A new restaurant is moving into the space where longtime downtown Decatur favorite The Brick Deli, formerly B.J.’s Deli, once operated on Second Avenue Southeast.
Work is under way to restore the century-old building, which was gutted by a 2006 fire that forced The Brick to move to Moulton Street, in time for Back Alley Bistro to open next month, said Cindy Greenhaw, the new restaurant’s co-owner.
The eatery is a new incarnation of a previous culinary venture between Greenhaw and Ron and Ronnie Moore — Coffee and PlayHouse, a small coffee and sandwich shop that shared a home on Moulton Street with the eclectic Vintage and Vinyl. This time, the group hopes to build on their brand of panini sandwiches and coffee by loading up Back Alley Bistro’s menu with soups, salads, appetizers, casseroles, entrees and desserts.
“We had grown as much as we could at our Moulton Street location,” Greenhaw said. “In our new home, we’ll have triple the kitchen and dining space and a full wait staff.”
Fellow downtown building owner Ronald Terry, who spent three years restoring his Second Avenue place, is helping property owner Glenna Jones get the space ready for the restaurant. The area where The Brick operated has been dormant for nearly seven years since the blaze destroyed the restaurant and bar and damaged a handful of other businesses.
Back Alley Bistro will retain the exposed brick and polished concrete floors that Brick regulars remember and continue its tradition of local and regional musical acts, Greenhaw said.
“People seem to have so many memories about the place,” she said. “When we tell them where we’re opening, you can just see their minds going back to those memories.”
Its signature dish will be a tomato pie, and the restaurant plans to serve fine wine, beer and mixed drinks. The owners are still working on the menu and plan to hire a chef and waiters who will be trained so they can explain to patrons what’s in each dish.
“We want to be a destination for people in Decatur,” she said. “We want people to bring their family here or business folks to come in to eat and feel relaxed and comfortable.”
Workers were building an enclosure for the kitchen this week, and the sound of hammering and saws could be heard in shops Divas and Doodlebugs and Kathleen’s adjacent to the location.
“It’s music to our ears,” said Kathleen Clay, whose building was damaged by the electrical fire that threatened the entire city block. “We are so excited to see a new restaurant moving in that place and having more people investing in our downtown.
“When it opens, I think it’ll be a little bit of closure for those of us that went through the fire.”
Attorney Mark Maloney whose law office is a few doors down said Back Alley Bistro will be a welcome sight and a good complement to neighboring establishments like Curry’s and Cafe 113.
“I love seeing that little back alley grow as kind of a secondary street with so many business fronts back there,” Maloney said. “I think it’s going to create a snowball effect and bring more people downtown.”
On the other end of Second Avenue, the highly anticipated Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers restaurant is nearing completion. Outdoor signs have been put up and the walls painted inside, said franchise owner Diane Holman. Now it’s seeking applications to fill 135 positions to help it open this spring.
Holman said Mellow Mushroom could be opened in early March.
“We’ve already had 200 people apply,” she said. “We’re not even open and we already have 2,000 likes on Facebook, so we’re more than excited about the opening.”
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