Albany Bistro, 1051 Grant Street in Decatur, Alabama, is strategically located in an anchor position of the Albany Historic District of this city. In 1887 the Decatur Land Improvement and Furnace Company, Inc purchased 5600 acres. In that same year, over 500 structures were built within this area first known as “New Decatur.”
Because the Civil War was still fresh on many minds, streets signs bear the names of both Union (Grant and Sherman) and Confederate (Jackson and Johnston) generals. Along those streets, visitors can observe a variety of architectural styles. They include; Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Dutch Colonial Revival, Greek Revival and Bungalow.
Two notable boundaries for this district remain in the forefront today. The Princess Theater on 2nd Avenue and Delano Park, designed by Nathan Franklin Barrett and named for Sara Delano Roosevelt, the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt make up those boundaries. Albany Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The residents of this proud area of Decatur embrace Albany Bistro, as well as satisfied diners who happily drive in from miles away.
The Bistro building itself was built in 1927. Its own storied history includes use as a former neighborhood market, then an upscale deli, Back Door Gourmet. But, since 2009, it represents the long-time dream of Chef Jakob Reed. The exterior is attractive and inviting. While the interior mixes the original punched tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, marble tile and a hand-carved mantel interspersed with a collection of chandeliers and local art.
In Chef Reed’s own words: The décor is “a reflection of our lives and taste. Many of the items in the dining room are recycled, reused or repurposed. I want people to feel as if they are getting a small glimpse into my personal life when they dine with us. We rotate the art from our home into the restaurant and back to the house quite a bit.” And home for Chef Reed, by the way, is right across the street from Albany Bistro.
Popular Menu Selections at Albany Bistro
In a town where barbecue dipped in white sauce and fried catfish and hush puppies appear to reign supreme, Chef Reed is taking traditional Southern cuisine to new and healthier heights. His training in the kitchen came from watching his mother and grandmother. As a matter of fact, his favorite dish on the menu is Buttermilk Fried Chicken, because it reminds him of his grandmother.
I sampled that chicken recently, and found it light and perfectly-seasoned. The portion size was just right, and the batter was crunchy, without a hint of greasiness. Paired with creamed potatoes and tender collards, it is a perfect example of Southern goodness.
Other region-reflecting menu choices include Shrimp and Grits, Mom’s Meat Loaf and Fried Green Tomato BLT. But then you find surprises such as Roasted Duck and Brie and Portabello and Butternut Squash Rigatoni.
Chef Reed shared that he is reworking his grandmother’s recipes. His goal – to retain their appeal while making them healthier providing enjoyment without guilt.
A signature dessert at Albany Bistro is their Coffee and Toffee Cheesecake.
Locally blended and roasted coffee combines with toffee from the Morgan Price Candy Company. This Decatur business has been making its popular English Toffee and other specialties by hand for over twenty-five years.
A Chef with a Commitment to Others
Chef Jakob Reed remembers his own childhood of poverty. So he knows the importance of receiving government commodities of cheese and peanut butter. His dedication to the No Kids Hungry effort and to organizations such as Chefs Against Hunger stems from his own background.
He will be going to California in May to participate with other chefs in a 300-mile bike ride to raise money and awareness for this important cause. Another bike ride will be held in Decatur in the fall, also with the purpose of raising money to alleviate hunger for local children. In addition, Albany Bistro generously contributes to nonprofit groups such as the Committee on Church Cooperation, the United Way and to the local soup kitchen. The community is supporting his business, and Chef Reed wants to reciprocate by giving back.
Chef Reed is also a leader in the Local Food Movement which emphasizes locally-grown products and partners with area farmers. He shared that his goal through this movement is “to serve great food that ties our community together.”
In particular, he works with 1818 Farms and Champion Farms, both of which consistently bring in produce that works well with his menu ideas. He also tries to support the participants at the local farmers’ market, which is typically open each year from mid-April to mid-November and is only a few short blocks from Albany Bistro.
Table in the Garden
About twenty miles from Decatur’s Albany Historic District, Huntsville Botanical Gardens has just completed a major expansion of its Welcome Center and event venue spaces.
Chef Reed’s new restaurant, Table in the Garden, opened there on March 10, 2017.
You will find similar menus for both Table and Albany Bistro. However, Table is more casual and the offerings more farm-centric and seasonal. Because, the location of the Botanical Gardens near the interstate makes it very convenient for commuters, Table features on-line ordering and carry-out. This feature is bound to be popular with those looking for healthy, delicious food after a long day of work.
Or, what about a gourmet picnic basket to share while dining in the middle of the beautiful grounds? Table in the Garden also provides full catering services for the various events held in the Gardens.
A drive through the Albany Historic District or a visit to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens would not be complete without experiencing a delightful meal prepared by Chef Jakob Reed, a young entrepreneur with worthwhile goals and impressive ambition.
Taking a trip to Huntsville? Read about Things to Do in Huntsville on MilesGeek.