“We learned everything from our father and couldn’t do it without our mother.” Which of the brothers Bajalieh is responsible for this quote becomes unimportant when you hear all three unanimously echo the sentiment. Family and familiarity are the name of the game at Sol’s Sandwich Shop and Deli in downtown Birmingham. Located on Morris Avenue, Sol’s opened in 2007 just across the street from where Palestinian immigrant Sol Bajalieh ran the original Sol’s from 1968-1995.
The brothers Jeff, Chris, and Jason and their mother Nadia have kept the link to the past very much alive. “We’re using recipes that are 30-40 years old,” says Chris. “Our food is unique because it blends the Mediterranean influences of my parents’ cooking with traditional Southern food.” Sol’s serves a blend of burgers, wraps, hoagies, Po-boys, and sandwiches along with a full breakfast menu and daily meat and three entrees. According to the brothers, their sandwich recipes come primarily from dad while the meat and three recipes come mostly from mom. Nadia’s meatballs, which Sol’s makes from meat ground on the premises, are a house specialty.
While the brothers like to stress the origins and freshness of their food, it is another aspect of the original Sol’s they seem to remember most. Jason recalls his father saying once, “It isn’t what you’re serving but who’s serving it.” Chris expands, “If you eat here more than once we’re going to know your first name.” All three remember their father hammering home the concept that if a customer tells you their order once they shouldn’t have to say it again. This kind of relationship with diners is what has so many of the old Sol’s customers coming back.
“Everyday someone comes in and talks about dad and the old place,” says eldest brother Jeff.
The brothers admit they can’t always mimic their father. They tell of how near the end of the original restaurant’s run their father knew his clientele so well he never wrote down a ticket. “He’d have a line outside the door and never write a thing down. That’s how well he knew people,” explains Chris.
The brothers clearly enjoy talking about their father and the past but the Bajalieh’s enthusiasm for the future is also quite palpable. “We’re excited to be a part of the new Birmingham. We feel like we can see the light,” says Chris. Not only do they feel good after three years of business but they’re not content with running just one restaurant. The brothers have been designing and planning a new gourmet pizza restaurant to be named “Slice.” The new spot will be in Lakeview in the old Rock House location. Jason explains that they will have an extensive craft beer selection, live music, and a specialty oven. Nadia has been busy perfecting an “old dough” recipe that will be the corner stone of the new pie. You can start looking for “Slice” in January 2011.
Sol’s, located at 2 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham, is open Monday – Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Breakfast is served until 10:30 am. Click on www.solsdeli.com for more information.