OK people! As I’ve said, Birmingham is home to numerous great places to wine and dine, from mom ‘n pop joints to family fare, southern specialties, upscale fine dining and everything in between. So get ready and let’s go eat some more! (To start at Part One of this travel series click here.)
For upscale eats, Birmingham boasts several shining stars. The Mediterranean building and setting at Bottega gets you in the mood for their excellent rustic Mediterranean and contemporary Italian dishes (there is also a Bottega Café for casual fare in the same building) In addition to coming for dinner, I highly recommend Bottega for a drink and appetizers on their al fresco patio out front or in the inviting, open, indoor bar area.
For dinner one night we dined at Highlands Bar and Grill, an enchanting French themed restaurant offering excellent dishes which the chef/owner says is “informed by classic French technique, incorporating the foods of our Southern region.” The majority of the menu is seasonally inspired, incorporating a plethora of fresh from the farm ingredients that allow nature’s true flavors to infuse every bite. The ambiance is wonderfully upscale, eclectic, lively and charming, coupled with outstanding service and a definitely European pace, our group spending a leisurely 3-plus hours here to enjoy each course.
Another Birmingham dining hot spot is Hot and Hot Fish Club, noted as among the “Great Neighborhood Restaurants in the South” by Bon Appétit magazine. The ambiance here is casual and eclectic, with seating options as diverse as at an intimate table or nook for a romantic dinner for two, to a rustic, rough-hewn handmade table for a loud large group, to the open limestone California-style chef’s counter where it almost feels comfortable enough to eat with your fingers while talking to your new friends who have plopped down next to you. The cuisine is amazing - a combination of upscale California with touches of classic French. Hot and Fish Club is also known for their multifarious seasonally-inspired signature cocktails.
A few other popular ares notables include Saigon Noodle House for traditional Vietnamese fare; Cocina Superior serving “Modern Tex Mex”, The Fish Market, popular for their seafood and Greek specialties, GianMarco's, featuring great Italian, Southern/Soul and Mediterranean dishes, Trattoria Centrale for casual Italian, and Irondale Café: Original Whistle Stop, reportedly the inspiration for the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
By the way, several of the aforementioned are included in the brochure “100 Places to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” which was one of the guiding forces for this Year of Alabama Food tour: Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Que for their cheese biscuits, Highlands Bar and Grill for their baked grits, Bottega for their parmesan soufflé and Hot and Hot Fish Club for their tomato salad and picked okra.
I am full and exhausted from all of this eating! But it was completely worth it and the experience has etched in my mind the fact that Alabama is a gastronomic force to be reckoned with, in every corner of the state. (To start at Part One of this travel series click here.)