Food and beverage have long exchanged flirtatious glances in this city of magic, with the nation watching in awe and hunger. The two finally came together in the most harmonious of celebrations with the opening of The Current at Cahaba. John Fife and chef Ben Menken designed a menu to perfectly highlight Cahaba’s famous beers. Staples like their brats, smash burger, and pretzels with beer cheese are joined by an exciting rotating menu.
Cahaba has never been one to lack food options, with many different trucks serving customers throughout the years. However, the addition of a permanent truck in The Current provides a newly-found consistent source of top-quality deliciousness for fans of the Birmingham brewery. “They’ve got the customer base,” shares Ben, “we’re just here to add to the experience.” The truck does just that on Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As I sit with Ben for the interview, the brisket melt (made with Cahaba rum BBQ sauce) and onion rings certainly add to the “Smash the Patriarchy” beer I found on tap at Cahaba. He explains how the menu is catered to the beers they find themselves surrounded by. Cahaba beer can even be found in many of their menu items. The Pale Ale is used for braising brats and beer cheese, while stouts are a part of the chili that is sure to be a customer favorite in these cold months.
John contacted Ben for the position after a near-decade long relationship that began when they were both working at Slice Pizza. They both grew up in the restaurant industry and shared a common passion in food. After John, who runs the taproom at Cahaba, approached Ben the two sat down and quickly reached the same conclusion about the menu: feature brew pub menu staples, but keep it interesting and flexible. One of the highlights of Cahaba’s old strategy of different trucks was the high variety of flavors coming to the brewery each week. The Current aims to replicate that experience with the convenience of one steady truck. “We got the burger and the brat, but here you go with the variety.”
Seasonal influences, as well as cultural influences like Indian, Asian, and Mexican dishes, are all on the table. One exciting example is the upcoming turkey, turnip green, and pimento cheese sandwich ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Weekly highlights include Tuesdays for tacos, with fish and chips highlighting Wednesday lunch. Lunch has been a major focus of the truck, with the brewery even opening up earlier to match the schedule. “People don’t think about this area,” Ben shares of their nook between Avondale and Crestwood, but they are more than happy to fill the lunch need for workers like their friends next door at Redmont Distilling.
One of the very first decisions Ben made after being brought on board, was asking well-known Birmingham chef Jorge Agular to join the team. Jorge is known for his work at 5 Points Public House Oyster Bar and other Magic City staples, and was one of Ben’s earliest influences as a young man in the restaurant industry. “He was one of the guys that was there helping me, teaching me, and showing me how to do things. Proper kitchen etiquette, proper cooking techniques.” Ben also gives credit to renowned chef and owner of Troup’s Pizza Terrill Brazelton for his cooking upbringing, among others.
Although 2020 and 2021 haven’t been easy years for many, Ben is encouraged by the excitement around the upcoming World Games and the enthusiasm he still sees from his Magic City neighbors to support local. “I think that shows alot for the community of Birmingham. People still trying to support these local businesses. They're excited to see what’s new. For me, that’s really cool. It means alot for starting a new local business.”
The Current and Cahaba are thankful for this positive attitude, and excited to be a part of a buzzing restaurant scene. Local favorites like Birmingham Breadworks and American Butcher have been keeping the truck serving the freshest local ingredients, and The Current is certainly making the most of this new flavor venture. Make sure to give them a try, and keep supporting those that bring something new to the city!