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Walking into 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar is like entering a futuristic biergarten. Smells of slow-braised meats and the hiss of the skillet intermingle with the hot curls of light in bare Edison bulbs, casting a warm glow on the modern-industrial space. Reclaimed wood, vintage doors and a retro fridge are reimagined as wall panels, sliding partitions and a hostess stand. Their worn patina lends an inviting, unpretentious atmosphere that beckons you to stay a while in this cozy eatery, nestled in historic Five Points South in Southside. The concrete bar bears the proud, hand-painted slogan, “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham!” along its belly. One might assume this bar’s “belly” is filled with beer, but there’s a delightful surprise in the ecofriendly kegs of wine on tap, which flow into laboratory-style beakers. This playful approach of taking simple elements and reinventing them as something new, yet equally beautiful, is also reflected in the menu.

"We want people to feel comfortable in the space. It's not pretentious at all. It showcases good food, and it has a great beer selection. And the wines on tap are innovative for the area. It's very current, but also very casual and comfortable," says George Reis, Executive Chef of 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar.

“We want people to feel comfortable in the space. It’s not pretentious at all. It showcases good food, and it has a great beer selection. And the wines on tap are innovative for the area. It’s very current, but also very casual and comfortable,” says George Reis, executive chef of 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar.

The tap table in the center of the room features a gorgeous tabletop made of a 160-year-old hunk of Alabama Poplar. This special table also has two built-in live taps, which can be reserved for groups 42 hours in advance. Bottoms up!

The tap table in the center of the room features a gorgeous tabletop made of a 160-year-old hunk of Alabama Poplar. This special table also has two built-in live taps, which can be reserved for groups 24 hours in advance. Bottoms up!

When Executive Chef George Reis closed 26 in order to reinvent the space as 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, a loyal skeleton crew from 26 stuck with him through the three-month renovation, an integral part of completing the new look. "It's really impressive that ten people stayed on, not knowing if they were going to have a job, but because they believed in what we wanted to do with this place," says George, who still employs those same workers and has since promoted one of them to floor manager.

When Executive Chef George Reis closed 26 in order to reinvent the space as 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, a loyal skeleton crew from 26 stuck with him through the three-month renovation, an integral part of completing the new look. “It’s really impressive that 10 people stayed on, not knowing if they were going to have a job, but because they believed in what we wanted to do with this place,” says George, who still employs those same workers and has since promoted one of them to floor manager.

Once a month, George hosts breweries, and they bring interesting new or one-off beers to the restaurant. In the coming months, Victory, Westbrook, Lagunitas, Star Hill and Evil Twin will be at the tap table sampling their brews!

Once a month, George hosts breweries, and they bring interesting new or one-off beers to the restaurant. In the coming months, Victory Brewing Company, Westbrook Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Starr Hill Brewery and Evil Twin Brewing will be at the tap table sampling their brews!

“My restaurant 26 had been open in this space for nine years, and I wanted to freshen the look and have more fun with the menu. We want people to be really comfortable in the space,” says Executive Chef George Reis, who not only designed and built the restaurant’s inviting interiors, but also crafted the restaurant’s creative and forward-thinking dishes. The reinvented restaurant opened in July 2015, much to the delight of Birmingham’s diehard foodies. The menu is the adventurous epicure’s dream, featuring items like alligator tail tacos, 5 Point fried piggy tails, grilled fish Reuben and Brussels sprouts pork belly hash with farm egg.

“The concept of a public house and oyster bar gives me the option to play with a lot of different cuts of meat that people don’t really normally see, as well as long, slow-braised items, which develop that rich flavor, and our great oyster bar focusing on Southeastern waters. We get to be creative with our dishes and figure out what aspects we can bring into each dish that will make them unique. So you get this wonderful crossover,” the chef says. Other popular menu items include the shrimp and grits, the 5 Point Public House burger, the Pub Rub beef brisket sandwich and the Poutine—a generous serving of the house Parmesan black pepper fries topped with pulled pork, beef gravy and cheese curds—a Canadian dish familiar to George from his youth in upstate New York.

One of George’s earliest memories is cutting mushrooms to be sautéed and topped on steak. “I can remember, as a kid, 10 or 11 years old, we had two woks in my house and dried lotus flowers, tofu and black wood ear mushrooms in the cupboard because my dad loved Asian cuisine. And if it was going to be an Asian dinner, we were all in the kitchen doing prep. Dinner was always a production at my house,” he says. “My parents were big ‘foodies’ before it was a term. My dad actually took cooking classes from James Beard. So I have a cookbook, American Cookery, in my house, and it’s kind of my prized possession because it is signed by James Beard to my mom and dad.”

The stellar oysters at 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar are accompanied by house-made crackers, as well as five house-made sauces, including a fantastic hot sauce!

