A little snow wasn’t going to stop Jeff Gentry from opening his new market and restaurant on Highway 31 in February. And so as the flakes landed on their storefront on the morning of Feb. 16, they went on serving meals as planned, right in what is many people’s backyard on Highway 31 next to Donato’s Pizza. To learn more about The Backyard Market concept and what it offers, we chatted with Jeff a few days after they opened up shop.
Where did the idea for this concept come from?
I was born and raised in Vestavia and have lived here my whole life. I have always wanted to do something on 31 in Vestavia. I was driving by one day and saw the for-lease sign, and the landlords have been helping us to open as quickly as possible. I felt like we needed a local neighborhood market where people could grab a sandwich, a bottle of craft beer and a bottle a wine and have a cool place to hang out for kids and families.
What we will we find in the market?
We carry locally sourced products like seasonal produce when it’s available. We’ve got specialty cheeses, steak, elk tenderloins and other meats. If you need eggs and milk, you can come to us and grab some wine and dinner too. Coming soon you can get hand-cut steaks to take home, or we will cook them for you. We will have a lot more grab-n-go meals. Whatever the community needs is what we will carry. We can bring in any type of wine or craft beer anybody wants.
What’s on the menu?
We have a really good southern style breakfast, and lunch with sandwiches and burgers and such. In the evenings we have the lunch menu and will also have three or four entrees each night for dinner, like a shrimp and grits or fish or steak. The dinner menu will change every day.
Can you tell us about your professional background and how it ties in with the market concept?
My background is in grocery distribution and working with sourcing with local products and selling them to retailers, and I still do that on a smaller scale with Bamawise, a local grocery distributor. We are not trying to carry Hidden Valley and Kraft products. We want to carry as many local products from the area as we can whether it’s salad dressings and meats. Especially now people really want to know where their food comes through.
Your chefs have worked at Satterfield’s, Hot and Hot, Ovenbird and Big Bad Breakfast. What do you think appealed to them about this concept?
I have two excellent chefs, Leo Oliver and John Williams, and I couldn’t have done this without them. I think it’s something different nobody has done before around here. It really challenges them as chefs. Not only are they preparing food for people, but we are also preparing product lines. It gives them the opportunity to be creative. The kitchen staff is incredible, so we will create whatever the neighborhood needs.