Posted on January 13, 2011
A transformation in Mountain Brook
CRESTLINE SEAFOOD COMPANY CHANGES UP THE MENU
By Christiana D. Roussel
Chad Adams will be one of the first people to tell you that last summer’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hurt the seafood business. Ironically, his business is more than 250 miles away from Mobile. Chad and his wife Allison own Crestline Seafood Company in Mountain Brook. But CSC is in the midst of changing the restaurant’s dining concept, away from one dominated by the problematic product.
Opened in 2009, the original business model for CSC was to offer the best seafood for Birmingham home cooks, with a sideline dinein restaurant for those craving handcrafted crab cakes and bottles of beer in a relaxed environment. CSC was an immediate hit, becoming a great local “joint” that attracted customers of all ages.
Located in the former Clumpies Ice Cream location on Church Street, just across from City Hall, Chad and Allison installed a soft serve ice cream machine which kept the steady after-school customer stream that corner had been so famous for. Residents who once scoffed at the idea of ice cream and seafood quickly changed their tune. CSC is immaculately clean and inviting, and kids have loved meeting their moms there after school—enjoying a treat while picking up ingredients for dinner.
Proffering seafood was an easy choice for Chad Adams, who almost has saltwater running in his veins. A Birmingham native who has spent large portions of his life in Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores, he is a natural cook with an easy-going attitude. A CPA by trade, he analyzed all aspects of the restaurant/retail concept before jumping in. He’d done the math and determined he could turn a profit offering fresh premium snapper, sushi-grade tuna and shrimp. The restaurant side of the balance sheet would be lagniappe—a little something extra—and add a much needed casual dining spot in his backyard, Crestline Village. Things were going along swimmingly, until late April 2010.
When British Petroleum’s Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded, the fate of Crestline Seafood Company hung in the balance. Would the crabs be safe to eat? How could we be sure that the shrimp and redfish we’d come to love were still good? Chad met with suppliers and looked at other possible sources for his seafood. But once the shrimp and fish were determined safe to eat, prices went up dramatically. He worked hard to maintain the caliber of product and service that his customers had come to expect, but things got tough. Even though the seafood offered was impeccable, the mental image some customers had could not be shaken. “I have had customers EVERY day come in and ask if our seafood comes from the Gulf. When I tell that some of it does, they turn around and walk out,” he laments. “Even though I was getting my stuff from the same guys in Panama City Beach that Frank [Stitt] uses, there was a mental block some people had.” It finally just became too much to try and overcome.
With five employees whose livelihoods were in his hands, and an uncertain customer perception about his product, Chad made the decision to change things up on his little corner of Crestline. Starting this week, there is a transformation taking place as CSC starts featuring Gourmet Beach Burgers. Among the new items will be an Angus burger (known as the Gulf Shores Burger); a Destin Burger made with ground veal and served with a tomato aioli; a turkey burger; and a vegetarian Garden burger. And those crab cakes that the Adamses are so famous for? Those will still be available on the Chesapeake Bay, served with a lemon dill caper aioli.
When asked about pricing, the CPA in Chad came out as he gave a very odd number. He went on to say that once the customer adds in a side and a drink, the price becomes an even $10 which includes tax. That makes perfect sense. Of course, wine and beer will still be available for the over-21 crowd.
Allison adds, “We want this to be a place where families can come in and grab a burger between kids’ weeknight activities. We’ve always enjoyed a steady lunch crowd and hope that will continue. CSC has had live music nights, featuring local bands like Juice, and I think this place can do the same. Kids of all ages can feel comfortable coming in here to hang out.” The new CSC will be open for lunch Monday through Friday, 11a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner 5p.m. to 8p.m. Saturdays, you can grab a burger anytime between 11a.m. and 8p.m.
So, while the menu will change at CSC, the same relaxed atmosphere that folks have come to know and love will remain.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover of all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings on-line at ChristianasKitchen.blogspot.com or on Facebook (ChristianasKitchen) or Twitter (Christiana40).