Most of Urban Cookhouse’s milestones happened in a room that no one knows exists: the basement. The basement is where Andrea and David Snyder, the brains and brawn behind the brand Urban Cookhouse, celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in June of 2010, just seven days before the restaurant opened. When Andrea found out she was expecting their first child that August, a daughter, she called David to the basement to tell him by presenting him with an Alabama sippy cup she picked up at Swaddle. “If you can’t tell,” she says, “we love Homewood.”
It makes sense, then, that even though Urban Cookhouse moved up the road to a new 29th Avenue location offering more seating, a drive-through window where you can call ahead to place orders and a parking lot, the Snyders are holding on to the 18th street location. “We’re planning to launch something new there in 2018, but we’re not quite ready to share just yet,” Andrea says. “We launched Urban Cookhouse in Homewood over seven years ago. Farm Bowl + Juice Company launched in late 2017. The new place will make three Homewood-based brands. We can’t wait!”
While most Homewood residents have tried Urban Cookhouse, few have had the chance to sample the best of the newly-opened Farm Bowl + Juice Company, also located in their new 29th Avenue building. “You have to try the Acai bowl,” says Andrea, referring to a dish that’s making waves in Nashville and Atlanta, but is relatively new to the Birmingham restaurant scene. A close second? The oatmeal, which can be ordered hot or cold. “The menu is all plant based without any animal products, but we don’t want that to scare people,” Andrea says. “Our staff is educated to help you make menu choices based on your needs. Looking for protein? Newly pregnant? Our nutrients come from fresh ingredients, not supplements.”
The Snyders, who have since launched 12 other Urban Cookhouse locations, have long loved Homewood. They got their start working for another Homewood institution, Zoës Kitchen, before starting Urban Cookhouse. “We learned a ton working at Zoës. When we opened Urban Cookhouse, we dreamed about living in Homewood. We love it—we’ve always loved it.” Shortly after the birth of their first daughter, they made the move to the neighborhood and never looked back.
These days, the Snyders stay busy managing their Urban Cookhouse locations, along with launching their new brands, and keeping up with their two daughters, ages 6 and 4. Andrea and David insist on instilling Homewood values in their daughters. While they have their favorites on the Urban Cookhouse menu—Piggy Mac, the half-baked cookie, and the grilled cheese—the girls have never played around in the kitchen. “We didn’t want them to grow up with a sense of entitlement,” says Andrea. “I’m pretty sure they know we own the restaurant, but maybe not. They do know to go thank the kitchen staff after every meal.” The cooking gene has rubbed off on their elder daughter, who has started selling cakes to her neighbors under the name Sugar House Treats.
Andrea and David credit the success of Urban Cookhouse with their personal dedication and engagement and a staff that routinely anticipates needs and exceeds customer expectations. “Our staff knows that if they see a mom with a kid under three, grab the high chair. Get the coloring sheet. Grab the crayons. Do what you can to make it easier on the mom to enjoy dinner out,” Andrea says.
While their time and their staff’s skills make for a family-friendly atmosphere, what keeps the restaurant fresh and relevant is its carefully crafted menu, one that’s based off what the local farmers are growing. “Our most important value, our core value, is supporting the local farmer,” says Andrea. “And it’s not just buying locally, or ordering from them, it’s truly supporting them year around.”
The Snyders may not be inviting everyone into the basement at the 18th street location, but the feeling and vibe of the original home of Urban Cookhouse will live on in the new location down the road. There’s one other thing that did make the move. When Urban Cookhouse opened, Andrea had a gift made for David, a plaque for the service counter that reads, “I will give you the confidence to follow your dreams.” “It was one of my wedding vows to David,” Andrea says, one that, as the duo prepares to launch yet another Homewood-based brand, carries over into their everyday lives.
Urban Cookhouse, By the Numbers
- Orange rolls sold per week at the Homewood location: 500
- Most ordered dish: White Barbecue Sandwich
- Most underrated dish: Grilled Chicken Special (Andrea’s go-to order!)
- What to try on your first visit: Chipotle Braised Pork Sandwiches
- What to try on your 100th visit: Veggie Quesadilla—loaded with black beans and corn with avocado on the side
- Seats in the former Homewood location: 42
- Seats in the new Homewood location: 85, plus patio seating
- In the freezer: Only ice cream and orange rolls!