The result of a two-year project to add a signature restaurant to the high-rise at 555 Old S. Woodward was unveiled just two weeks ago, and it promises to be a popular Birmingham destination.
Triple Nickel might seem to have been an obvious choice for the name, but not so. The principals originally chose the name Crush, until someone recalled hearing the construction workers calling the place Triple Nickel during the build-out. A light flashed, and the nickel became the name and the theme.
But not just any nickel. The vintage buffalo nickel lends the right sense of style, and represents the purely American slant of the menu and wine list.
The interior designers, Ron & Roman, ran with it, and added strategically placed replicas of the coin on surfaces around the main floor space, as well as a massive buffalo trophy over the bar. Desk lamps decorated with sculptures of the all-American animal are set along the bar surface — and yes, there's a buffalo burger on the menu.
The snappy new spot was designed by Corey Campbell, president of C-arc Design Group in Birmingham and constructed by builder Brian McAndrews' company Trademark Construction Services. It is already attracting crowds even on weekday nights. The brains behind the restaurant include Marc and Trina Blancke of Sindbad's and John Fleming, the former longtime chef at the riverside spot, front-of-the-house veteran Zoran Smolcic, and two of the building's owners, Jack and Kathy Reinhart
The expertise shows. Triple Nickel has managed to avoid most of the glitches that often accompany the debut of a new restaurant. The staff members in black shirts and striped bistro aprons are professional and friendly as they navigate the room with its center row of leather-backed benches at high tables separated by small striped curtains. Two second-floor rooms overlook Woodward and Old Woodward, respectively, through big windows thrown open when weather permits, and they are more casual than the main floor space.
The single page dinner menu emphasizes seafood on both the appetizer and entrée lists, and those familiar with Sindbad's will recognize some of the selections, including the not-just-on-Friday New England clam chowder, the lightly sauteed lake perch and seared sea scallops. The tender little scallops are especially notable, enhanced with a mere touch of blood orange drizzle, and like all the entrees, they are served with fresh vegetables and rice or fingerling potatoes, so there's really not much need to order sides.
Among interesting appetizers are calamari stuffed with crab meat and a touch of ham, garlicky roadhouse-style frog legs — also available as an entrée — and sesame chicken tenders (not just for the kids' table any more) brightened with mango/chile dip.
It's by no means a replica of the Sindbad's menu, however. Other options include pear salad — expect to see this on the lunch menu when it's unveiled shortly — and eight- or four-ounce filets and Colorado lamb chops. Desserts include a fun item imported from Key West — a chocolate key lime pie ice cream bar on a stick.
The wine list hand-picked by Smolcic is heavily tilted toward Napa Valley, and is refreshingly free from the usual suspects.
It's very early in the game, but the pros behind this new spot know what they're doing. This is not an amateur pop-up, but a solid contender in the thriving metro area restaurant scene.
555 S. Old Woodward, Birmingham
Call: (248) 480-4951
Hours: 4-10 p.m.Sun.-Thurs, 4-midnight Fri.-Sat. (Bar later) Lunch to be added soon
Prices: Appetizers $8-$13, soups and salads $5-$12, burgers $9-$15, entrees $14-$29, desserts $6-$8
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Valet, 555 Parking Garage or street
Wheelchair access: No barriers