1 year ago

Freddy’s Wine Bar ventures beyond vino to find a place in Birmingham’s food scene

Freddy’s Wine Bar is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s date-night ready, it’s great for an after-work (or Saturday afternoon) glass of wine. It’s a girls’ night gathering spot, a venue for larger parties (30 UAB students had a post-residency social here recently), and it’s even family friendly. Simply put: Freddy’s is way more than just a wine bar. And right now, it feels like the perfect place to spend some cozy, quality time during the busy holiday season.

Word of Freddy’s has spread organically – one person telling another who tells someone else. That’s what owner Stuart Stone wanted, and in the 10 months or so that the brightly lit Freddy’s sign has beckoned from the ground floor of Highland Towers, the place has found a diverse following from all walks of life and both sides of the mountain. The Five Points South neighborhood, especially, has embraced Freddy’s. One local patron comes in three times each week; he says he’s working his way through the wine menu.

He’d do well to work on the regular menu, too. Freddy’s is a wine-focused bar, but it’s also a laid-back, counter-service restaurant with seriously delicious food.

Executive chef Randall Norman has crafted a seasonal, carefully considered menu that offers beautiful, imaginative dishes from all over the globe. “I try to have a little bit of everything on the menu,” he says, noting that Spanish foods share space with Asian dishes on a menu that is highly influenced by Western European-style cooking with Southern flavors evident throughout.

“I definitely try to incorporate as much of Alabama into my cuisine as possible, whether it’s locally sourced produce (Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Eastaboga Bee Company and Owls Hollow Farm are a few of their purveyors) or putting wild game that you see in this region into the cuisine. I think a lot of people … appreciate those little nuances,” Norman says.

The concept for Freddy’s, with its charcuterie, bar snacks and bites, small plates and larger “something more,” reflects a world view, and there’s a definite European café vibe here. Stone worked with designer Lyn Chappelle (whose cool shop, Atelier, is right next door) to create a space that is comfortable and eclectic and reminiscent of a Paris café or a Barcelona tapas bar.

The place – with its warm glints of copper on tables and fixtures – feels different depending on where you sit. The high-top tables and the shuffleboard, the street view and the large patio bring a certain energy to the front of the restaurant. The back has cozy spaces upholstered in beautifully textured, found fabrics for a more intimate feeling. In between you’ll find the bar and a large projector that screens movies ranging from “Top Gun” to “North by Northwest” to “Casablanca” to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

“The middle,” Stone says, “is a kind of community place where everybody can come together.” All this combines to give Freddy’s (which was named after Stone’s 3-year-old black standard poodle) a distinct feeling of joie de vivre.

It’s really all about the experience, Stone says. “You can come in and get some really good food – small portions so you’re not going to overwhelm yourself – and try some different things and expand your knowledge. We’ve got wine from around the world; it’s more of an eclectic list than you’d see in most places.” There are, in fact, some 60 wines by the glass here, and they are constantly changing. Options include a single six-ounce pour, a standard 12-ounce glass and an 18-ounce carafe or an entire bottle. Also, Freddy’s offers some basic cocktails as well as several local and regional beers.

“It’s built around the traditional tapas bars that you see (in Europe),” Norman says. “We just wanted to elaborate on that a little more and do something a little bit different.”

That little bit different includes baby back ribs marinated in lemongrass, blistered shishito peppers with smoked mayo, truffle oil on McEwen & Sons organic popcorn, Brussels sprouts with a miso glaze. The gnocchi “mac and cheese” has been on the menu since day one and will likely remain there since this combination of potato dumplings, béchamel, caramelized onion, Gruyere, fontina and white cheddar is hugely popular.

Freddy’s has some of the best shrimp scampi in town – perfectly butter poached and served with crostini to soak up the garlicky sauce. You’ll also find that Gulf-fresh shrimp paired with cold-water lobster and lemon-garlic aioli on Hawaiian rolls. If the Highland Tower is available, get it. The colorful ombré stack of roasted red beets, carrots and golden beets rising from a bed of goat cheese mascarpone and topped with fresh dill is as lovely as it is tasty. There are specials like a savory mushroom and rosemary bread pudding with Parmesan cream, and there are vegetarian and vegan choices available, too.

Norman, who trained at The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, has contributed to Birmingham’s food scene for years, working at SAW’s Soul Kitchen and SAW’s Juke Joint; Highlands Bar and Grill; and Ocean and its former sister restaurant, 26.

“Since I’ve been cooking,” he says, “I’ve always tried to influence the cuisine with a little bit of this and that and be adventurous. It’s just more fun for me to kind of play with the food and come up with new flavor combinations. I feel like it’s more fun for the guests as well,” he says, pointing specifically to two popular dishes – lasagna made with venison Bolognese and house ricotta, and barbacoa sliders with sweet pepper queso. “It’s not a lasagna or slider that you’re going to see at another establishment around town.”

Norman says he loves watching his patrons enjoy his food. “It’s like watching somebody read a book that I love, and they are reading it for the first time. I just love their excitement.”

