In greater Birmingham, chili dogs and snapper throats have something in common. So do smoked pork and steam table tomato pudding. All are featured at Greek-owned restaurants throughout the steel city. United through kinship and linked through marriage, these establishments have not only shaped an intricate family tree, but have served as employment centers and a path to citizenship for new Southerners.
For more than a century, Greeks have been a dominant force in Birmingham markets and restaurants. They came seeking economic opportunity. They opened American-style cafes. They operated barbecue joints. They ran hot dog stands. Greeks cornered the meat-and-three market. They ruled Birmingham fine dining and found their niche serving food familiar to native Southerners. Eventually, olive oil, oregano, and feta would expand that palate and become an expected part of the Southern larder.
Preserving their Greek heritage was always a priority. Children learned Greek and spoke Greek at home. Today, many great-grandchildren are fluent and the Greek Orthodox Church remains the prime social and cultural center for Greek family life in Birmingham.