By Jennifer Crossley Howard
Florence’s Odette restaurant takes a nostalgic approach to food while keeping an eye on tomorrow. Located on downtown’s main vein of Court Street, Odette — open since 2013 — serves as much locally grown food as possible. Its menu rotates each season to serve what’s growing.
“Every season, we change about 70 percent of the menu,” says Chef Josh Quick.
In late April, there were a lot of dishes with asparagus, onion, radishes and peas because that’s what farmers were yielding.
Quick’s menus feature well-produced, quality fare. Chicken breast, for example, is all free range and vegetables are fresh. The idea is to let the food speak for itself.
“In spring and summer it’s so easy,” Quick says. “The colors and flavors are so vibrant.”
Much of it comes from down the road, including Bluewater Creek Farm in nearby Killen and Sunlit Farm in southern Tennessee. Fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico arrives by truck a few times a week, resulting in dishes such as the Blackened Mississippi Redfish Sandwich, grilled fish enveloped by pullman bread, red cabbage slaw and avocado.
Switching menus by season keeps things interesting. Cooks and servers must be on their toes, said general manager Kristy Bevis.
“It’s always a fun time in the restaurant, like a reopening,” she says.
Quick typically starts planning new menus a month before their debut. In addition to food, the well-stocked bar will also take a seasonable turn, with six to seven new drinks replacing last season’s favorites.
In the kitchen on a recent weekday, Michael Cuffaro, a roundsman, chops chuck tender for Steak Frites, a constant on Odette’s menu. Hand-cut fries, arugula salad and chimichurri complete the dish. The kitchen conjures a sharp greenhouse aroma coupled with deep savory notes.
Sous chef Ramon Jacobsen rinses a colander full of fresh peas for dinner. The kitchen staff takes their food seriously; themselves, not so much. A photo of young Bill Murray pointing is posted on the side of a refrigerator. “You’re awesome,” it reads.
Now, Jacobsen has another accolade: On May 1, he won the 2019 Alabama Seafood Cook-Off in Bayou La Batre. He will represent Alabama in August at the 16th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.
Now offering Sunday brunch
Quick cans spring peas and hot banana peppers to use in winter, a tradition he picked from up as a boy from his stepmother. Every sandwich is served with a seven-day pickle, sold in jars near the front desk.
For spring and summer, Quick has served strawberries from across the river in Tuscumbia. Berries appear in the Strawberry Salad, an arugula pesto and whipped feta goat cheese concoction topped with marcona almonds and fermented dressing. Quick uses the fruit for fresh jam, which will be on the new Sunday brunch menu. Odette opened its doors for Sunday brunch on Easter, previously offering it only on Saturday.
“We think the community will be really receptive to it,” Bevis says.
The inside of Odette reflects its philosophy that good food need not much adornment: upholstered booths and dark wood tables sit on original hardwood floors, and exposed brick remind diners that this place had a life or two before it became a restaurant. For many years, the space housed Kaye’s, a shoe store that was in business until at least the late 1970s. Kaye’s is immortalized in script engraved into the sidewalk in front of Odette.
As for the restaurant’s name, owner and Shoals native Celeste Pillow honored her great-grandmother.
“She wanted a name that had Southern appeal to it,” Bevis says.
120 N. Court St.
Florence, AL 35630
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. (Between lunch and dinner, a reduced menu is offered that includes a classic burger and bar snacks.)