McFlys and Unplugged are ready to serve up 80s/90s nostalgia in Five Points South –

Posted By on November 24, 2019

Jeremy Fall and Henry Costa, the LA-based hospitality duo best known for their modern iterations of classic American eateries, have finally brought their new age dining concepts to the South.

Mcflys Bird Shoppe (an 80s-inspired chicken tender joint) and Unplugged (a 90s-inspired cocktail bar) opened on Nov. 14 in Five Points South.

Currently open in Five Points Lane until 11 p.m., with possible plans to extend later, the new restaurant and bar are part of Orchestra Partners plan to attract young people back to Five Points South. For the past two years, the redevelopment firm has been on a mission to revive one of Birminghams first nightlife destinations after years of being overlooked for hot spots like Avondale and Lakeview.

After doubling down in Birmingham, Orchestra Partners opened the entertainment venue The Woolworth Recreation and Refreshment in 2018. If testing new concepts to fit into the evolving scene of Five Points South is the goal, bringing in two restaurateurs well-known for taking risks on creative dining experiences is a move in the right direction.

For the last five years, the duo have been some of the busiest men in the Los Angeles restaurant scene. Costa is a former Wall Street investment banker who cut his teeth in the culinary scene as an apprentice chef in Atlanta. In 2014, he opened Link, a West Hollywood restaurant focusing on artistinal sausages, where he met Fall as a customer.

Jeremy Fall (left) and Henry Costa at Unplugged in Five Points South.

Fall was quickly building his own reputation in the Los Angeles hospitality industry. In 2014, he opened a series of intimate bars based on his experience as a marketer and promoter in the Hollywood nightlife industry. Genesis, his first project, started out as a five-week a pop-up bar in a vintage Hollywood attic and later opened into a permanent location on Hollywood Boulevard. His second concept, Golden Box, was based on the iconic 1980s grunge scenes at Area, Studio 54, and the Limelight. Later that year, Fall reopened the legendary Los Angeles dive bar King Eddy Salon, restoring it to its former glory.

In 2016, Fall made his first foray into the restaurant industry with Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar, a breakfast restaurant specializing in elevated fare such as drunken french toast, Benedict fries and breakfast-themed drinks such as the spiked cereal milk and cold-brew cocktails. The concept would land him on Food Networks Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."

A spiked Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal milk cocktail (Courtesy: Nighthawk Breakfast Bar/ J. Fall Group)

Costa would eventually close Link, but the pair kept in touch, and Costa would come to Fall with the idea to open Tinfoil Liquor & Grocery, a liquor store with a speakeasy-style deli. Inspired by New York City bodegas, the concept was a combination of Costas Link and Falls Nighthawk. Out front, patrons could pick up beer, liquor and snacks. A passphrase to the cashier or a press on a buzzer granted access to the back -- a hidden sandwich shop boasting house-cured meats, served all day until close. In keeping with his pattern of restoring architecture and preserving city culture, Fall renovated a Highland Park corner store long known for advertising the coldest beer in town.

In 2016, Costa and Fall partnered to create the J. Fall Group. With Costa running the operations and finance and Fall handling the marketing, branding and creative design (including the interiors, logos and uniforms), the pair would go on to open more iterations of the Nighthawk brand, including Nighthawk: AM, the breakfast bars fast-casual sister concept, Paperboy -- a partnership with United Talent Agency and a take on the classic pizza joint, boasting shitake mushrooms pizzas and potato chip crusted mozzarella sticks -- and the new-age diner, Easys.

In addition to partnering with brands for limited-edition dishes, Fall has also expanded his creative projects outside of restaurants and bars -- creating a spiked cereal milk doughnut for American Express and curating a dinner party playlist for Spotify. His collaboration with the mens streetwear subscription box service Threadbeast was filled with 90s-inspired items including aviator shades and Falls custom-designed food porn View-Master filled with images from his restaurants.

While 90s nostalgia runs through his creative concepts, Fall,who has also cooked for James Beard Foundation dinners, said the theme is unintentional.

Everything seems to be cohesive accidentally, said Fall. Everything is always inspired by my upbringing. So I think being a 90s kid is the reason why.

For Fall, integrating music culture (particularly rock and hip-hop) with nostalgia has fueled a running theme for his projects: experimental dining concepts that are interpretations of classic Americana -- diners, restaurants, and bars that merge food, art and pop culture.

And as the restaurant industry has shifted to becoming more entertainment-centric, Fall said his ventures have found a captive audience.

It allows us to be a little bit more creative and have more fun. Creating a 90s concept is something that,10 years ago, may not have been possible because people would have thought it was weird, he said. Now people embrace something more experiential.

Falls penchant for merging entertainment, dining, and nightlife attracted the attention of Jay Zs Roc Nation, and in 2018, Fall became the first restaurateur and chef to sign to the rapper and business moguls entertainment group.

K2 Restaurants acquired all of the restaurants under the J. Fall Group umbrella in April, but Fall and Costa had no plans to slow down.

In August, Fall opened Mixtape, his first restaurant under Roc Nation. Fall once again created a fusion of music, food and visual art, commissioning pieces from musicians including Quincy Jones, Vic Mensa, Jaden Smith, Robin Thicke and Incubus Brandon Boyd.

