Written by Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Kay Bruno Reed was born into a family where life was not complete without great food. She grew up cooking, entertaining, and growing inspiration from Birmingham area chefs, cooks, and role models. Food became a way of life.
Bruno’s dream come true of owning a neighborhood gathering place began in 1999 with the Café Iz. From there it has been a dream in progress. Today her business has expanded into several divisions: Iz Café, Iz The Place, Iz Catering, Iz Good Stuff, and Iz Neighborhood Grocery. Iz Café is a neighborhood restaurant located in Vestavia Hills that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offers a prepared hot dinner Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Nearby in Vestavia, Iz the Place is a private event venue, while Iz Catering offers on-site and off-site catering. Iz Good Stuff is the wholesale division that has expanded to the Gulf Coast, where Bruno’s products are found in grocery and specialty markets. In 2016 she and her son, Stephen Reed saw a need for a local mom-and-pop grocery to sells local and regional products to Mountain Brook and neighboring communities. And Iz Neighborhood Grocery (ING) was born.
ING is located in English Village, and Reed serves as general manager. “We are the place to shop for milk, bread, and eggs, have a panini and a pint of craft beer, or pick up steaks for the grill with the sides already prepared,” Reed says. The grocery strives to serve as many non-GMO and organic foods as possible, and it continues to change and evolve to suit customers’ needs. So look for many new organic items soon.
Current local and regional products include Fudge Family Farms pork, Catherine Beas farm eggs, T Lish dressings, McEwen & Sons grits and oats, local produce, craft beers, Better Kombucha, and Higher Ground Coffee. Hinkle Artisan Breads delivers a variety of breads including their Batards (a short baguette) on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. ING also offers Iz’s own products: granola, pickles, strawberry jalapeno jelly, sweet potato chips, chicken salad, pimiento cheese, superfood salad, pasta salad, cake bites, pumpkin and banana breads, desserts, orange rolls, chocolate roulade (roulage), craft ice cream, and more. Their recently expanded line of Iz products in the store include frozen casseroles: chicken pot pie, lasagna, and turkey tetrazzini. Pulling from Iz and other ING offerings, the grocery also has an expansive tailgate menu that pleases fans no matter your team.
In addition to being a grocery, ING also offers counter and sidewalk seating for those who want to eat there. Lunch is served starting at 10 a.m. and features daily soups, paninis, and a hot lunch special. The deli serves salads, vegetables, and side dishes. A fresh meat case features the chicken that is cooked in their prepared meals, as well as lamb chops, steaks, chicken, tuna, veal, and pork. Dinner offerings are published on a monthly calendar and are ready for pick up daily from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
In addition to food, ING sells wine by the glass or bottle—an excellent pairing with their cheese plates. On Wednesdays they host wine tastings from 5 to 7 p.m.and 10 percent off cases. They also offer 12 craft beers on tap and others in cans and bottles, with specials on them on Thursdays. Growlers are also available for purchase, or you can bring your own.
Due to popular demand, ING began catering recently. “We have everything for your dinner party, even fresh flowers,” Reed says. “All you have to provide is the guests.” They also are making plans to take the stress out of holiday meals, with offerings including Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, and caramel cake, as well as Christmas beef Wellington and scalloped potatoes—a la carte or the entire meal.•