Two new bistros approved for downtown
By Kevin Elliott
Two new bistro restaurants are coming to Birmingham, as city commissioners on Monday, July 12, approved final site plans and special land use permits for Bloom Bistro and Sushi Japan.
Bloom Bistro, 239 N. Old Woodward, is re-imaging the former Pita Cafe space, starting with a new vegan, plant-based menu and activating both the front and back exteriors, bringing outdoor dining to Willits Alley. Bloom is the creation of celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, who is behind a dozen cookbooks and other vegan restaurants. Birmingham architects Ron Rea and Roman Bonislawski are bringing a fresh take to the historic Houston Building, setting the stage for a new trendsetting atmosphere, complimented by hand-crafted cocktails and a seasonal menu.
The exterior design borrows on the success of neighboring Dick O’ Dow’s – which opened its dining room with new bay doors to the alleyway – by placing about 24 seats along Willits Alley for outdoor dining.
The plans were praised in May by planning board members who said activating the alley has been a long-term plan that has finally come to fruition.
Birmingham City Commissioner Mark Nickita said he was encouraged by the outdoor seating on Willits Alley, which was one of the intentions of the bistro ordinance.
City commissioners unanimously approved the site plan and special land use permit for Bloom Bistro, with commissioner Clinton Baller absent.
Sushi Japan, 176 S. Old Woodward, is located in the former 2941 Mediterranean Streetfood space. Specializing in ramen dishes and sushi, head chef Ximing “Charlie” Yu said his ramen dishes are a signature of the new bistro. The restaurant will feature 18 outdoor seats located adjacent to the building and along the curb.
Commissioners unanimously approved the final site plan and special land use permit for Sushi Japan, with commissioner Clinton Baller absent.
Birmingham’s bistro liquor ordinance was created in 2007 with the goal of activating city streets, creating greater walkability and offering unique dining destinations that strengthen the retail community. It’s also one of the additional ways to bring in liquor licenses outside of the quota Class C licenses regulated by the state. The city permits two new bistro licenses each year, and two for established restaurants.
To be considered for a bistro license, restaurants may have no more than 65 seats, including 10 at the bar; meet outdoor dining requirements and storefront glazing; and additional requirements. As such, the application process is highly competitive and bistro licenses are a coveted asset in the city.
The approval fulfills the city’s 2021 limit on bistro approvals, with a third applicant withdrawing its submittal in May.