Everything about Jennifer Mims oozes authenticity. She’s friendly with her staff, immersed in her menu and a pleasure to talk to. If you ask her what on earth she was thinking opening a restaurant in Homewood three years ago when there were already a number of fresh new places arriving on the scene, she’ll smile calmly and tell you, “Balance.”
Jennifer had regularly seen parents struggling to get dinner on the table, struggling to dine out as a family, struggling to find great food choices for themselves and their children at the same location, and she just knew. That’s why she opened Real & Rosemary, a restaurant focused on fresh, local ingredients served in non-fussy styles. “There’s a great need to serve families,” she says. “We’re feeding everyone from young professors to students to family dinners to girls’ nights.”
It’s located in the former Shield’s dry cleaners location on the corner of 29th Avenue South and 19th Place South in downtown Homewood. The previous owners had run a successful family business for 100 years, but then the building sat vacant from 2008 until 2016, when Real & Rosemary opened. In the renovation process, they were able to save the original concrete floors, full of holes from the previous businesses’ equipment, and store them. When Jennifer found a fabric that matched the floors’ design perfectly, she knew she had to use it on the restaurant’s bench seating.
Jennifer’s attention to detail flows through the building, from the light fixtures to the menu, which rotates seasonally. “We have such great produce in Alabama,” says Jennifer, who grew up going to the farmers’ market in Clanton with her family. “We went out of necessity,” she says, “but it was also the best produce around!” Jennifer stays true to that love of fresh veggies by serving up seasonal favorites like the heirloom tomato salad in summer and a shaved brussels sprouts side in the winter. “Our customers love the brussels sprouts,” she says. “I keep them on the menu as long as I possibly can.” The restaurant also offers a full bar, making it one of the few restaurants that you can enjoy a truly home cooked meal with your favorite cocktail.
“Good food is an experience,” says Jennifer, and one she aims to serve up to everyone who enters Real & Rosemary. “When you cook with real food, use good ingredients and treat them well, you can accommodate a lot of health restrictions.” And if you can’t manage to make it in, the staff can help with that, too. “You can order online, pay online, and we’ll bring it out to your car,” Jennifer says. The same goes for their Tuscaloosa location that opened in August 2018, where students can get basically a mom-cooked meal to go any time.
What started out as a dream of helping families and working moms find balance in the battle of getting dinner on the table is now a bustling business that feeds Jennifer in more ways than one. “When I started the restaurant, my goal was to never cook dinner again, at least not at home,” she says, laughing. And now the local low-key hot spot for lingering dinners over plates of freshly cooked veggies and clean meats, serves more than the stomach—it feeds the soul.
The Break Down with Jennifer Mims
Favorite Thing about Homewood: “It’s such a community, and one that’s really embraced us.”
Favorite Real & Rosemary Side Dish: “The Heirloom Tomato Salad in the summer, and the shaved brussels sprouts in the winter.”
Favorite Family Outing: “Central Park. We make friends there every time we go!”
Best Coffee: “I own Caveat Coffee, but even if I didn’t, I love the pick-up window and events we do there. I love getting a chai tea latte with oat milk.”