Redefined dining

The Boot at Brook Highland is located at 5279 U.S. 280 Suite B.

The Boot at Brook Highland is located at 5279 U.S. 280 Suite B.

The Boot at Brook Highland brings fast-casual fare to U.S. 280

Story by Emily Sparacino

Photographs by Dawn Harrison

For the young family in search of a casual spot to eat dinner, or for the group of colleagues wanting a place to grab a quick lunch, The Boot at Brook Highland is the place to go.

The Boot at Brook Highland joined the U.S. 280 corridor’s restaurant scene in May, boasting a variety of food and drink options within the parameters of the fast-casual dining concept, a trend gaining traction, particularly among young people – “Millennials” – with busy lifestyles, owner Mike McCowan said.

“Millennials want convenience (and) fast service without a lot of attention,” McCowan said. “You want healthy items.”

McCowan started experimenting with the fast-casual concept in 2011, when he opened The Boot at Preserve Village in Hoover.

Instead of relying on waiters and waitresses, customers assume a more active role in their dining experience by ordering their food at a counter, taking a number and choosing a table where, within 12-15 minutes, they are served, he said.

“Fast-casual has changed the industry,” he added.

The two locations feature the same menu and interior elements, but The Boot at Brook Highland, with roughly 7,600 square feet of space, has double the amount of seating as its Hoover counterpart.

Inside the restaurant, wood and metal elements mix to create a rustic, relaxed atmosphere, complete with a large brick fireplace, high ceilings and large garage doors that can be opened in fair weather.

An open-air deck gives patrons wanting an outdoor dining experience a place to enjoy live music as they drink and dine.

The Boot’s menu, “made fresh and simple with healthy options and quality ingredients,” as its website reads, is comprised of made-from-scratch salads, appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and sides, along with craft cocktails, wine and beer.

Doc’s crispy hot wings, served with cornbread and spicy pickles, and fried green tomatoes served with horsey sauce are standouts among the appetizers.

A popular signature plate is the shrimp and grits.

The Boot’s ground chuck burgers are made with 100-percent grass fed beef and come with traditional toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion), plus other toppings for more adventurous diners, including pimento cheese, fried egg and mac and cheese.

Customers can even order their burgers Chuck Norris-style, with cheddar cheese, bacon, fried egg, andouille sausage, onion rings and roundhouse sauce.

Tacos filled with slow-roasted brisket, sautéed shrimp or grilled mahi-mahi are among The Boot’s most popular taco offerings.

In the sandwich department, Big Al’s Brisket (ciabatta, slow-roasted brisket, onion straws and horsey sauce) and Coach’s BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried egg and garlic mayo) top the list.

In addition to wine and craft beer, a selection of craft cocktails features enough diversity to satisfy many preferences. The Bees Knees, with gin, local honey and lemon, or the Pink Paloma, a concoction of tequila, simple syrup, pink grapefruit juice and lime, put the ‘fresh’ in “refreshment.”

Other promising options are the Dirty Boot, a mixture of vodka, rum, gin, triple sec, bourbon, sour mix and Coke, and the Boot Margarita, with tequila, prosecco, sour mix and pineapple juice.

A longtime veteran of the restaurant industry and former general manager of The Wynfrey Hotel, McCowan admits he is intrigued with how the fast-casual concept has swept through the industry, turning the tide from fine dining to a more efficient, economical and laidback style of eating out.

“It took me awhile to understand this, also,” he said. “Coming from fine dining, it was an adjustment. It’s so much more efficient than full-service.”

Even the restaurant’s short name, taken from an excerpt in “Barnaby Rudge” by Charles Dickens, lends itself to immediate recognition and efficiency, a hallmark of the fast-casual concept.

“It’s not an hour-and-a-half (dining experience),” McCowan said. “You want to eat right and be gone.

“I am passionate about it,” he added. “It’s truly fun to watch that. There is an amazing revolution.”

The Boot at Brook Highland, 5279 U.S. 280 Suite B, Birmingham, is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit Thebootfoodanddrink.com.