Courtesy of Tom Sheffer.
A rendering of the future Ice House restaurant.
For Tom Sheffer, the term “ice house” does not represent anything cool or wintery; it means sizzling steaks and the bold flavor of south Texas.
Sheffer, owner of Avo and Dram, is opening a new “casual neighborhood hangout” called Ice House on Cahaba Road. The restaurant will serve Texas-style barbecue and a selection of tacos in addition to sandwiches and limited bar options, including snacks.
“We’re going to do a few things really well,” Sheffer said. “I think what we’re doing is a unique concept for the area.”
The idea for the restaurant came from Sheffer’s love of Texas.
“I always say I want to be a Texan,” Sheffer said. “As corny as it sounds, Texas is really a passion to me.”
The term “ice house” originated in the 1800s. It referred to a refrigerated place used to store perishable products, such as butter and eggs, and later evolved to describe a store that sold cold drinks.
“If you’re in parts of San Antonio and Austin, you’ll see something called ‘west side ice house’ and it’ll be beer and maybe grilled sausage or something,” Sheffer said. “‘Ice house’ may not mean barbecue to Texans, but to me, it says Texas.”
Ice House will operate as a self-serve, easy to-go place where customers place their orders at a counter, then pick up the food themselves. Projected to open in October, the restaurant will be located on Cahaba Road in the Spitfire Building, next to Barton-Clay Fine Jewelers.
“We like the location, on the edge of the existing, old village, but facing across to the new,” Sheffer said. “I think it puts in us in the middle of a lot of activity.”
Sheffer originally planned to open a breakfast place called Biscuit Boy, but decided against it, partially because of the many breakfast options nearby. He said that he still likes the concept and may open Biscuit Boy someday, but not necessarily in Birmingham.
Instead, Ice House will offer brunch, including the breakfast taco, a signature of Austin, Texas, and remain open into the evening “with unique food and hospitality offerings to take advantage of the cool space our landlord is building and the opportunity the city has afforded us,” Sheffer said.
Sheffer believes that the atmosphere and food that Ice House will provide is different from anything currently available in Birmingham.
“There’s a ton of barbecue in any Southern city or town,” Sheffer said. “But I still think we’ll do a good enough job to be a player and the Texas spin makes it different. It has its own flavor and it’s something we’d like to bring to Birmingham.”