In preparation for our 2016 Food Media South, we asked Jennifer V. Cole, a Birmingham resident, to compile dining and drinking suggestions. Next time you’re in the Magic City, let this be your guide.
The Cole List: Birmingham Restaurants
The Alabama Biscuit Co.
Gussied up whole-grain biscuits in the Cahaba Heights neighborhood (behind The Summit). Options range from sausage gravy with shitake mushrooms to a biscuit version of an apple stack cake, layered with chai apple butter and vanilla mascarpone cream.
4133 White Oak Dr., Birmingham
Thoughtful interpretations of modern Mexican along downtown’s Second Avenue North. A graffiti-style mural anchors the room where Brian Somershield’s team serves grilled chorizo meatloaf, pozole verde, and a citrus-y, tequila-based Bloody Mary that drinks like tequila and sangrita in one.
2211 2nd Ave. North, Birmingham
Wood-fired pizzas, house made pastas, inventive vegetables dishes, and a salumi stash worthy of an Italian bride at chef James Lewis’s low-lit trattoria in Pepper Place. Try the pan-seared cauliflower with olives, wild foraged garlic confit, Majuelo vinegar, sweet paprika, and honey.
2901 2nd Ave. South, Birmingham
Brick & Tin
Mauricio Papapietro’s so-called sandwich shop, a modern rustic take on fast casual, with cocktails to boot. This is no deli. Fresh breads (focaccia, potato rolls, pain de mie) take on everything from country ham, apples, and pepper relish to roasted portobellos and walnut pesto.
2901 Cahaba Rd., Birmingham
Frank Stitt’s Italian answer to French-inspired Highlands Bar & Grill. The café side, known locally as “Baby Bottega” excels at vegetables, pizzas, pastas, and artful salads. The more formal dining room, directed by chef de cuisine Paul Yeck, showcases Southern bounty with Italian finesse.
2240 Highland Ave. South, Birmingham
Bottle & Bone
Uptown spot that pays homage to beer, wine, and meat (complete with a robust butchery program that includes a shoppable meat case and hands-on classes). Sandwiches, burgers, and meat boards anchor the weekday menu. At Sunday brunch, look for dishes such as boudin scrambled eggs or pork belly with cheese grits and tomato jam.
2311 Richard Arrington Junior Blvd. North #200, Birmingham
Carrigan’s Public House
Pub-inspired cocktail warehouse—seriously, this place is huge. Eric Bennett and his team run the city’s proverbial table with well-balanced drinks and cocktails-should-be-fun attitude. The repertoire ranges from pre-Prohibition classics to seasonally-inspired concoctions, such as the Delta (aged rum, black strap rum, demarara sugar, and Laphroaig). And their highbrow pub grub might be the best value in town.
2430 Morris Ave., Birmingham
Chez Fon Fon
Frank Stitt’s effortlessly chic French bistro with a boules court off the back patio. Every classically inspired dish, from rosy chicken liver mousse to trout amandine to the many-layered coconut cake encased in fresh coconut shavings, arrives pitch-perfect each and every time.
2007 11th Ave. South, Birmingham
The Collins Bar
A narrow sliver of a bar where the cocktail crew congregates under a Birmingham-themed periodic table of the elements. There’s no drink menu, but the staff knows what’s up. Tell them your base spirit and how you take your tipple (sweet, bitter, herbaceous, etc.), and let them surprise you. Suspenders and fedora not required.
2125 2nd Ave. North, Birmingham
Turreted, European-style bakeshop in the heart of English Village. Stock up on crusty loaves, flaky croissants, and pillowy brioche, all made fresh daily. If you want to make an early morning breakfast run on Saturday or Sunday, this is your destination.
1909 Cahaba Rd., Mountain Brook
Feast & Forest
It all started with their can’t-eat-just-one Conecuh sausage and cheddar scones. Today, from their new bakery-café, Kristen Hall and Victor King, a.k.a. the Baking Bandits, dish out what they term “modern nostalgia,” with bites like pecan pie Pop-Tarts and salted caramel banana pudding. Tuesday through Friday afternoons, pull up a chair at one of the century-old sweet gum tables for Cookie Happy Hour, with milk or coffee on the side for dunking.
212 24th St. North, Birmingham
Hot & Hot Fish Club
A showcase of Alabama’s bounty—grown, caught, or foraged—by avid sportsman and award-winning chef Chris Hastings. He believes so fiercely in the importance of eating seasonally and responsibly and supporting local producers that he’s become an active voice for Gulf fishermen and area farmers. That dedication shines on his ever-changing menu.
