June 22, 2021

Poor Man’s Kitchen aims for ‘cheap, quick and really good’ food in Avondale

On the late-night dining scene in Birmingham, the legendary Marty’s burger has ruled supreme. But…

On the late-night dining scene in Birmingham, the legendary Marty’s burger has ruled supreme.

But there’s a new contender in town — a scrappy upstart that aims to serve crave-worthy food in the Avondale entertainment district.

Say hello to Poor Man’s Kitchen, a “mini-restaurant” founded by Secret Stages organizer Jon Poor. It’s been in operation for about six weeks at 41st St. Pub & Aircraft Sales, 130 41st St. South.

The menu, created and cooked by Poor, currently offers four sandwiches and one appetizer, all priced at $8-$10. These are hearty eats, prepared with care and served with a no-fuss philosophy.

They’re intended to satisfy the tummy rumblings of folks who’ve been out on the town and downed a few beers or other adult beverages. Now they need something to soak up the booze and sustain them for the rest of the evening. That’s where Poor Man’s Kitchen comes in.

“Mainly, I just want people to know this is good food,” Poor says. “I want people to know, if you need something quick, this is the place to go. It’s coming out of a small kitchen and there are no frills. It’s going to be cheap, quick and also really good.”

Many folks know Poor, 47, as the force behind Secret Stages, an annual music festival that aims to introduce audiences to acts that might not be famous, but are chosen for their quality, interest and cutting-edge appeal. He’s also a singer, songwriter and guitarist.

At the same time, however, Poor has about 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He’s no stranger to the kitchen, and has worked as a manager, bartender and front-of-house staffer. His current job is at Mudtown Eat & Drink in Vestavia Hills.

Poor Man’s Kitchen has limited hours — 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays — and Poor says he’s arranged his schedule so this new venture doesn’t conflict with his duties at Mudtown. He’s been taking it slow, developing a menu, refining his system and spreading the word about Poor Man’s Kitchen, primarily on his Facebook page.

“I like the idea of a small, controlled atmosphere — a one-man operation,” Poor says during an interview with AL.com. “It’s a nice, five-item menu.”

Currently, his most popular item is The Dirt Farmer, a panini sandwich made with slow-cooked Mississippi pot roast, provolone cheese and horseradish sauce on a hoagie.

“The Dirt Farmer is right up my alley for comfort food,” Poor says. “Slow-cooked meat is a way to have something really quality, without a ton of prep work. It came together naturally.”

He’s also had a positive response to The Bandito, a Cuban sandwich made with pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickle slices on a hoagie. (”I call it the Bandito because I stole the recipe,” Poor says.)

Poor says orders are increasing for The Austerity Measure, a pita wrap made with air-fried Greek chicken, cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta cheese and taziki. Fans of the BLT give a thumb’s up to The Flat Broke, a sandwich with Colby jack cheese, sliced tomato and bacon on Texas toast.

The lone appetizer, Misery Loves Company, features a Southern favorite, homemade pimento cheese, along with hummus, pita toast, and carrot and celery sticks.

Poor says he might add one more sandwich to the menu — no spoilers here, but we’re rooting for a PB & J — and if all goes well, Poor Man’s Kitchen could expand its offerings to burgers, wings and weekly specials.

Don’t call this place a pop-up; Poor says his mini-restaurant is staying put at 41st St. Pub and is complementary to the business there. People can place their orders on scene and dine in, or call ahead and get food to go.

“The food has been, thankfully, really well received,” Poor says. “This is a menu that I’m really proud of.”