By Sam Prickett
Homewood’s much-anticipated Valley Hotel will be opening in a few weeks, and it will bring with it a restaurant, a bar and a coffee shop.
The Valley Hotel has been in development since 2016, when Capstone Companies founder Michael Mouron bought the property that formerly housed Hatfield Auto and Little Professor Bookstore. A year later, it was announced that the Valley Hotel would be part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, an upscale brand with more than 30 locations worldwide.
After lengthy negotiations with the city of Homewood, construction got underway in 2019, and now the hotel is nearly prepared to open its doors — and the doors of its three new eateries.
The ground-floor restaurant, Ironwood Kitchen + Cocktails, will connect the Valley Hotel with the rest of downtown Homewood, while the second-story Terrace Bar will overlook the 18th Street corridor. Valley Coffee Co., a smaller bistro, will be inside, near the hotel’s front desk.
Danny Hiatt, the hotel’s regional director and general manager, said he hopes the new food and beverage venues will generate a large local following and “add a lot of charm and quaintness to the Homewood community.”
The branding for Ironwood draws on the history of the area.
“Really, Birmingham was forged by fire and the city was fueled by a robust coal and iron industry,” Hiatt said. “We wanted to speak to the origins and roots of Birmingham, and we really looked at developing a menu that honors those elements.”
Ironwood will be led by Doug Zuk, a chef with years of experience in the food industry, particularly in Las Vegas, where he worked at Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand.
“He was kind of a pioneer in the Vegas industry for a while,” Hiatt said, “but he’s got ties to Birmingham and family here. He’s originally a Southern boy at heart, and he’s just so excited to really bring these offerings and these flavors to Birmingham.”
The menu will feature “honest food,” Hiatt said, which he described as “reimagined Southern comfort staples (and) an elevated cuisine.” One specialty, for example, will be grouper and grits, which Hiatt called “kind of a play on shrimp and grits with cheddar grit cakes and Conecuh sausage.”
Inside, Ironwood will have a “cozy” atmosphere, with dining nooks and cast-iron finishes. The restaurant also will feature a large outdoor patio abutting 18th Street, which Hiatt anticipates “will be very popular.”
Above Ironwood is the Terrace, a second-story bar overlooking the corner of 18th Street and 28th Avenue. That bar also will feature indoor and outdoor seating areas with a patio that Hiatt anticipates “will be the place to be.”
“We’re excited about the indoor/outdoor component of the Terrace Bar,” he said. “It can be closed off separately for separate events, but it’s all beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows. It has a lot of incoming light right there at the corner, so we think that will be a very high-energy location for us.”
The Terrace Bar will serve cocktails and small plates; it also will be adjacent to the Red Mountain Ballroom, a second-story venue inside the hotel that will offer 7,000 square feet of meeting space.
“It’s a beautiful, gorgeous ballroom, and we think it will be the ideal setting for weddings and social events as well as corporate meetings,” Hiatt said, noting that the venue already has received a slew of wedding inquiries.
Also inside the hotel is the Valley Coffee Co., a lobby-level bistro that will feature upscale coffee offerings. In the morning, the bistro will offer pastries and savory items; in the afternoon, its menu will expand to include a variety of gourmet salads and sandwiches.
Hiatt also highlighted a small courtyard area outside the bistro, which he said “has a really beautiful feel with a lot of foliage” and will feature customer seating. “It’s kind of an escape into its own little setting,” he said.
The prospect of launching three new eateries – along with a new hotel – during a pandemic can be “a little daunting,” Hiatt admitted, but he pointed to the safety protocols mandated by Hilton as a reassurance.
“We take COVID very seriously, and we’ll be following all the CDC guidelines with social distancing and masks required,” Hiatt said. “Hilton is a world-class leader in sanitation, and they’ve taken the lead in the hotel world with a couple of programs, like CleanStay for the guest rooms and EventReady for the event spaces. We just want everyone to feel very comfortable and safe, and there’s a lot of protocols we follow with very detailed cleaning and sanitation.
“We don’t want to scare anyone away. We want them to feel comfortable and relaxed and (as though they are) coming into an environment that’s really going to be razor-sharp as it relates to sanitation.”
The opening date for the development has not been set. To keep up with progress and find more information on the Valley Hotel, Ironwood, Terrace Bar and Valley Coffee Co., visit valleyhotelbirmingham.com.