Restaurants are facing a double-edged sword: a slowing economy, but rising prices for the ingredients they use to prepare their meals.
Last month, the owners of the Silvertron Cafe made the news on NBC13 with some tongue-in-cheek menu items, such as “Wall Street on the Rocks,” “Freddie Mac & Cheesy,” and “Sub Prime Sangria.” Co-owners Elan and Marco Morosini told NBC13 they were tired of hearing the overwhelming amount of bad news — and at some point, “you realize if you don’t start laughing, you’re going to end up crying.” And laugh customers do, they say, when they read the names.
Maureen Holt of Little Savannah says she and other restaurants are trying to offer some specials to help increase traffic during the economic slump. For instance, on Wednesday nights, Little Savannah hosts what it calls “Neighborhood Night,” with a three-course tasting menu for $35 and half-price on wines that are normally $45 to $100 a bottle. The idea she, says, “is for it to be a sort of neighborhood night (with guests from all over the city), a designated night to eat with your family, and community and it still be affordable. I believe that if our neighbors are supporting us, we need to thank them!”
Tom Robey, executive chef at Veranda on Highland, says from what he hears from everyone from the bread guy to the linen guy, most restaurants are seeing things a little slower than usual. However, he says, “It seems Highlands is actually probably doing better right now. If people are cutting back and are going to go out only once, they’re going to go to the place they perceive as the best.”
On the other hand, he admits it’s hard to tell how much of the slowdown is from the economy and how much is because it’s football season. “I’ll compete with the economy any day rather than compete with Alabama football!” he says with a laugh.
“I think now more than ever it is important for people to really support the independent restaurants in our city,” Maureen added. “Most of us do not have the big pockets to stay alive like the chains do. We all do what we do because we love the creation of good food and cocktails; we have become the nourishment of the city. Can you imagine what Birmingham would be like, with out the independent restaurants?”