Mixtape is basically my version of a mixtape in the food form. So I got a bunch of really cool artists that, in my eyes, are reflective of culture today, said Fall. So paintings, sculptures, sketches, collages. Basically all of that is my version of what a mixtape would be as a restaurant.

Inspired by his French Tunisian, Caribbean, Jewish American heritage, the menu is a melting pot of cultures, with smoked salmon and latkes, jerk fried chicken sandwiches, and steak tartare tostadas.The drinks are organized into a mood-themed cocktail menu, from spicy with tequila, ginger beer, and Chinese five-spice bitters to relaxed, a coconut-washed bourbon blend with toasted pecan bitters and Demerara sugar.

The Smoked Salmon n' Latkes at Mixtape (Credit/Courtesy: Mixtape)

'Birmingham is on its way up'

Fall said the duo set its sights on Birmingham as the destination for their next project due to the citys burgeoning-yet-approachable dining and bar scene of elevated and James Beard award-winning restaurants and cocktail bars.

We love emerging markets and emerging scenes, said Fall. Obviously Birmingham is on its way up pretty quickly. You know, similar to what Nashville looked like five years ago. Those are the kinds of markets we look for.

The pair spent months back and forth from Los Angeles to Birmingham, studying the city with the help of their developers, Orchestra Partners, who have made a significant investment in bringing new entertainment-centric projects to Five Points South. Fall and Costa immersed themselves in Birminghams bar culture, visiting night spots and talking to residents to get a sense of the type of concepts that would complement a rebirth of the area.

The result is McFlys and Unplugged at 1024 20th Street South in Five Points Lane, Fall and Costas seventh and eighth restaurants, and their first collaborations together since J.Fall Group was acquired.

Opening day at McFly's Bird Shoppe (Credit: BCJ Creative)

We saw a lot. We loved the nostalgic element, which I thought would really fit well for a while in the city. Both concepts are basically us coming to Alabama and doing what you guys are already doing, but adding our touch to it, said Fall. "Our inspiration has some of that California feel, but it capitalizes on the open mindedness that the city has.

Again, not the types to erase original architecture, Fall and Costa restored a lot of the brick of the original Five Points Lane building, which houses McFlys. The two spaces share a wall, so to create Unplugged, the team built the exterior walls of the bar from recycled storage containers.

I like being able to do that, Fall said. One of my favorite parts is building something that was complementary to [a location], not trying to seal it or hide it away.

BCJ Creative

The Kitchen for McFly's Bird Shoppe and Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

In keeping with their themes of revamped Americana, Fall and Costa tapped Noel Rosario, a longtime chef at their LA projects, to move to Birmingham to helm the McFlys and Unplugged kitchen, developing menus for the restaurants that contain nostalgia in every bite.

The design

A nod to both the Back to the Future franchise and bird flight, McFlys Bird Shoppe is a modern, 80s-inspired chicken tenders joint.

Graffiti on the walls of McFly's Bird Shoppe (Credit: BCJ Creative)

Outside, Fall marked the the grab-and-go concept with a neon sign, leaving the interior design simple -- awash in electric blue and pink, with a rusted tin ceiling, preserved brick, and graffiti-covered walls. For seating, a wooden counter with electric blue metal chairs lines the inside of the shop. Fall also designed the uniforms.

The biggest tribute to the 80s is the floor, which is covered in a collage of vintage ads from the decade.

The interior at McFly's Bird Shoppe. Fall and Costa restored the majority of the building's original brick. (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The floor at McFly's Bird Shoppe is a collage of vintage ads from 80s. (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The menu

The cheffed-up, elevated McFlys concept offers combos of original or spicy chicken, turkey, or vegan tenders, or a sandwich on potato roll with sides including fries, tater tots, slaw, mac-and-cheese or garlic toast.

A chicken tenders basket at McFly's (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The menu at McFly's Bird Shoppe includes 16 house made sauces (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The joints signature: an assortment of 16 house-made sauces, including Bloody Mary ketchup, Nashville hot mayo, black garlic, and McFlys sauce (Fall declined to give the recipe, but likened it to a special spicy aioli).

For an additional cost, customers can also add cheese, bacon or extra pickles.

Chicken tenders sandwich at McFly's Bird Shoppe (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The design

A nod to MTV's long-running live music show of the same name, Unplugged is in the alleyway behind McFlys.

Fall wanted exposed brick to be the focal point of the restaurants design. The create that look, Falls team constructed the building by placing recycled shipping containers around a brick wall, designing the concept from the outside.

Frozen Cocktails are on the menu at Unplugged in Five Points South (Credit: BCJ Creative)

While Unplugged is 90s-inspired, Fall didnt want the design to be gimmicky. Instead of plastering the interior with posters, Fall tapped the artist who painted the walls in McFlys to create a concept of graffiti and doodles to fit with Unpluggeds nightlife aesthetic.

The menu

On brand with Costa and Falls previous concepts of elevated Americana, Unplugged boasts a menu of grown-up takes on classic 90s delights.

