At 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern, a sense of community is the most valued ingredient in their business approach. The owners’ commitment to invest in all things local is what sets them apart. Steve Bunner, the executive chef and one of the restaurant’s owners, is proud of that reputation and the friendly, neighborhood atmosphere he and his team have created over the past five years.
“Locally owned businesses bring a lot to a community, and that is generally what they create is a community. They really help a city develop. We are really happy that we have been accepted and have been able to prosper,” Bunner said.
Located inside Huntsville’s historic Five Points neighborhood, the 1892 East name relates to the city’s history. “When this area was drawn on the city’s old planning map, it was called the 1892 East Extension of Huntsville,” explained Bunner. “It was originally the city’s first blue-collar neighborhood where a lot of the mill workers lived.”
The casual, yet lively neighborhood feel is part of what draws in customers, he said. “It’s a very nice mix. On Sundays, for example, everybody knows everybody. People are coming in for brunch or coming in after church, and they’ll all recognize each other. Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 minutes before they get to their own table, because they’ll stop and say hello to their neighbors and friends.”
With a laugh, Bunner says he likes to describe the restaurant as a first and third date kind of place. Nice enough to bring someone on a first date; yet, affordable enough to bring someone on a third date. “We believe good food doesn’t have to be the most expensive food,” said Bunner.
Another integral part of 1892 East’s recipe for success is the use of good, quality local foods. Bunner says his vision has always been about supporting the local economy and environment in a fun and responsible manner. “What we do here is we try to focus on regionally and locally derived foods. We cook them with high-level French technique, but in a very casual presentation.”
It’s easier – and often times cheaper – to bring food in from Mexico or California, Bruner said, but 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern works with a local organization called the North Alabama Food Collaborative that helps close the logistical gaps of getting local ingredients.
“We need to establish a strong food value chain. If our money stays in the local economy, it has a doubling effect over time. As long as we continue to invest in our local economy, we get all stronger and stronger,” Bunner explains.
Story and photos by Melissa Johnson Warnke