This post is part of our Birmingham Food Scene series.
I realize that Davenport’s Pizza Palace might not be new news to many of you. In fact, if you grew up anywhere around Birmingham, chances are that you’ve eaten at Davenport’s a time or two (or seventy-one). After all, Davenport’s has been serving loyal Birmingham customers since 1964. However, it is the pioneering spirit and commitment to quality food that makes the Pizza Palace a vital part of the Birmingham food scene. Let’s begin at the beginning so you’ll get what I’m saying.
It was early in the 1960s that a young couple named Rex and Ardyce Hollis had a hunch that the south needed to be introduced to a new food that was all the rage in other parts of the country. Shakey’s Pizza had opened in California ten years earlier, and they had recently opened a few storefronts in the south. Rex and Ardyce took a huge risk, having to work their way through several banks to find one that would lend them money for this crazy idea, and opened Jim Davenport’s Pizza Palace. It was located in downtown Mountain Brook (still is) right across the street from the Hollis’ home, which allowed them to work 90 hour work weeks to get the restaurant off the ground.
It wasn’t easy at first. As you might imagine, southerners weren’t exactly open to new ideas about their food culture, and pizza was definitely different than anything they’d had. To get people to try it, Rex would take a pizza box and walk up and down the street, handing out samples of his now-famous pies. His novel idea began to catch on, and pretty soon, Davenport’s Pizza had quite a following in Mountain Brook. In fact, people from all over Birmingham and beyond began to find their way into the restaurant, enjoying one of Rex and Ardyce’s signature pizzas.
The two staple ingredients in all of Davenport’s pizzas are the crust and the sauce. They were closely-held secret family recipes, and to this day those recipes are still well-kept secrets. The Hollis’ daughter Heather Norris, who now co-owns Davenport’s with her niece Amanda Thames, comes in every morning and makes the sauce, the dough, and their signature homemade salad dressings before the rest of the cook staff gets to work. Why the commitment to the original recipes? In a nutshell, why fix what isn’t broken? The Davenport’s secret recipes have been attracting customers for generations. Granddaughter Amanda says, “If you are only going to serve one thing, you better do it right!”
It’s true! Davenport’s serves only pizza and salad. Customers have their choice of Meat Lover’s Special, Veggie Special, Rex’s Special (sausage, onions, and green peppers), and Jim’s Special (beef, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers) or customers can create their own pizza.
We tried the Jim’s special. Oh my, is it good. This is what we order almost every time we go to Davenport’s, and it is their biggest seller. It’s no wonder because its just good pizza. The crust is perfect!
And the girls had cheese pizza. They don’t branch out much. Haha! The two of them devoured almost a whole pizza!
Jonathan and I both tried a salad so that we could sample the homemade dressings. I ordered the Italian and he tried the french. It was hard to decide which was best! The salads were crisp and full of veggies. The dressings were divine!
While the largest segment of Davenport’s customers come from the Mountain Brook area, the restaurant pulls traffic from all over Birmingham and the surrounding areas. Many families have been coming to Davenport’s Pizza for several generations. They come to Davenport’s because their parents came here, and possibly their grandparents as well. In fact, when asked about their busiest time of the year, Amanda reports that they serve the most pizza on the days surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas. Families are home for the holidays and want to get together at Davenport’s.
Davenport’s has a party room to accommodate large groups, and in it customers are treated to a selection of vintage video games. It’s no wonder that on any given night you can find baseball teams, family reunions, birthday parties, or other large groups enjoying all that Davenport’s has to offer.
Davenport’s Pizza Palace has generously donated a $25 gift certificate for me to give away to one of you. Who wants pizza for dinner?
Davenport’s Pizza was gracious enough to provide our meal so that I could write this post. Opinions about Davenport’s are entirely my own.