A Little Kiss
Story by French MacLean | Photography by Lee Larkins –
Translated from French, “bizou” is defined as “little kiss.” But Karen Hawkins, the new owner of downtown Decatur’s Bizou, more likely deserves a great big kiss for her efforts and her vision for the restaurant.
A local restaurant scene veteran, Hawkins began considering ownership of Bizou about two years ago, and made her final decision last summer. Papers were signed by the end of December — just in time to ring in scores of guests for New Year’s Eve. It was then that Hawkins, who was formerly Bizou’s bar manager, began learning the realities of restaurant ownership: You face new challenges every day; even simple tasks and projects take much longer than expected; and the paperwork stream never ends.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Hawkins — assisted by her office manager, daughter Brynn Hansen — started with the restaurant’s décor. They decorated the walls with brightly colored modern art; used an innovative “chalkboard” base over which messages could be written and changed as needed; and installed sound absorbers and extra-thick seat cushions.
Next came “user-friendly” menu additions. Build-your-own Bizou Baskets are now part of the lunch line-up. Patrons can select base ingredients, such as seasoned pork, grilled chicken, ground turkey or seasoned beef, with the option of different types of tortillas or salad greens to accompany it. Additional accompaniments include Hawkins’ original recipe of black beans with cumin, pinto beans with cilantro, or green chili cheese and up to nine toppings, such as avocado, Pico de gallo, lime wedges and corn relish, from a cart that travels to the tableside.
Salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and build your own half-pound burgers are lunchtime favorites, too, all with user-friendly prices. Customers can access WiFi while they wait.
Acknowledging the stiff competition that surrounds her, Hawkins is on a mission to spread the word that Bizou is now home to a more casual — yet still excellent — dining experience.
Many of our desserts will be seasonal, but all will be fresh by design and made in our kitchen…
What can patrons expect? Bizou Chef Dave Martin shines with his ability to cook a sizzling steak or pork chop to order — a skill he replicates whether he’s cooking one filet or dozens. Dinner selections at the “new” Bizou are best described as a combination of entrees and ingredients reminiscent of Houston, New Orleans’ French Quarter, Clemson University and “Ole Miss” — all places where Hawkins and members of her family have lived and whose dining culture they have absorbed. With that quartet in mind, featured desserts include bread pudding, pecan pie, Crème brûlée and berry tarts.
“Many of our desserts will be seasonal, but all will be fresh by design and made in our kitchen,” says Hawkins, adding that Bizou’s popular Lobster Bisque is a definite menu-keeper.
For a new restaurant owner, trust is key. And thanks to her prior experience at Bizou, Hawkins knows the staff’s strengths and how to incorporate their ideas. Martin has been a rock in the Decatur dining community for years and, as for her office manager and daughter, Hawkins says “there’s no one I can trust more.”
When asked what’s next for the “new” Bizou, Hawkins simply promises, “We’ll have more surprises to come.”
Bizou is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 to 10 p.m., and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Contributor French MacLean is a fan of the “new” Bizou, but particularly appreciates the restaurant’s old Lobster Bisque.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Decatur Magazine.
It may not be reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part without the publisher’s consent.
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