When Ben and Laura Smith moved to Bluff Park from Birmingham’s Southside six years ago, they had no trouble falling in love with their new home. They loved the personality of the homes. They loved having a yard for their two sons to run around in, and they loved the community feel of the tight-knit neighborhood. As far as they were concerned, the neighborhood was perfect, save one thing: its lack of a community watering hole.
“We noticed that there weren’t many options for kid-friendly spots with TVs and outdoor seating,” Laura explained. “We knew that a restaurant and bar could be successful with so many young families moving in, so we started our journey.”
In September 2021, they opened their neighborhood sandwich shop and bar, The Electric, in the Bluff Park Village shopping center.
With a combined 32 years in the industry, Laura and Ben are no strangers to the ins and outs of the hospitality business. Ben has held every position from dishwasher to owner, with years of experience drawn from time at several well-known Birmingham establishments including Chez FonFon, Black Market Bar + Grill, El Barrio, and Paramount (of which he is part owner). Laura, who grew up in Homewood, has extensive experience in front-of-house operations and previously served as office manager and catering director for Brick & Tin.
When deciding on a concept for a spot of their own, the couple thought about the type of place they would like to take their family.
“We wanted somewhere that families could visit after tee ball games and on the weekends,” Laura said. “Somewhere that has options for even the pickiest eaters and a bar for the parents who like to enjoy a beer on a patio during the summer.”
Then, they tweaked that vision until it became one that they felt would serve their entire community.
“We also knew we wanted a spot for folks without kids to have a cocktail after work or one last drink before heading home during date night,” she continued. “We really strive to be a spot that appeals to everyone in the neighborhood, regardless of family status or age, with a healthy mix of nostalgia and current pop culture thrown in.”
With The Electric, Laura and Ben have more than fulfilled their mission. The interior brings the energy with its bold, retro design that includes pops of bright pink, turquoise, and yellow. An L-shaped bar offers plenty of room to pull up a barstool and converse with a friend or neighbor over a drink. And an outdoor patio outfitted with jumbo-sized Connect Four and Jenga keeps the kids entertained.
When it comes The Electric’s menu, sandwiches are the name of the game. Laura said sandwiches are something of a love language in their house, so they decided to extend that love to their community with a menu of melts and subs that are both creative and nostalgic.
The “TG” is named after Ben’s father and is a play on a sandwich he used to make with pepperoni, ham, Swiss, slaw, and garlic mayo on a Martin’s potato roll. The Downhome with bologna, American cheese, pickled tomatillos, 205 mustard, and chips smashed inside is a nod to a New Orleans favorite. The Electric even offers a vegan sandwich, appropriately named the Animal, that features carnitas-style mushrooms, vegan mayonnaise, avocado, corn, red peppers, and pickled onions.
To pair with the sandwiches, order a cup of chili or curry tomato soup. Starters include beer cheese with kettle chips, buffalo hummus, and loaded kettle chips featuring both chili and beer cheese. Wash it all down with a signature cocktail, craft beer, or glass of wine.
Laura said after just a few months in business, the restaurant has already received a warm welcome from the neighborhood. When the weather starts warming up, they hope to bring live music to their patio. A weekly trivia night is also on the table. But for now, the Smiths are content continuing doing what they set out to do.
“For now, we’re focusing on the day-to-day success of our little shop,” Laura said. “We’re just focusing on giving everything 100% to anyone who walks through our doors.”