New Basement Cafe Brings Food and Music to City Hall « The Official Website for the City of Birmingham, Alabama
By Mary Sutton
In 2014, Tremayne Thompson found herself at a crossroads. The former gospel singer and business executive stood in front of a sizzling grill at The Waffle House, being yelled at for being too slow on the bacon.
He had quit his white-collar job to learn the restaurant business, and the intensity of his first day led him to consider quitting before the end of his shift.
“I called my wife, Karen, and she reminded me that this is just the beginning of what the real goal is,” he said of their aspirations to open their own business. “From there, I took a different approach.”
Six months later, Tremayne was one of the quickest on the gridiron and named a district manager. Shortly after, his goal is achieved. He and his wife opened The Perfect Note Live Music and Dining.
The dinner theater launched in 2016 as the first African-American-owned venue in Hoover. As a former lead singer of the Gospel band Fully Persuaded and former COO of a popular jazz radio show in Chicago, Tremayne was able to marry his musical connections with his restaurant expertise. Perfect Note has an impressive roster of regular jazz and R&B shows and Sunday Soul cuisines of everything from oxtails to shrimp and grits. In 2018, the location was voted one of the best places in 50 states to go for black-owned businesses in The Huffington Post.
Now the couple have brought a cafe version to Birmingham in the basement of City Hall. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., people can enjoy breakfast and lunch of “American cuisine with a Southern twist” at Perfect Note Express, The Café with Soul. Menu items include traditional bacon sandwiches, sausages, and eggs, as well as oatmeal, waffles, and a la carte options. Lunch includes shrimp and grits, fried catfish, wings, and lemon pepper fries. Prices range from $5 to $14.
“I want everyone in the city to come down,” Tremayne said. The couple also plan to perform live music at least once a week over lunch. “We want this to be the most talked about place in Birmingham.”
“I am delighted at the opportunity for Perfect Note to expand its footprint,” said Chaz Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Birmingham. “From now on, citizens and city employees will be able to enjoy the Perfect Note experience.”
In the right place at the right time
The Thompsons had always wanted to open a store downtown. People would often ask them to do it, Tremayne said. Karen has a real estate development company, and the two were at City Hall doing business. One of their Perfect Note customers spotted them and mentioned that the old basement restaurant was leaving. The couple came down to check out the space and immediately began to feel that it might be the right place for a second location.
“And it’s funny how God makes a way to bring things together.”
Eventually, they plan to offer catering and delivery services as well as hosting karaoke with a live DJ. “We want to make the cafe very interactive.”
Tremayne’s Waffle House lineup certainly prepared him, he said. After launching The Perfect Note Express, they plan to open a third location in Atlanta.
“Don’t tell me what God can’t do.”