Scandinavia and Soul Food

By on 15 July, 2019 in Food, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

They sure hated that city porter.

We don’t buy a lot of furniture. The best furniture buying experience we’ve ever had involved no purchases, but did allow us to see the inside of the old Bishop-Parker building downtown. Someday soon that place will be a “boutique hotel.” Hopefully it will retain the interior details that signal a bygone era of consumption – the giant elevators, huge composite sliding doors and multiple sales desks. Also hopefully the new proprietors will save the graffiti, whose criticisms of the city porter amused us almost a decade ago.

But, for reasons it’s not really that interesting to discuss, we found ourselves looking into the idea of some new furniture that might offer additional spinal support – especially while working, most of which is done sitting down, (the toxic effects of which even moderate exercise doesn’t offset). The massive online universe of people with opinions about things (which often seems to be, essentially, the whole Internet) pointed us to the universe of Scandinavian furniture.

We don’t have an IKEA in Montgomery, but even if you’ve never been to one of their weird, winding showroom/store megacomplexes, you’re probably familiar with the chain’s influence in popular culture and retail. The Swedish affordable design aesthetic finds expression in just about everything HGTV identifies as having “clean lines” or “a pop of color.” But the meatballs served in the shop cafeteria seem to have, mercifully, had their day. Also there’s a good Jonathan Coulton song and a strange made-for-YouTube series.

Scandinavia is bigger than Sweden, of course. The Finnish have world-renowned schools, and Norway’s not just a beacon for responsible investing; they’re also home to Ekornes, whose chairs are said to be the peak of everything for the conscious sitter. But you can only give these things a test-sit by going to Hoover, so we took a field trip to Scandinavian Design & Leather over in the Galleria-adjacent road maze.

The place turned out to be an extensive and meticulously kept showroom that’s a little incongruous upstairs in its hard-to-access roadside strip mall. Its collection of sleek couches and assortment of mid-century modern things even managed to penetrate the shell of our overall resistance to buying new furniture.

The chairs were fine. They were really nice. They were also super expensive. No matter, we weren’t there to buy one, really. The person who helped us was attentive but not obsequious, and seemed to understand what we wanted after a few brief exchanges. We took a catalog and went in search of food to power our return drive south.

We didn’t have to go far – downstairs was Jake’s Soul Food Cafe, which the showroom lady assured us we’d find to be delicious. It’s a small place that’s more charming than its strip mall location might suggest. The service was fast and friendly. There’s a full bar, but we were driving home, so we got tea of the non-Long Island variety. Overall, the food was pretty salty but delicious. The “BBQ shrimp” appetizer was especially good, and saucy, served with pineapple bits, beans, and rice.

If you need expensive furniture that is kind to your spine, the trip to Hoover is probably worth it. If you’re in Birmingham and want some good soul food — in a city that’s not wanting for such venues — Jake’s is worth it for sure.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, fifteen fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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