Matthew Crawford was born and raised in upstate New York, and worked for many years in several capacities at various restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina. His wife, Michelle, was raised in Elkmont, worked in Charlotte for Wells Fargo in Community Relations, and catered weddings on the side. When they came back to our area, they decided to open a restaurant, went “all in,” and with the help of their family, opened up Picasso’s Grill in Athens on Highway 72 in November of 2012. The result was a charming bistro-brasserie that specialized in using fresh, local produce, had somewhat of an Italian flair, and also carried other delicious, varied menu items. Picasso’s received the opportunity they needed for a much larger space, and it was important to the Crawfords, who live in Athens, that the restaurant still be located in Limestone County. They found just the right spot in the Publix Shopping Center in Madison, made the move in April of 2015, and many of their fans came with them.
“We wanted to make sure people knew that we've moved but that we are still here, and we have the same cozy feel, just with a lot more room,” Matthew said. They went from a place that had 1,600 square feet to having 5,500 to play with, and the result has been as inviting as it has been varied. Picasso’s is filled to capacity when there are 248 patrons. It sports three rooms and their signature red, black and white motif (with Michelle’s unique trees painted on the walls), pulls all of it together. Picasso's Grill offers inventive American cuisine in an artistic atmosphere.
The main dining area is for families, there is a separate meeting room that has a full array of audio visual and sound equipment, and the bar, located on the south side of the restaurant. It houses both the bar and lounge area, and has its own separate entrance.
I asked Matt about what is new and different. “We raised the level of expectation for the whole Picasso experience of food, service, and ambiance. The bar now uses nothing but freshly squeezed juice, and they make all of their own syrups,” he said. When I was there for the interview, the bartenders were gearing up for a cocktail competition, and showed me some of their fancy throwing and pouring tricks. They have some signature drinks developed by the Picasso’s bartenders, one being a Bloody Mary that is just about a meal in itself. It is garnished not only with the standard celery stick, but also with a piece of bacon.
One of the new items at Picasso’s Grill is what is known as “local taps,” that is, various types of beers produced by micro-breweries. Some are made locally—Rocket Republic is out of Huntsville, and Good People is out of Birmingham. Others include Straight to Ale, and Avondale Brewing.
Matt was very excited about the new meeting room. He explains the room is being utilized or reserved for many different events. Michelle uses the meeting room to teach a meditative art class, almost like art therapy. Students can use several mediums, and the cost of the class includes wine and appetizers. The room is also being used for a local church that wanted to reach out to the community, essentially functioning as “the church without walls.”
The meeting room has a TV, mic, speakers, HDMI hook up, and more. It can hold up to 60 people, and can be used by booster clubs, sports fans, and medical groups. Picasso’s had a “tailgate party” in the meeting room for the Alabama/LSU game, with special prices on beverages and appetizers. The meeting room would also make a beautiful spot for a wedding reception or family reunion. To see public happenings, be sure to check Picasso's Facebook page.
“Ah,” you might ask, “But what about the food?” Picasso’s makes some killer fried green tomatoes as appetizers, and one of their most popular entrees is Shrimp and Grits. The “Daily Specials” are posted on Facebook, one example being the following:
Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Grilled to perfection and served over mashed potato with bacon wrapped asparagus, topped with a hickory smoke glaze.
12oz Center Cut New York Strip
Lightly seasoned over cheddar, bacon grit cake and served with sautéed asparagus.
Wednesdays are known as “Wine Down Wednesdays,” and there are special prices for selected wines, which they are designed to go nicely with the “Daily Specials.”
Thanksgiving is next week, and there will be a wonderfully crafted menu for which you’ll give thanks, and kicking off the holiday season by “eating local, and eating fresh.” Call soon to make your reservations for all your holiday parties as dates are filling up, and you don’t want to miss out on all that Picasso’s Grill has to offer.
12060 County Line Road, Madison, AL 35756
Hours: 11-11, Tue-Sun, 3-11 on Mon
Facebook: Picasso’s Grill
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner