When Dean Robb sits down for breakfast, chances are he’s already conjuring up what’s for dinner. “I’ve just always appreciated food,” says Dean, who grew up eating all things homemade. His childhood was marked by fresh produce and smokehouses in the backyard. “I can remember my grandmother canning vegetables and working in the garden. We just always had good, fresh food,” he says.
Dean first stepped onto the fine dining scene in the ’80s with his restaurant and hotel, Victoria Inn — now the Hotel Finial — in Anniston. From there, he joined culinary mastermind Frank Stitt at Bottega Restaurant & Café and then opened the late DoDiYo’s eatery in Homewood. Also spending a few years growing Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafés from 11 locations to 63 nationwide, Dean has more than solidified his relevance in Alabama’s well-established food scene.
His newly opened restaurant, Blueprint on 3rd, is already raking in rave reviews with its sophisticated take on classic American dishes. Located in the old Birmingham Blueprint Company headquarters in Lakeview and now part of Pepper Place, Blueprint on 3rd gives a reverent nod to some of Dean’s favorite dishes.
“The genre is American with original Southern influence,” Dean says of the menu, which features a tasty smorgasbord of options rooted in Southern cuisine — like the Cast Iron Skillet Pimento Cheese and the Blueprint Jubilee Gumbo.
Dean also works to celebrate several other regions in the menu. For instance, he says, the tomato salad with green goddess dressing was inspired by the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Or try the Colorado beef tartare “Mardi Gras style,” with little pickles and charred chicory; West Indies salad with celery, ruby red grapefruit and jumbo lump crabmeat; or Blueprint Poutine, crispy fries and mac and cheese topped with braised brisket and brown gravy. The concept for Blueprint on 3rd, Dean explains, stems from a desire to bring together some of the best flavors from around the country into one mouthwatering menu.
“You’ll see some New York and Chicago influences in there, too,” he says.
Keeping an open mind when it comes to crafting the menu, Dean says, will be one of the hallmarks of Blueprint on 3rd. And, he adds, he has no doubt that the restaurant’s executive chef, James Huckaby, whose resume includes Bottega and Chez Fonfon, will deliver flavorful dishes that’ll satisfy visitors.
The restaurant’s decor features a classic aesthetic as well. Walls of windows fill the space with natural light, and as dusk settles on Lakeview, chic warm lighting illuminates the elegant yet understated space. It’s a blend of industrial and Art Deco. Colorful paintings, which are all sourced from artists who are friends of Dean’s, adorn much of the space, while exposed beams and brick painted black with subtle red accents bring a strong, industrial feel to the mix.
“We wanted it to be timeless,” Dean says of the space, which has ample seating and a long, zinc-top bar perfect for posting up at after a long day.
Although the restaurant has only been open for a few months, Dean says business has been good — and he’s been humbled by the positive reception Blueprint on 3rd has received so far. Because Birmingham is already brimming with premier restaurants, Blueprint on 3rd has a heavy torch to bear. But, it’s one Dean has been working his entire career to carry. And given his track record, it’s safe to say the space will become a go-to spot for locals.
“Even back in the ’80s, when I wanted to study food, I’d come to Birmingham,” Dean says. “I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad to be doing this kind of food again.”
Blueprint on 3rd is located between Hop City and Frontera at Pepper Place in Lakeview at 3000 Third Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233. They are open for dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The bar opens Monday through Saturday at 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (205) 479-3000, visit blueprinton3rd.com, or make a reservation online at opentable.com.
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