Sky Castle Gastro Lounge opens in Lakeview and pleases all.  

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Sky Castle Gastro Lounge recently opened at 7th Avenue South on the ground floor of the Twenty-Nine 7 Building in Birmingham’s Lakeview District. Sky Castle’s concept has a backdrop of nostalgic rock and roll integrated with sports bar and a hint of edgy upscale woven into its ambiance.  And the fare is globally influenced, Southern progressive—comfort food with a cutting edge.

The People
Sky Castle Gastro Lounge is the third and newest of the Bajalieh brothers’ (Chris, Jason, and Jeff) Birmingham restaurants.  The Bajalieh’s are also the owners of Sol's Sandwich Shop and Deli and Slice Pizza and Brew. And they stocked the kitchen with an impressive array of talent. Richard Trent is chef, pastry chef is Ashley Bolton, and chefs include James Habshey and Dave Smith. And Ellen Rogers serves as general manager.

fried dumplingThe Place
Outside are patio, sidewalk, umbrella tables.  Inside the restaurant a replica of the glass-walled deejay booth from Birmingham's first Top 40 Station, WSGN’s remote studio “sky-castle” sits above the entryway and hostess stand on the left wall. This wall is covered in a mural that brings back days of a bygone era of 1955 when Ed Salem’s Drive-In occupied this space. In those days WSGN had a remote studio where Deejays took live requests from their "sky castle," a glass-walled booth over the drive in. To the right is the lounge area where several groups of mismatched sofas, coffee tables, and comfy chairs are arranged back to back. The furniture’s tones of camel, grey, orange and blue with rectangular blue lights overhead create an eclectic vibe. The lounge space has views of the patio and a huge LED television with four separate panels. 11 more large screen televisions wrap around this wall and the back wall above the copper bar (with more brews on tap than I can count) and the partially open kitchen. And in the center of the space there are tables for six on the bar side and smaller tables on the front side of the space. If you want to catch the game, no problem. No matter where you sit you will be viewing a television. The restaurant seats 165 including the bar and patio tables. Sky Castle is open for lunch, dinner, and late night sky castle cocktails from 11:00 a.m. until midnight on Sundays through Thursdays, and is open until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m. during the week and at midnight on weekends.

grilled caesarFavorite Fare
I am delighted to see my favorite, Champagne Delamotte NV offered by the glass. So we order it and a glass of Lakeview Lemonade from the cocktails list. The tasty lemonade is pink in color and served in a highball, overfilled with ice.  We are all set to start with the Pan Fried Gulf Shrimp Dumplings from the snacks menu. But they are sold out of this dish. So we opted for the Little Neck Clam and Gulf Fish Chowder and Grilled Caesar Salad. The creamy chowder is chock full of large bites of fish, clams, potatoes, carrots, and corn and deep in flavor. I highly recommend it. The whole leaf Romaine salad is large yet light topped with white anchovy, capers, Parmesan, Garlic croutons, and a house made dressing. For entrees we select

Black Grouper and Duroc Pork Chop. The pan roasted grouper arrives on a blue plate, golden on the outside and milky white pork chop on the inside. Served over a beautiful basmati rice mixed with cranberries, apricots, and a walnut pesto, it is colorful, exotic, and delicious. The tender and juicy chop is thick and bone in. It is grilled to exact doneness and is served atop fingerlings and a fennel, apple slaw and red wine agrodolce drizzle.

creme bruleeAnd to finish the evening, we were wowed by pastry chef, Bolton’s Banana Pudding Creme Brûlée. It is presented with a wedge of banana on top dusted with powdered sugar, along side a dollop of cream and a house made vanilla cookie. It is among the best brulees I ever tasted. From start to finish it tastes like the Bajalieh brothers have another winning recipe with Sky Castle Gastro Lounge.

Published by B-Metro magazine, February 2016 

Categories: Casually Upscale, Reviews
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