A take on Lunchables, the Munchables are a rotating selection of thick-cut charcuterie, cheese, fruit preserves and beer mustard, served with assorted crackers.

The Munchables, Unplugged's take on Lunchables with thick cut charcuterie and assorted crackers ( Credit: BCJ Creative)

For the Patty Mayonnaise Melt (true children of the 90s will recognize the Doug reference), Rosario developed a recipe to duplicate the signature flavor McDonalds burgers, creating a thick patty of grass-fed beef topped with Tillamook cheddar, chopped onions and pickles, and a secret Unplugged sauce, served on toasted white bread.

The Patty Mayonnaise Melt at Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The Hamburglar Helper is a cheffed-up version of the one-pot dinner: shell pasta topped with grass fed beef, queso, avocado, and a sunny-side up egg.

Remember Dunkaroos? Unpluggeds adult version is a homemade chocolate chip cookie served with bourbon Funfetti icing dip.

And for patrons who want tenders, theres good news: the menu at Mcflys is also available at Unplugged.

The Hamburglar Helper at Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

Funkaroos at Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The cocktails

To develop Unpluggeds beverage program Fall and general manager Ryan Mims (who was previously behind the bar at Black Market Bar + Grill) took definitive drinks of the 90s -- think Mountain Dew (remember Busta Rhymes iconic Do the Dew commercials?), Tang, and Kool Aid -- and turned them into elevated cocktails.

The cocktail program at Unplugged is based on classic 90's drinks (Credit: BCJ Creative)

In terms of the beverage menu, we really thought back to the things that brought out nostalgic moments and give you that really warm feeling down in your in the pit of your stomach, said Mims. So weve got things like the Hi-C mimosa, taking concepts from that sweet juice box flavor that everybody had in their lunch box coming up. The Tang spritzer is always going to be for that generation who came up as 80s and 90s kids.

The Tang Spritzer at Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The Hi-C mimosa is a mix of blood orange vodka, peach liqueur, and sparkling rose with orange and lemon juices and simple syrup. The take on Mountain Dew is the Mountain Mule, crafted with the soda, ginger beer and lime juice.

For those looking to take the purist craft cocktail route, the Thats My Jam blends coconut rum, raspberry and elderflower liqueur, strawberry jam, and a citrus juice blend.

Also on the menu: two frozen drinks -- the Creamsicle delight (whipped vodka, Sunkist, vanilla syrup, and half & half) and the Frozen Gushers (tequila, pineapple and orange juices and banana).

And for those whose palettes lean toward more savory than sweet, the BBQ spice Bloody Mary is a boozy nod to Lays barbecue chips: Vodka and smoked homemade Bloody Mary mix with a BBQ spice rim.

The BBQ Spice Bloody Mary from Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

The things that your mom brought for you as snacks when you were coming up. We took those concepts and turned them into adult-themed beverages, said Mims. We're really hitting on those key notes of this is where you were, maybe 20 years ago. We brought it right back for you.

Since Birmingham is a beer city, Costa made sure to have a nearly exclusive assortment of Alabama beers in a self-serve fridge, as well as on tap.

The self-serve beer fridge at Unplugged (Credit: BCJ Creative)

Theres a very burgeoning beer scene here. And I saw an opportunity, said Costa. Were going to do a lot of local, primarily Alabama beers, but well also do some Southeast beers as well. Also on the draft list -- the Untapped Lager, specially crafted for the restaurant by Stevens Point brewery out of Wisconsin.

An anchor bar for a niche audience

As work on the Five Points South Entertainment District progresses, Orchestra Partners has more goals for phrase two as they continue to focus on neighborhoods and create centers of gravity for entertainment and life downtown.

We bought a few buildings, and we've been working on them ever since. So everything thats happening in Five Points right now is really exciting, said John Boone, Orchestra Partners principle and co-founder.

Graffiti lines the walls at Unplugged in Five Points South. Jeremy Fall spearheads the interior design at all of his restaurants. (Credit BCJ Creative)

Boone, who also sits on Five Points Alliance, the districts merchants association comprised of business owners and residents, said Unplugged will serve as an anchor bar for the developments next project, a music venue at Five Points Lane.

Were actually going to city council I think this coming month, so we'll have an open container district here eventually. So [Five Points South] will be one of three. Uptown has one. Pepper Place has one, and then we'll be the third one.

And as a fan of testing concepts for emerging scenes, Fall and Costa both think their restaurants, particularly Unplugged, cater to a good niche audience for the citys young future.

Preview night at Unplugged Bar (Credit: BCJ Creative)

What I like about Birmingham is that its unpretentious, said Fall. Its very much about community, you know, locals. Its welcoming. And I think thats what this bar is.


McFlys: Monday - CLOSED| Tuesday - 11am -1030pm|Wednesday - 11am -1030pm| Thursday - 11am -1030pm| Friday - 11am -1230am| Saturday - 11am -1230am|Sunday - 11am -1030pm

Unplugged: Monday - CLOSED| Tuesday - 4pm -11pm| Wednesday - 4pm -11pm| Thursday - 4pm -11pm| Friday - 4pm -1am| Saturday - 11am - 1am| Sunday - 11am -11pm

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