By Elizabeth Sturgeon
Photos By Keith McCoy
Terrill Brazelton made his first pizza dough in a day, thanks to his culinary expertise and a little under-pressure inspiration. Back in 2008, he was the chef and owner of Mountain Brook’s Open Door Café, and his dad had always asked him to make pizza dough. It wasn’t until his dad was driving to Birmingham to taste it that Terrill began developing the recipe.
“I went into the kitchen that day and started making pizza dough,” Terrill says, “and I took it down to the guys at Daniel George. They told me, ‘Terrill, this is really good pizza. You could do something with this.’ That’s always stuck in the back of my head. I’ve perfected it over the years with little tweaks here and there, but it’s almost the exact same thing I made back in 2008.”
Now, in 2022 – two years since Terrill and his wife, Ashley, opened Troup’s Pizza as chef and manager, respectively – they have seen that on-a-whim dough transform their space in Heights Village into the family-run, Vestavia-rooted pizza joint so many residents have been waiting for. As they both take a minute to sit down and talk about the restaurant, they talk about pizza and that recipe, but Terrill and Ashley agree that Troup’s is so much more than pizza.
“The neighborhood wanted a pizza place to call their own, and we are that pizza place,” Terrill says. “That’s what we wanted to be, local as you can get, and born and raised – and we are so much more than pizza.” Troup’s is about family and community, and it’s about the evolution of the food and the customer, and the discovery of new flavors along the way. That was the goal from the start and became a full-fledged reality as Terrill and Ashely opened during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when all they could do was evolve with the surrounding circumstances.
The restaurant’s opening date on April 24, 2020 was months earlier than their projected summer 2020 opening, but Terrill and Ashley saw the to-go nature of pizza being crucial as pandemic life took its hold. As busy as the opening was – pizza being a small joy during social distancing and quarantines – they still found a moment to breathe, knowing they could take some time to finish up their dining space and full menu later in the year.
The Brazeltons opened Troup’s with a family affair, both in their staff and in spirit, the name “Troup” being the shared Brazelton middle name since Terrill’s great-grandfather. Terrill, Ashley, and their two children, 17-year-old daughter Carter and 13-year-old son Asher, were the original staff and have all played an active role in the restaurant since opening.
Carter spent three hours on the phone to set up the cash register, where she’s often still working behind the counter, and Asher can be found wherever he was needed, mostly bussing tables, washing dishes, or helping his dad in the kitchen. It’s not hard to spot at least one Brazelton in the restaurant at all times, all dedicated to the space and excited to get to know their customers.
Since opening, Troup’s has received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from the Cahaba Heights community, who made up the majority of the cars lined up for pizza during curbside service and the foundation of their regular customers. Once Troup’s started to open up the indoor space, and later participated in the first Heights Hangout, Terrill and Ashley attribute multiple we-can-do-this realizations to the community support. “This community is very supportive, inside and outside of Cahaba Heights too,” Ashley says.
Along with local ingredients – plus partnerships with local schools and other organizations as often as they can – the restaurant is inseparable from Cahaba Heights and the greater Birmingham area. The original Troup, Terrill’s great-grandfather, stands tall on First Avenue North in a large photo on the wall, representing the legacy of Brazeltons who lived and worked around Alabama and Birmingham.
The food follows the legacy, too, inspired by the family and the area. The Old Cahawba – their pizza with pepperoni, house-made sausage, caramelized onions, mushrooms, pepper rings, and marinara – is named after Alabama’s first capital, where Terrill’s dad spent his summers. Other stories behind pizzas and dishes are sure to be told as Terrill and Ashley meet customers throughout the lunch and dinner rushes.
Over time, Terrill has gotten closer to his original concept, introducing new appetizers and dishes regularly to their expanding menu. Every new dish – a salad, starter, sandwich, or cheesecake – harmonizes Troup’s thoughtfulness with its innovative and seasonal take on flavors. “It’s not just pizza – that’s the one thing that really does set us apart,” Terrill says.
Terrill and Ashley bounce back and forth about favorite additions they’ve added to the menu across their two years in business. “We have seven sandwiches, half a dozen salads, fried Stromboli, and soups made from scratch during the fall in winter,” Terrill says.
“And,” Ashley adds, “a lot of heart and soul.”
Follow Troup’s Pizza on Facebook or Instagram @troupspizza to keep up with Terrill and Ashley and see what’s on the menu each week.
The Perfect Troup’s Order
Start with appetizers and salads. Troup’s homemade mozzarella cheese bites and the wings are crowd favorites and some of the best starters in town. The arugula salad – with almonds, sour cherries, blueberries, Thomasville tomme cheese, and homemade lemon Dijon dressing – or the wedge are also must-orders, showcasing Terrill’s commitment to detail and invention in classic dishes.
Share pizza, of course. Terrill picks the supreme or the Bradshaw, and Ashely picks the Woodstock or the Happy Hippie. Really, you can’t go wrong with your pizza choice and the opportunity to break away from your normal cheese and pepperoni go-to’s.
Don’t skip dessert. Every two weeks, Terrill bakes a new flavor of homemade cheesecake, with only a few repeated flavors over their two years in business. Fall brought favorites like pomegranate, sweet potato, and pumpkin cheesecakes, and spring and summer flavors included blackberry almond, strawberry basil, and white chocolate raspberry.
Try something new for the season. From watermelon salad to smoked brisket chili to on-draft root beer floats, Troup’s seasonal specials are some of Terrill and Ashley’s favorite editions to the menu when the right time of year comes and goes. Add whatever is newest on the menu to your meal for an even closer look at (and taste of) what Troup’s is all about.