Stone is equally as enthusiastic about this business. “Growing up, I was always passionate about cooking; I was passionate about entertaining people. I was lucky to spend a lot of time in Europe … in Paris and Florence and seeing Italy, and it’s always been something that has fascinated me. I love wine. I love to eat well.” He spent some time working in his family’s construction business, but his heart wasn’t in it. So he decided to give this dream a try. It’s an expansive dream designed to make people happy.

Both Stone and Norman say they are most proud of the people they work with each day. “We’ve got a staff that is dedicated to their work, easy to get along with and who really enjoy spending time with each other,” Stone says.

“We have some very good bartenders who are really warm and receptive to the guests,” Norman adds. “That’s always the biggest struggle in this industry – to find good people that want to buy into the kind of mentality that you want to have, positive vibes and everything else. Making food … I’ve been doing that for a long time; sometimes you get a winner, sometimes you don’t. But a good staff of positive, like-thinking individuals is difficult to find, and keeping them together is definitely something that I’m proud of.”

The two believe Freddy’s has found its niche in Birmingham’s exciting wine and food scene through smart, reasonable pricing and excellent service.

Norman says cooking in this city right now is exciting. “It’s also very competitive these days with all the wonderful restaurants popping up all over the place.” He says it’s important to him, personally, to provide a place “where people who might not get the opportunity to go somewhere nice on a regular basis with a larger budget can come in and enjoy themselves and get that higher-end type of feeling.”

“I hope they leave thinking that they just had a great time, a great experience,” Stone says. “I hope they leave thinking that they’ve had great food, that they loved their wine, that they were helped by a friendly staff. I hope they just really enjoy themselves and that they are glad they came in and saw us.”

Freddy’s Wine Bar
2251 Highland Avenue
Birmingham, AL 35205
Hours: Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 hours ago

Livingston, Whatley elected to lead Alabama Space Authority

The Alabama Space Authority this week held a meeting, respectively electing State Senators Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) as chair and vice-chair of the body.

Both senators, who were appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to the authority, plan to work diligently towards making Alabama a leader in the space industry, according to a joint release.

The Alabama Space Authority was created in 2017 to promote research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technology; to sponsor conference and business roundtables within the aerospace, aviation and related industries; and to promote activities and industries related to exploration.

The authority includes representatives of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Transportation, the governor, the State legislature and other stakeholders and experts.


Livingston, who recently played a leading role in the creation of the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus and serves as its chair, stated that the Alabama Space Authority will be looking into how the Yellowhammer State can further improve this industry.

“We are looking into the possibility of the Dream Chaser being able to land in Huntsville,” Livingston said. “This is going to be a great opportunity to look into how the legislature can aide in supporting the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.”

Whatley added that he was honored to be selected as vice-chair and that space is a growing industry in Alabama.

“I’m proud to be a member … because this is a big deal for our entire state, from Huntsville to Auburn’s aerospace programs and to the robust aircraft manufacturing on the coast. Aerospace is a $12 billion industry and a key component to Alabama’s economy,” Whatley commented.

Livingston concluded by advising he expects to receive an update from the U.S. Space Command and is looking forward to bringing more space industry projects to Alabama.

RELATED: Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Lewis touts McCutcheon; Brooks touts Trump, his record with space and defense

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) this week endorsed Chris Lewis in the GOP primary race in the Fifth Congressional District.

The surprise endorsement by McCutcheon caught many in the state off-guard because this race has flown under the radar and polling shows this race, like all of U.S. Representative Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) previous primaries, handily in the bag.

But McCutcheon’s endorsement rightly got the attention of multiple media outlets and observers of Alabama politics with many wondering what this was really all about.


So when Brooks saw the endorsement and a hostage-style video promoting it by McCutcheon, Brooks responded by highlighting the most coveted endorsement a Republican candidate for any office could get: President Donald Trump.

Brooks told Yellowhammer News:

I have the strong endorsement of President Trump, a man I worked hard with to CUT TAXES on American families and secure America’s borders! In contrast, Chris Lewis has the endorsement of legislator Mac McCutcheon, whose greatest expertise has been RAISING TAXES on struggling Alabama families!

While speaking to WVNN on Friday, Brooks noted that the endorsement on the bounds of support from the space and defense industry is laughable.

“If Mac McCutcheon is saying that Chris Lewis has more support in Research Park, that is categorically false. We have received more support from the state and defense community, vastly, vastly, vastly, vastly more support from the state and defense community than Chris Lewis has,” he told “The Dale Jackson Show.”

Brooks also touted his seniority, and how that plays into serving his district in Washington, D.C.

“The people who engage in space and defense know that my growing seniority on science, space, and technology and on House Armed Services, coupled with more than a hundred occasions in which I’ve been able to get favorable language into legislation that they’ve wanted me to get for the benefit of our country and what we do in the Tennessee Valley,” he added. “They’re my primary support base in Congress: space and defense.”​

My takeaway:

This is all pretty interesting, but the idea that a McCutcheon endorsement on these grounds can overcome the booming North Alabama economy that Brooks has been a part of since being part of the Tea Party-wave in 2010 is false.

