Although Birmingham celebrates its current dynamic restaurant image, there's a lot of history.
The Detroit Edison Building, built in 1932 to house northern suburbs' company offices, has been home to 220 Restaurant since 1994. The popular bar stands where, at one time, people could exchange burned out light bulbs for new ones!
Once Edison moved to new quarters, developers viewed the building's main level as ideal for a restaurant, which opened with a German-American theme in 1979 and was then sold in 1993 to Judi Roberts and her partner Frank Tillman, now General Manager, who changed the theme to Italian-American and adopted the name "220."
A 1930s retro style, created in 1994 by designer Ron Rea (Ron & Roman LLC, Birmingham), replete with antique chandeliers and a light bulb theme, recalls 220's historic location. Forget what Thomas Edison looks like? His portrait hangs in the lobby. Space for 160 diners at 220 is well divided, giving the impression of lively, cozy closeness, whether seated in the bar area or a main dining room with tables accommodating as few as two to more than eight.
Currently, the proprietor-partners and their veteran Executive Chef Luis Reyes characterize their eatery with words such as retro, comfortable, unique and historically referenced. "In addition to the Detroit Edison Building," notes Tillman, "Birmingham has incorporated the train station, municipal and Wabeek buildings among others into the city's charm."Setting standards
"From the beginning," says Chef Luis, "220 set standards for what Birmingham restaurants have become today." Call that woven into the city's food culture.
Both Tillman and Roberts have decades of restaurant experience. "At 16, I started as a salad girl for Harris Machus (of area Machus restaurant fame)," relates Roberts. "I rose to cashier and just kept moving up in a business I love."
In 1986, with just over a semester left to finish a Wayne State University degree, Chef Luis began to wash dishes at a Beverly Hills restaurant (now the location of Beverly Hills Grill). He advanced to making salads and credits his great chef mentors for honing his creative kitchen skills to the level of head toque.Italian-American
What is an Italian-American food style? "It's American food with an Italian influence, such as our Sauteed Lake Perch Piccata served over Asiago risotto, $23," explains Chef Luis. "Yet, it's also Italian food with an American influence, such as Toasted Lobster Ravioli with lobster sherry cream sauce, $19."...continued on page 2