Atlanta Star Chef Adam Evans Returns to Roots with New Birmingham Seafood Restaurant
Adam Evans is perhaps best known for his tenure as executive chef at Atlanta's The Optimist, the critically acclaimed seafood restaurant, and Brezza Cucina, but in recent years he's had his sights set on home: Alabama. In 2017, Evans and his wife, designer Suzanne Humphries, moved back to their homestate—landing in Birmingham, to be exact—to begin working on their first project, which debuts on April 1: Automatic Seafood & Oysters.
“I always thought, ‘I’m going to come back to Birmingham one day and open our restaurant,'” says Evans, who feels the city's dining scene is going through something akin to Atlanta's culinary resurgence. “Birmingham is exciting. There are tons of new restaurants popping up around here. Just in the two years we’ve been here—we’ve seen Rodney Scott open his barbecue place, and Mile End opened a month ago. We just got a fried chicken concept. I’m starting to see what happened in Atlanta eight years ago happening here.”
The restaurant, which Humphries designed, is a venue for fresh Gulf seafood and oysters, with a large, airy raw bar that flows into the dining room. The building they bought is an unsuspecting 1940s warehouse that had, at one point, operated as a dance club. While windowless, the free-standing building offered a blank canvas, design-wise, and allowed for outdoor seating, which will open once the weather cooperates.
“We wanted it to feel coastal, but not necessarily specific to one coast,” said Humphries. “We’ve tried to integrate this industrial warehouse space with classic finishes of the same time period. So we have more modern lines with the furniture that we’ve had custom built, and the lightening reflects a 1950s Americana. We’re setting the stage for the food to be experienced.”
The raw bar will feature an array of fishes in varying degrees of rawness, with sashimi-style dishes, marinated shellfish, oysters, smoked fish, and seafood towers. Evans says he plans to carry around ten half-shell oysters on any given night, with around eight raw and chilled seafood dishes.
The oyster menu will showcase some of the “boutique farmed oysters popping up in the South”—from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi—paired alongside some East Coast oysters from New York and Rhode Island, a juxtaposition that Evans hopes will help the Gulf oysters “stand out even more.”
The drinks menu will adopt a similar bold-but-understated sensibility. “We’re not afraid to put bold flavors with delicate fish, and the drink menu speaks the same language,” he said.
“I want to work with fisherman who do the right thing and who grew up fishing those waters,” continued Evans. “We want to do a big brunch on Saturday and be apart of the farmers’ market scene here.”
Beyond the food, Evans and Humphries are showcasing local producers throughout the restaurant, with stools and banquettes from local artisan Grant Trick, and antique windows transported from a building in Evans’ hometown, Muscle Shoals.
Automatic Seafood and Oysters, 2824 5th Ave S, Birmingham, AL. (205) 580-1600