A Southern ‘Classic’: Classic on Noble puts elegant spin on traditional Southern comfort food
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Oct 08, 2013 | 2638 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Trent Penney
By Trent Penney
There’s more to Classic on Noble than the shrimp and grits, the signature dish included on the exclusive Year of Alabama Food list, “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”

The expansive restaurant is full of live plants, gorgeous woodwork and beautiful art. Upstairs, the Green Olive bar — with its leather couches, stained-glass windows and crooners on the radio — is like stepping through time to the turn of the century.

The beauty of the building could be overwhelming, but to owner David Mashburn, it’s just like home.

“A lot of the things we have here came from our home, because we spend more time here than there,” Mashburn said with a laugh. Many of the wooden cabinets and the antique buffet dishes are from Mashburn’s personal collection. In fact, as his father pops in to wave hello and his wife briefly appears on her way to help take care of the day-to-day business, it becomes clear that it’s very much a family business.

Like the furnishings, the signature shrimp and grits recipe is also distinctly Mashburn’s. If you’re thinking of boxed grits, the kind that are just a vehicle for butter and not much more, think again. Cooked with heavy cream for up to an hour before being served up with applewood-smoked bacon, Andouille sausage, Parmesan cheese, fresh collard greens and white jumbo Gulf shrimp, these grits are serious business. They’re smooth, thick and delicious — what all other grits aspire to be.

“It’s something I’d never had until I came to Classic,” said Paul LaRocca, Classic on Noble’s resident chef. LaRocca is a 20-year veteran chef with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. He’s created inventive dishes all over the world, spending time in Germany, Italy and New York.

“Everyone has variations of it, but ours is quite different, with a lot of flavor,” LaRocca said. “It’s a real comfort food.”

The shrimp and grits is one of the restaurant’s most popular items, but the most popular, Mashburn says, is the Noble Salad, a mix of sliced strawberries and apples, pecans, bleu cheese and cranberries over greens with a sweet, tart dressing that sets everything off.

“It’s probably our biggest seller,” he said.

The kitchen staff isn’t afraid of creating challenging dishes — attractions for experienced foodies trying to expand their palate. Take the tuna ponzu, a flash-seared ahi tuna covered in a sauce created from soy sauce, citrus bonito flakes and coated with white and black sesame seeds.

“Not everybody really understands that it’s sashimi,” said LaRocca, explaining that the inside of the tuna is essentially raw, like sushi, but the taste is both wonderful and unique.

Visitors come from as far as Talladega and Atlanta to test out Classic’s menu, and a second location is scheduled to open in early November in the Buckhorn community north of Weaver.

“Looking at the new restaurant with the lake in front of it just amazes me,” said Mashburn. Classic at Buckhorn décor will be a little more rustic to fit with the natural expanses in the area, he said, but will still offer the same elegance as the Noble Street location.

“We just got the bar put in,” said Mashburn. “It’s amazing how everything has come together.”

Lunch begins at Classic on Noble at 11 a.m. every day, with the Green Olive opening and dinner served at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. A Sunday brunch starts at 10:30 a.m. Call 256-237-5388 to make reservations, or visit classiconnoble.com to learn more.
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