A Birmingham entrepreneur with a small but growing business empire is expanding into Tuscaloosa, where he will open his New Orleans-style restaurant in a space he's taking over downtown.

Jason Perryman, the owner and operator of Creole Connection, said he opened his first restaurant on 8th Avenue West in Birmingham just over six months ago, last October, and he's already champing at the bit to expand into Tuscaloosa and beyond.

Perryman told the Thread Wednesday that he's not how you imagine the typical entrepreneur, with family resources and a safety net. He said his mother died when he was 11, and his father passed away less than six years later, leaving Perryman orphaned with the odds against him.

He preserved, though, and after high school, Perryman earned his commercial driver's license, or CDL, and started a career in trucking that eventually led to launching his own company, Perryman Enterprises LLC, in 2019. He said he still makes some deliveries personally and dropped off a load in Tuscaloosa just Monday afternoon.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Perryman and his wife Mia also run a daycare in Birmingham and after toying with the idea of launching a restaurant in 2022, he finally pulled the trigger last year and worked with New Orleans chef Alexis Howard, better known as Chef Too, to open the Creole Connection, "where the bayou meets the heart of Alabama."

The entrepreneur said he loves trucking and using that career path to see new places, learn new knowledge and try new things on every trip, but getting into food service has been a completely new experience. Despite highs and lows and a holiday slump that made him wonder if the whole enterprise was doomed, Perryman said business is damn good and all his current goals are about growing the Creole Connection.

"I've loved everything about getting into food," Perryman said. "The people, the compassion, the flavors. Food touches the soul, man."

Perryman also said he is regularly humbled and grateful at where his path is led - that he overcame the odds of his circumstances and is building a diverse group of businesses and with perks like tropical vacations in the Turks.


Now he's bringing the Creole Connection to downtown Tuscaloosa's Temerson Square, filling in the space that used to house Reggae Flava before it permanently closed last fall.

Perryman said there was nothing quite like Creole Connection in his neck of Birmingham near Legion Field before he opened there. After sampling a couple dozen Tuscaloosa establishments, he said he's confident patrons will be able to find something new and delicious to try at the new restaurant when it opens this summer.

"From the menu to a full-service bar, pretty much everything will have a New Orleans twist and I plan to feature stuff I have yet to have in Tuscaloosa," Perryman said.

From here, the businessman said he hopes to grow the brand to include at least 10 locations - he's eying Huntsville as the potential home for the third spot.

As for what to expect, Perryman said he's laser-focused on authenticity to New Orleans flavor - he'll be sticking with andouille sausage in red beans and rice and gumbo, for instance, instead of subbing in the regionally popular Conecuh.

The menu will also feature other creole favorites - dirty rice, his signature Catfish Orleans, pastas and po'boys, seasonal gumbo and a robust brunch menu to compliment the rest.

"It's all about authenticity and I want to be completely different from what people have had around here, I think we'll be in a league of our own," Perryman said. "We want people to come in and get engulfed, to experience quality in more than just the food but in everything from the service to the music and ambiance to the ingredients."

Although the Birmingham location doubles as a hookah lounge, Perryman said it'll just be food and drinks in Tuscaloosa with a restaurant's operating hours. He said his opening date will depend on when he finishes his last inspections with the health department and city staff, but he aims to serve food sometime in June.

For more on the Creole Connection and other exclusive coverage of restaurant and retail development in West Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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