Brick & Tin owner Mauricio Papapietro has been thinking a lot about what life really looks like these days. He knows people are health conscious. He knows they don’t necessarily have time to get something to eat for lunch each day. And now he knows more people than ever are working from home. Enter bowl.: a new concept he’s developed to cater to all of those realities with delivery service to Mountain Brook and beyond and pick-up from the former Brick & Tin location downtown. To learn more about it, we chatted with Mauricio just after bowl. launched its delivery service in November.
How did the bowl. concept come about?
I had started to conceptualize a different restaurant pre-COVID with a similar bowl concept. If you think of a bowl, people think of a salad, but they are a lot more than salad. I like to call them a composition of incredible ingredients—different textures and flavors that go together. I think there’s a larger movement in this community and country where people care more about their food and where it came from. So we wanted to combine those two things. When COVID hit, we started doing delivery at Brick & Tin, and it was successful. We combined those things plus the added challenge to create bowls that travel well and sit well so they are healthy and conducive to a busy lifestyle.
Can you give us an overview of the menu?
We have eight bowls that are very vegan and vegetarian friendly. There’s green bowl that is vegan and a tofu-based one that is vegetarian, plus a sesame chicken bowl, a beef bowl that is roasted medium rare and thinly sliced, and a salmon bowl. We do a 3 ½-ounce portion of meat whereas an entrée is about 6 ounces, and we build things around the meat. For the salmon for example, we add roasted beets we are getting from farmers that are really great and heirloom grains from Anson Mills in South Carolina. You can also build your own bowl; you pick your base then your protein and your sides and a sauce or dressing. We have about 20 different sides from homemade flat bread to jicama slaw. Everything is light. There’s a limited nonalcoholic beverage selection too.
What is the setup like with online ordering?
All the ordering is through the website, so all the payments are done online. When we opened for pickup, we still kept all transactions online so people have already paid. We have scheduled ordering, and you can order it days in advance and it will show up at your door at the time you need it. We are marketing toward how you can set it and forget it. For example if you know you will be at UAB Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week, you can plan to have it delivered and know you won’t have to go pick up unhealthy fast food because you know you didn’t have time to pick up anything ese.
How are you feeling now that the concept is up and running?
It’s been really exciting. We have been working on this for three months, and it has been a procurement process because we are so careful about where we are getting the ingredients and also how we are sourcing paper bowls. I was super pleased to see the creations come to life. It’s just really pretty food. Someone said all the bowls are like art, and it’s so satisfying to hear that. We will continue to tweak and develop them.
You are operating bowl. out of the former downtown Brick & Tin location. Do you think you will start to rethink the space after COVID?
We wanted to use this space I have invested all this time and money in since it’s a fraction of the people who were coming in before are working downtown now. Our idea was to have an expansive delivery service from here so we can capture more markets than just downtown. All options are on the table going forward. We have this beautiful sidewalk where we might add seating, and I don’t know if we will open the inside. I think we are well positioned to weather things if COVID doesn’t improve soon too.