eat, drink and visit. What makes this the best Birmingham neighborhood is that it is so easy to make friends; neighbors with whom you spend time, not just to whom you wave disingenuously at the mailbox.
Oh, and the nightlife. That's the other thing. We need these walking distance bars and coffee shops and restaurants; places to go to share our mistakes, triumphs, embarrassments, prides, hurts, loves, and wish-we'd-loveds with our neighbors. I'm really excited that El Barrio is going to be a new place for the neighbors to do that.
And now for my obligatory photographic ineptitude. I took these shots to show that there were a bunch of people here. Well, whatever. Use your imagination.