By Donna Cornelius
Carey Thomasson thinks there’s no reason to stress out about dinner. And maybe that’s the reason the name of her popular Crestline Village business ends with a period and not an exclamation mark.
“It’s just dinner – don’t freak out,” said Thomasson, chef and co-owner of Dinner.
She and her husband, Dan Thomasson, opened their food-to-go eatery in May 2016. Main dishes, sides and desserts are cooked fresh every day and packaged to serve two to three people.
Starting this month, Dinner customers will be able to eat in as well as take out.
“People kept asking for this,” Carey said. “We’ll have about 10 seats. We’re really excited about it.”
Those who dine in will be able to order breakfast and lunch. Carey said she’s especially looking forward to making and serving breakfast dishes like cheddar biscuits with ham, avocado toast and frittatas.
“We’ll have healthy options like organic farm eggs and muffins,” she said. “We source locally whenever possible.”
Dan, who manages the business, is a Mountain Brook native who grew up just down the street from Dinner. Carey was living in New York when she and Dan met at a wedding.
“She’s been a chef for over 30 years,” he said. “She’s been getting paid to cook since she was in high school.”
Even before that, Carey’s favorite place was the kitchen.
“I’ve always been cooking,” she said. “My parents traveled a lot, and I was exposed to a lot of good food at a young age. I’d read my mom’s ‘Joy of Cooking.’ I’ve had dinner parties and cooked since the second grade. That’s what I love to do.”
Carey’s career in cooking has taken her from one side of the country to the other.
“I moved to Los Angeles to be a movie star, but that didn’t work out,” she said with a smile.
Instead of becoming a movie star, Carey made a name for herself as a private chef whose clients included celebrities.
“Most movie stars wanted healthy food,” she said. “They’re very calorie conscious. I also dealt with a few people in New York who wanted to control every recipe.”
“Cooking Pulled Me Back In”
Marriage to Dan brought her to Birmingham in January 2005. She worked for about six months at Chez Fon Fon and Highlands Bar and Grill but stopped when she was expecting her first child. The couple’s son, Flynn, is now 11. Their daughter, Hollis, is 10. Both are students at Mountain Brook Elementary School.
“Cooking pulled me back in,” Carey said about the decision to open Dinner.
She and Dan found the perfect space at 73 Church St. Dan said it’s the former home of Gia’s Cakes, which moved to a larger location. The Thomassons pretty much gutted the space, making it bright and open. The concrete floor was stenciled to look like an Oriental rug. Shelves hold bottles of wine, which customers can buy to complement their meals. Baskets hold treats like Carey’s homemade cookies and Rice Krispies treats, and big glass jars are filled with pasta, dried beans and other ingredients.
“I wanted this to feel like you’re in my kitchen,” Carey said.
Customers can buy entrees that include panko parmesan chicken, salmon and grilled flank steak plus sides, desserts, soup and extras like deviled eggs and pimento cheese.
“We have cozy dishes like lasagna Bolognese in the winter,” Carey said. “During warm weather, we’ll have more grilled meats and lighter food. All the things we make are huge sellers, but we’re famous for our tomato pie. And women who are about 35 to 45 will come in and get roasted cauliflower or Brussels sprouts for an afternoon snack.”
Although she expected most of her customers would be working parents, her business has been a hit with another group.
“About 30 percent of our customers are empty nesters,” she said.
You can check the menu by visiting the Dinner website and then stop by the eatery to buy what you want or call ahead to place orders. You also can get delivery service if you order before 2 p.m.
Another aspect of the business is hosting dinner parties for events like birthdays, bridal festivities and book clubs.
“We start with cocktails in the kitchen and then serve dinner,” Carey sad. “Dan’s grandmother had beautiful antique china. I bring in that with sterling silver, pretty glasses – it’s fun.”
Dinner’s slogan is “We made it for you,” and Carey hopes to make even more good food in the future.
“At some point, I want to expand,” she said. “But right now, I enjoy having time to be with my kids.”
Carey said she thinks Dinner gives customers the opportunity to have tasty, well-cooked meals at home.
“People have lots of options to go out to great restaurants here in Birmingham, but you can’t do that every night,” she said. “It’s a great thing to sit down to dinner together.”
Dinner is at 73 Church St. in Crestline Village. It’s now open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Once the new eat-in area opens, the eatery will open at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast Monday-Friday and at 7 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 637-3007, visit dinnerperiod.com, or follow the business on Facebook and Instagram @dinnerperiod. ❖