Feast & Forest
Kristen Farmer Hall and Victor King are no strangers to the culinary scene in Birmingham. In fact, they’ve been pioneering their own ventures for years with pop-up shops and dinners galore.
But now the duo has teamed up to bring the best of their culinary and business skills to a new reality, a cafe and bakery called Feast & Forest, located at 212 24th St. N.
For the pair, the business won’t necessarily fit into a traditional category of just lunch or just bakery. King said he is comfortable with patrons describing it as a great bakery that serves a great salad or a bistro.
They first met while King was working at Bottle & Bone, and Hall’s Baking Bandits bakery was providing desserts for the restaurant. Both have culinary experience that dates back to high school, working as dishwashers in cafes and restaurants. King gained more experience working at Highlands Bar & Grill, and Hall said she has already had astounding success with Baking Bandits.
“I realized at 15 this is what I was going to do. This is my calling,” King said. “I’ve tried to run away from it as hard as I could, but it didn’t work.”
Though Hall and King initially planned to transform her event space, The Nest, into a cafe by day and keep the event space by night, there were too many roadblocks, and the idea fell through. It was through a friend, Jason Wallace, that the two rediscovered his photography and film studio on 24th Street North. As it all came together so quickly, Hall said of the deal that it was “supernatural.”
“It’s interesting how the geography and space itself helps define the dream,” she said. “This space forced us to think a little bigger, but it feels right.”
She said the studio was “perfect” for what they wanted to create for the cafe, and it makes sense. The space, though not huge, already has the “modern nostalgia” vibe about it that the pair said they are trying to embody. The ceiling rises high, and a spindly spiral staircase rises up to a second-level loft. Below, there is room for seating and display cases, which they’ve already begun to collect from here and there.
“Our vision is to create a cozy cafe that is both modern and nostalgic, so we’ve mixed some quirky, vintage pieces with modern ones,” Hall said.
In fact the details are so important to the pair, they’ve traveled all across the South collecting the perfect items to furnish the cafe so that is has just the right feel. They’ve scoured Craigslist and local trading sites, once making an “adventurous trip” to Atlanta to pick up just the right vintage deli cooler, Hall said.
“We felt like the perfect pieces would find us, so we’ve waited patiently to find the right thing,” she said. “We’re really happy with how things have turned out.”
Their attention on the little things extends beyond the decor to arguably the most important part of the venture itself – the menu. Developing it became a “very natural process,” King said, emphasizing that they wanted to have a good selection that wasn’t too complicated.
“For us, the details matter,” Hall said. “The menu here is simple, yet thoughtful. Focusing on seasonality in both the bakery and cafe will keep things interesting.”
King added, “I think it’s important for Birmingham to realize that refined doesn’t mean expensive or unapproachable.”
Hall said her favorite menu items are the Savory Pie and Rosemary Pecan Hand Pies, and King’s are the Breakfast Sandwich and Savory Brioche. Together, though, they agree on loving the “epic” Salted Caramel Banana Pudding.
The cafe will open Nov. 12, and hours will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. More information can be found online at feastandforest.com.