The Trump endorsement might make better television and radio spots, and it will definitely help Brooks, but the real issue is that Lewis and McCutcheon can’t point to how Brooks hasn’t served his district well — because he has.

Barring some massive bombshell to follow up this endorsement, a battle of endorsements between Trump and McCutcheon seems like a fight that was over before it started, much like the Brooks/Lewis race.


Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

10 hours ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.


A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Amendment One puts kids first, politicians last

When Alabamians take the to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will either be concerned with the Democratic nominee for President of the United States or the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. More important to the future of Alabama is a constitutional amendment that would end our current model of a popularly elected state school board in favor of one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.

Supporters of Amendment 1 argue that this would be a major step in improving Alabama’s permanent residence at the bottom of the education barrel. As it is currently designed and managed, the state board of education is doing very little to improve the quality of education in the state. Board members are trying, but clearly nothing is working very well. Supporters of the amendment argue a shake up is the best hope for improving education in Alabama. In some respects the argument does not go far enough. That is because the current process creates negative incentives for board members; because they hold their office at the behest of voters, there is every incentive for them to avoid upsetting their constituents.


That is the chief problem with the board as it is currently construed. Board members are not uncaring or ignorant or irresponsible. Instead, they respond to the whims and wishes of voters or other powerful political interests. No matter what politicians say, they are inevitably swayed by the whispers of voters and donors. Not because they are corrupt, but because they are human. All people are prone to this, which is why the framers of the Constitution created a system that checked and balanced one human tendency against another. It’s true that voters can provide a check on board members, but that argument does not account for an additional problem.

The second problem with the current system is that voters have limits to their knowledge about education in our state. Committed parents and citizens can often learn a lot about their own schools and school districts, but rarely does even the most passionate citizen have the time and mental energy to devote beyond that. Should Amendment 1 pass, the state Senate would have a direct responsibility to ensure that the governor appoints quality people to the board, but also to make certain that the Board is making progress in evaluating and improving the quality of education in our state.

Critics argue that an appointed board would lend itself to cronyism. That’s possible, but the executive and legislative branch often have competing interests, even when they share the same partisan and ideological commitments. Those competing concerns would help smooth over concerns about patronage and cronyism. Still, the amendment will not be an easy transition given the natural tendency of politicians towards vanity and self-promotion. The current system is of a worse nature, however, as it leaves the governor and senate almost powerless to impact education policy, which is instead run by another group of politicians with little incentive to do anything that might upset the voters who put them there.

But shouldn’t voters have a say in these matters? No, at least not directly. This is because education policy is a difficult matter, and it is hard for voters to adjudicate the success or failures of these policies beyond the very narrow window of their own experience. It’s fine that we elect local school boards; they are indeed local, and voters often see those board members at church or line at Piggly Wiggly. Only the most politically involved voters are likely to have any encounter with their board members, who are busy juggling very difficult conflicts within their own districts. Each district contains such a variety of constituents that it is almost impossible for board members to adequately address those concerns, instead pandering to the one or two constituencies most likely to keep the member in office.

There is a final reason to support Amendment 1. A central feature of modern politics is the tendency of politicians to see themselves as mouthpieces instead of statesmen. Some of that is natural but other parts of it are due to the incentive structure within our own government. This is as true in Montgomery as it is in Washington D.C., and Alabamians should care far more about the goings-on in our state capital than in our nation’s capital. Since our legislature is stripped of any real influence in state education policy and therefore little accountability to voters, it leaves them free to demagogue and pander on the issue without really having to stand before the voters and take account for their time in office. The same is true for the governor. By making the governor and the state senate responsible for staffing the state school board as part of an ongoing process of appointment and confirmation, these branches of our government would finally have real skin in the game. The success of our schools would be their success, and the failure of our schools would be theirs, also.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

11 hours ago

Gary Palmer honors the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson on House floor

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) honored Katherine Johnson with a speech in the House chamber on Thursday.

Johnson, who passed away recently at the age of 101, was one of America’s most important mathematicians in the space race. She pioneered a place for African-American women at NASA and was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

“Despite intense discrimination throughout her years at NASA she remained committed to advancing America’s space program,” said Palmer during his speech in her honor.


“She hand-calculated the flight path for America’s first crewed space mission in 1961, and also helped calculate the trajectory for the famed 1969 moon landing,” continued Palmer.

Palmer also recounted the famous anecdote when astronaut John Glenn was about to become the first American to orbit Earth and he demanded that Johnson do the calculations for his mission. Glenn trusted Johnson more than he trusted NASA’s new computer system.


“I stand with my colleagues in the House and with countless other Americans in gratitude for Mrs. Johnson’s hard work and pioneering spirit that have undoubtedly made our country a better place,” Palmer concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.