One on One: Chris Bajalieh and Lexi Kwak

What does the Birmingham community mean to you? For some, it means sharing pictures and stories of their dogs with strangers-turned-friends. For others, it’s bonding over a swine pizza made with local ingredients or a unique cocktail that tastes particularly refreshing at 5 p.m. This month, we brought together Lexi Kwak and Chris Bajalieh to share how their passions have influenced the local community.

Meet Chris Bajalieh

Chris and his two brothers, Jeff and Jason, are the faces behind three well-known Birmingham restaurants: Sol’s Sandwich Shop & Deli, Slice Pizza and Brewhouse, and Sky Castle Gastro Lounge. While all three serve different fare, the restaurants are rooted in their family history of a love for good food and Birmingham. For more, visit,, and

Meet Lexi Kwak

Kwak is the co-founder of Dogs of Bham, an online community for dogs and dog lovers of the Birmingham area. The website (which also has an Instagram and Facebook following) was started by Kwak and her friend Alicia, whom she met on Instagram, in 2014. Today, the online community has grown to over 10,000 followers. For more, visit

What was your mission with your venture and how has it grown?

Bajalieh: “All three restaurants we’ve started are different. The deli concept came from our father, Saleh “Sol” Bajalieh, who operated the downtown deli for many years. With Slice in Lakeview, we wanted to make quality pizza with local ingredients. We’ve also given back to the community through SliceFest, an annual music festival. The newest restaurant, Sky Castle Gastro Lounge, delivers an upscale, elevated meal. It’s a place where you can watch a game and get good cocktails. I was born and raised in Birmingham and really believe in this community.”

Kwak: “I am obsessed with taking pictures of my dog. I wanted to meet others in the community who loved their dogs as much as I do. I met Alicia on Instagram, and we started this together, not really knowing what it would turn into. We do a variety of dog features on a variety of different breeds. We’ve also hosted several meet-ups. We had a dog trainer come and answer people’s questions, and we also go on hikes. It’s not for profit. It’s entirely for the community. They’ve made it what it is today.”


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