Having officially opened this past Wednesday, if you have not made it to The Pizitz Food Hall, you’ll want to add this to your to-do list. But The Pizitz is more than just a place to eat. It’s part of Birmingham’s history that goes back to the late 1800s.
History of The Pizitz
Louis Pizitz, a Polish immigrant, founded Louis Pizitz Dry Goods Company in 1899. This department store actually grew into a chain with locations around the state, but the flagship six-story store opened in 1925 on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 19th Street North. Across the street (in the building that now houses the McWane Center) was Loveman’s, the largest department store south of the Ohio River, but The Pizitz was where you went to purchase everything from clothing to beauty products to housewares.
The white flight of the 1960s and 1970s (a time when white people began leaving downtown for the suburbs) affected the economy downtown, and as shopping centers opened up in the ‘burbs, people stopped coming downtown to shop, leading to the closure of Loveman’s, Sears & Roebuck, Newberry’s, and The Pizitz in 1988 (it had sold out to the McRae’s chain in the 1980s before closing, though).
Revitalization of The Pizitz
Bayer Properties conducted a $70 million restoration of the building, and while the upper floors contain space for over 100 apartments, the building also contains office space, retail space, the much anticipated Food Hall, and a theater space, which will be the home of the Sidewalk Film Festival. It’s projected to open later this summer and will contain 2 theaters that will show first-run independent films as well as educational programs.
When you go to the Food Hall, take note of the floor because it’s original to the building (and in fact, it actually slopes several inches from one side of the building to the other). The gold crown molding around the columns has also been restored, and one of the details about the Food Hall that I love is the old iron clock with the initials “LP” at the top (presumably for Louis Pizitz). It was discovered during the demolition and, thankfully, preserved.
Eating & Shopping at The Pizitz
The Pizitz Food Hall reminds me of Faneuil Hall in Boston, and it’s set up similar to a food court in a shopping mall – except way better! When all of the restaurants open, there will be 3 sit-down restaurants, but only 2 are currently preparing to open: Ghion Cultural Hall (the state’s 1st Ethiopian restaurant) and Fero (rustic Italian cuisine).
There are also 14 food stalls. Among these, 8 are currently open:
- Busy Corner Cheese & Provisions (Where better than to get charcuterie boards and grilled cheese sandwiches than from a cheesemonger?)
- Eli’s Jerusalem Grill (the 2nd Birmingham location for this awesome Israeli cuisine)
- Lichita’s (ice cream and Mexican paletas)
- The Louis (Named after the founder of the original department store, this bar sits at the center of the Food Hall and offers everything from craft cocktails to milkshakes for the kiddos.)
- Ono Poke (Poke is a dish of raw fish and imported seaweed served on rice or greens and has both Japanese and Hawaiian influences.)
- Revelator Coffee
- WaffleWorks (offering a variety of sweet and savory waffles and toppings)
If you did the math, I only told you about 7 of the 8 food tenants in the bullet points above. That’s because this last one is the Reveal Kitchen, a restaurant incubator that is REV Birmingham’s brainchild (REVeal Kitchen, REV Birmingham…get it?). Anyway, restaurants will rotate in and out of this space every 4-6 months as a way to help start-ups. For now, the Reveal Kitchen is home to Tropicaleo, Birmingham’s first Puerto Rican restaurant (for more about Tropicaleo’s yummy food, check out this Down in the Ham post).
The remaining 6 food stalls are set to open later this spring and include:
- Alabama Biscuit Co. (This will be their 2nd location, and you can read more about them on this Down in the Ham restaurant feature).
- The Standard (burgers and hot dogs)
- Choza Taqueria (tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads)
- Live Dosa (Dosas are similar to crepes but have a south Indian influence, are made out of rice and lentils, and are served with a variety of toppings.)
- Ichicoro Imoto (a ramen noodle house)
- mo:mo (This food stall will serve Asian dumplings and banh mi, and it’s a food concept from Abhi Sainju, the chef of Bamboo on 2nd).
In addition to its multi-cultural food offerings, The Pizitz will also house Yellowhammer Creative, which has already opened, and Warby Parker (a socially conscious eyewear brand), which will open later this spring.
Helpful Tips for Visiting The Pizitz
For me, the game-changer about visiting The Pizitz is the fact that they have a parking deck!!! The entrance is on the corner of 1st Avenue and 18th Street North. It’s free parking for 2 hours then it will charge you $5 for 2-3 hours, $10 for 3-4 hours, and $20 for over 4 hours. You’ll pay with cash or card when you exit, and the parking deck is only open from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
After parking, you’ll walk to the elevator and take it down to level A (the elevator’s sign tells you where to go for the Food Hall in case you forgot). When you get off the elevator, you’ll cross through the courtyard and head into the Food Hall.
If you’re not parking in the parking deck but are entering street side, there’s entrances on both 19th Street and on 2nd Avenue North (directly across from the McWane Center).
Seating is in the middle of the Food Court, and at least this week during lunch and dinner, it was tough to find a spot to sit because there was quite a crowd. It helps if you have a friend who can scout out seats while the other gets the food. With it being the first week (and a holiday weekend), there were some long lines at the restaurants, so you’ll want to have a good 45 minutes to an hour to spare if you’re going to go. That will give you enough time to get there, get your food, eat, and leave.
I’ll confess that I’ve already been to The Pizitz 3 times since they opened (and ate Eli’s Jerusalem Grill, Tropicaleo, and Busy Corner Cheese), and I plan to go back again this next week. So many food stalls, so little time!
Included below are the hours for the Pizitz Food Hall, but be aware that the hours for the individual food stalls will vary.
- Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- Friday: 7 a.m. – midnight
- Saturday: 8 a.m. – midnight
- Sunday: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.