The stellar oysters at 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar are accompanied by housemade crackers, as well as five housemade sauces, including a fantastic hot sauce!

Alabama’s Murder Point Oyster Farm is aptly named. In the ‘30s at an oyster bed, two guys got into a fight about the rights to the bed and one guy killed the other guy. So that oyster farm is named Murder Point. “Murder Point has an extremely great oyster. We sell a ton of Murder Point oysters when we have them,” says George.

Alabama’s Murder Point Oyster Farm is aptly named. In the ’30s at an oyster bed, two guys got into a fight about the rights to the bed and one killed the other. So that oyster farm is named Murder Point. “Murder Point has an extremely great oyster. We sell a ton of Murder Point oysters when we have them,” says George.

PEI Mussel Fries in a warming, aromatic white wine garlic broth with crispy house fries and a creamy, zesty lemon aioli

PEI Mussel Fries in a warming, aromatic, white wine, garlic broth with crispy house fries and a creamy, zesty lemon aioli

The house parmesan black pepper fries are to-die-for. The spicy crab salad fried rice cake topped with avocado, jalapeño, tobiko and eel sauce is pretty and delicious enough to be dessert. The 5 Point piggy tails are not curly little springs like one might expect; they are crispy on the outside with all of the complex textures and richness that pork has to offer.

The house Parmesan black pepper fries are to die for! The spicy crab salad fried rice cake topped with avocado, jalapeño, tobiko and eel sauce is pretty and delicious enough to be dessert. The 5 Point piggy tails are not curly little springs like one might expect; they are crispy on the outside with all of the complex textures and richness that pork has to offer.

After a brief stint in college for business, George found his way to culinary school at Paul Smith’s College, an hour from Canada in the Adirondacks, followed by work in the restaurant industry. “I always felt like a round peg in a square hole,” he says. “I could do the job and do it well, but it always felt like there was something missing.” He would find the right fit after moving to the South, where the eventual opportunity to drive his own culinary ship became a possibility in his current space in Five Points South. “I always wanted to have this, but I never knew if I was going to get it, so I just feel really lucky. I love what I do,” he says. He also loves oysters, and although he claims not to know much about them, he can talk at length about the methods of modern oyster farming and why Alabama’s 13 oyster farms are gaining national recognition.

“Alabama is really kind of crushing it on the Gulf Coast. They are really putting their oysters on the map. People are talking about them, and they’re being shipped away. The oyster quality, the shape, the meat, the salinity, everything about them is great,” says George. “And the amount of oysters we’re doing is crazy. Over 50 percent of them are from Alabama. They’re great oysters.”

And George has been all about supporting everything local since 2002, when he cofounded Birmingham Originals, an organization uniting local restaurants and ultimately supporting Birmingham’s economy and cultural fabric. “Our belief was that we employ local people; so our money should stay in Birmingham’s communities. The stuff we do makes the area better, such as supporting local charities and adding to what the city has to offer, so we’d rather have the customer support us, because that, in turn, supports them.” George is incredibly giving of his time and talents for Birmingham charities. And although he was born a Yankee, he’s lived longer in the South, where he’s raised his two boys and likes to hang out on Smith Lake with the best of the good ol’ boys. “I love the South, and I love our Southside neighborhood. I love that it is eclectic and original. The buildings have been here since the ’30s,” says George, whose similarly eclectic and original restaurant is garnering attention in its namesake Five Points South.

The "Wine on Tap" mural was designed and hand-painted by Magic City Mural Collective, along with the "It's nice to have you in Birmingham" mural and the "The world is your oyster" tagline.

The “Wine on Tap” mural was designed and hand painted by Magic City Mural Collective, along with the “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham” mural and the “The world is your oyster” tagline.

At 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, the beers are numbered and organized by flavor profile on the bar's chalkboard. And while you enjoy your brew, you can ponder which character from The Breakfast Club you were most like in high school.

At 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, the beers are numbered and organized by flavor profile on the bar’s chalkboard. And while you enjoy your brew, you can ponder which character from The Breakfast Club you were most like in high school.

The creative lighting in 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar are the brainchild and handiwork of Executive Chef George Reis.

The creative lighting in 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar is the brainchild and handiwork of Executive Chef George Reis.

The front patio of 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar offers the perfect alfresco dining experience, especially in this cooler weather!

The front patio of 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar offers the perfect al fresco dining experience, especially in this cooler weather!

“I love the response! We’re something kind of different for Five Points, and people are really digging it, and saying ‘This is a really cool space and I like the food.’ So I am kind of getting, like, two pats on the back,” says George with a smile.

5 Point Public House Oyster Bar is located at 1210 20th St. S. in Birmingham. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. To learn more, call (205) 918-0726 or visit 5pointpublichouse.com.

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