SFA Welcomes You to Birmingham
Each year, before SFA travels to Birmingham for Winter Symposium, we craft a city guide based on locals' favorite places to drink and dine. As the Iron City's restaurant scene booms, more and more spots merit our attention.
Meet your tour guides
Born in Chicago to a family with deep roots in Alabama, Roscoe Hall is an artist, chef, and provocateur. The grandson of Dreamland Bar-B-Que founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop, he will serve as a manager at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ when it opens this year in the Avondale neighborhood.
(Print Roscoe’s recommendations here.)
Jay Oglesby lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the first University of Mississippi alumnus to serve as SFA Board President. After working as a junior high school teacher and line cook, he earned MBA and Masters of International Management degrees from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
(Print Jay’s recommendations here.)
Birmingham By Neighborhood
209 41st St S
“John Hall, my man, started making meatballs. You can get them on pies. Or as an appetizer. They’re great. Oh, and garlic knots. Don’t forget the garlic knots.”
4411 3rd Ave S
Mom’s Basement has a wide selection of beers, some wine, and a few liquors to enjoy while playing board games or pinball machines. It’s located below the small retail center where Tropicaleo serves fantastic Puerto Rican food.
430 41st St S
The Marble Ring is home to Jose Camacho, who runs the bar at this speakeasy with darn good cocktails. Look for the entrance tucked inside the Fancy’s on 5th restaurant, where a raw bar and burgers are the draws.
417 41st St S
Taco Morro Loco has a taco truck and a brick and mortar. “Get their chorizo burrito or a carnitas taco with buttermilk tomatillo salsa.”
2304 10th Terrace S
Garage Café leads to a wisteria-vined courtyard surrounded by 1930s era parking garages-cum-antique stalls. It is uniquely Birmingham. It’s also a short stroll down the hill from one of our favorite Birmingham restaurants, Bottega Café.
2514 10th Ave S
The Nick delivers all the dive bar essentials: eclectic jukebox, beer-stained pool tables, and decades of smoke-stained live music handbills plastered on every surface. Although restaurants are theoretically walkable from the Nick, arrive and depart via rideshare or taxi.
212 29th St S
The Lumbar is a new science-themed bar in Pepper Place, situated conveniently near two of our favorite Birmingham restaurants–Chris and Idie Hastings’ Ovenbird with their smoky paella, among other creative and beautifully executed wood-fired menu options; and, Bettola, where we enjoy James Lewis’ Neapolitan-style pizzas, charcuterie, and other seasonal Italian dishes.
1705 4th Ave N
Founded in 1958 by Charles Gratton. Get a catfish plate, slathered with mustard and battered with cornmeal. “Order it with the works and that gets you slathers of ketchup, mustard and hot sauce on top.”
2211 2nd Ave N
Try the green pozole. “It tastes like a Hispanic pho. They also make the best salads in town.”
1821 Second Ave N
In the Pizitz Food Hall, Matt Ralph makes an ideal burger. “It’s one of those burgers with crispy edges, served on a potato bun. It’s perfect.” Hot dogs and fried bologna sandwiches, too.
1820 3rd Ave N
“A late-night industry place where chefs go for whiskey. I dig the smoked hamachi collar with yuzu salt.”
2113 1st Ave N
Atomic Lounge is where Feizal Valli and his team stir and pour original creations, including the legendary Sex Panther. They also provide board games and a menu of costumes. Yes, costumes. Don’t knock it until you’ve sipped a perfectly executed Pisco Sour while wearing a full-body lemur kit. Café Dupont, around the corner, serves a lovely rabbit gumbo in a white-table-clothed room in a historic building.
3027 Central Ave
“I like Wil Drake. And he makes a crazy great apple fritter.” And a chicken sandwich that’s as crispy as the fritter.
706 Valley Ave
At this 30-plus-year old restaurant, the secret menu is the passkey to braised pork belly with smoked mushrooms. Or the “stir-fried cheese thing” with fermented black beans and chili peppers.
208 Green Springs Ave S
Get the lemon-pepper wings, for late-night or lunch. They’re MSG magic. Fried okra and Cajun ranch fries, too.
1926 29th Ave S
The Red Lion serves saltines and hoop cheese at happy hour. We head here for a cocktail or two after a very late brunch at Big Bad Breakfast, two floors above the Red Lion’s semi-subterranean location.
1017 20th St S
Anthony “T-Bone” Crawford griddles cheesesteaks and fries Cajun fries. He serves his sandwiches on Amoroso rolls from Philly. “The music spans Soundgarden and Lil Wayne.”
1006 20th St S
The Woolworth is a recent addition to the 5 Points area. “We go for duck pin bowling lanes (smaller balls with no finger holes and no rental shoes required), ping pong tables, foosball, a giant screen multi-arcade game with classics like Ms. Pac Man and Galaga, a bumper pool table, and a full bar.” For after, there’s a Waffle House a couple of doors down.
75 Church St
“It’s loud and comfortable and cozy.” Order the catfish with tasso ham, lemon, and a scallion butter sauce. And the fries.
Bonus for you tech-savvy types: Here’s a handy map to plan your stops.
These restaurant guides were created for SFA’s 2019 Winter Symposium, which is underwritten by the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Alabama Department of Tourism.