2180 11th Court South, Birmingham
Hotbox at Parkside
Don’t let the Airstream fool you. Inside, chef Ryan Champion, a veteran of Frank Stitt’s Bottega, is now satisfying Birmingham’s late-night cravings with on-the-fly orders of lemongrass fried chicken, burgers slathered with bacon jam, and pork-belly-topped drunken noodles. Dig in at one of a smattering of picnic tables illuminated by strands of twinkling white lights.
4036 5th Ave. South, Birmingham
Two words: keftedes and collards. Timothy Hontzas, the latest in a long line of Birmingham’s Greek restaurateurs, delivers a farm-fresh take on the meat ‘n’ three. And lest you doubt, Hontzas has steam table chops: His family founded Niki’s West, Alabama’s ultimate meat ‘n’ three with more than 30 veggies on the lineup.
2902 18th St. South, Homewood
Because “burrito.” The same folks behind Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q opened this from-scratch Mexican joint where smoked meats reign. Make sure at least one person at your table orders the fried chicken, smeared with arbol chile paste and brined before frying. Douse it with their house-made morita-and-habanero pepper vinegar.
NB: The SFA will serve you that fried chicken for lunch on Saturday.
2821 Central Ave., Homewood
Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q
Pit-fired barbecue chicken with Alabama white sauce—mayo-based barbecue sauce that reigns in northern Alabama—and standout banana pudding at this family-run Cahaba Heights mainstay.
3278 Cahaba Heights Rd., Vestavia Hills
Pour-over coffee and pastries (sticky buns, cherry nut bars, bacon-cheddar-chive scones) in a mod industrial space with an on-site roaster. At night, the lights dim and the staff switches from barista to bartender, serving drinks such as an old- fashioned with coffee-pecan bitters.
2821 Central Ave. #105, Homewood
Chef Chris Newsome’s Southern gastropub tucked into a Mountain Brook strip mall. Ollie Irene, named for Chris’s grandmother, draws inspiration from the hearty culinary canon of Southern farmers, with an eye on the European pantry.
2713 Culver Rd., Mountain Brook
Chris Hastings has transformed a shaded garden plot in Pepper Place into a live fire laboratory, where wood-fed flames lick small plates of beef shoulder, ash-roasted vegetables, and platters of paella. They don’t take reservations for fewer than six, but there’s not a bad seat in the house, from the cozy courtyard to the marble-topped bar. Better yet, angle for a seat in the open kitchen, where you’ll get an ovenbird’s view of the action.
2810 3rd Ave. South, Birmingham
Children of the eighties, rejoice. This neon-lit barcade might be the ultimate throwback adult playground. Play Ms. Pac-Man to your heart’s content, eat quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs, sip a PBR twist on a Pimm’s Cup, or attempt the beastly Paramount burger—two patties topped with corned beef hash, a crispy smashed risotto ball, a fried egg, two kinds of cheese, hot sauce, and pickles.
200 20th St. North, Birmingham
Post Office Pies
Thin-crust pizzas blistered by wood fire and beautifully composed salads in a former post office, adjacent to the Avondale Brewing Co. Local boy John Hall returned home after working in NYC kitchens (Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Gramercy Tavern, Per Se) to open what has become the de facto community canteen.
209 41st St. South, Birmingham
Part Asian market, part Chinese restaurant, where the menu’s ingredients are so fresh you’ll find bullfrogs hopping and fish swimming in tanks at the front of the store. Don’t miss the sautéed sweet pea leaves and eggplant in rich garlic sauce.
243 West Valley Ave., Homewood
Saw’s Soul Kitchen
Tiny spot in the burgeoning Avondale neighborhood where barbecue man Mike Wilson amps up his roster of porky goodness with things like marinated lady peas, sweet tea-brined fried chicken sandwiches, and pork-&-greens (a bed of grits, piled with pulled pork, stewed greens, and vinegar-based barbecue sauce, all crowned with fried onions).
215 41st St. South, Birmingham
This space-themed, ultramod venue is more proof that indie music is alive and well in the Ham. You can hear everyone from Mike Cooley to Houndmouth to David Mayfield, while in the adjoining bar cocktail goddess Steva Casey will rock your world with such clever creations as the frozen Rocket Booster—made with Tang, Campari, and Cathead honeysuckle vodka.
200 41st St. South, Birmingham
Chef Chris Dupont’s new take-out spot is an international choose-your-own-lunch adventure. An homage to global street food, the modular menu—painted by the local artist Véronique Vanblaere—lets you mix and match a changing smorgasbord of vessels (steamed buns, corn pancake cachapas, flatbread), fillings (bo ssam pork, miso steak, turmeric-coated chicken), and toppings (chimichurri, kimchi). No passport necessary.
121 20th St. North, Birmingham