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Sep 15, 2006 12:47 AM

What's the best hole in the wall restaurant in Birmingham?

I've lived in Birmingham for 15 years now and have kind of hit the wall when it comes to eating out. I live in town and have a set list of restaurants that my friends and I tend to go to week in and week out. There can be anywhere from 1 to 15 people when we have dinner (about 2-3x/wk)and most folks are not very adventurous when it comes to food (no seafood, not too spicy, not too ethnic, not too expensive, etc). We typically go to La Paz, Surin, the chain restaurants around the Summit (not worth mentioning), Silvertron, etc. If it's a close friend who is more adventurous w/food, we'll meet for Korean, Vietnamese, or seafood.

What are some of your favorite general, locally owned restaurants around town that would be more receptive to the generic american palette mentioned above? What are some of your favorite more ethnic, daring shall I say, places in Birmingham that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg (i.e. Hot & Hot, Highlands, the other Stitt restaurants)?

If at all possible, let's limit the restaurants to be in the downtown, 5 points, Homewood area and no further down Hwy 280 than the Summit.

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  1. I don't know if it counts as a "hole in the wall", but Gian Marcos has some of the best Italian food I have ever tasted. Everything I have tried on the menu is fantastic (even the Chicken Parm., which is not on the menu, you have to ask for it). If you like watching the chefs prepare your food you can request the counter overlooking the kitchen. The price is pretty good for such a nice place, but you need to make reservations in advance as it is a very small restaurant that is constantly full. Hope this helps.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rhizo

      Thanks for the response. I went there back in the spring and have forgotten about them. My meal there was fantastic.

      BTW, why wouldn't the chicken parm be on the menu? I find that interesting.

    2. I asked the waiter and he said that it was so popular that they didn't even bother putting it on the menu. The only reason I know to order it was that I saw them making it (we sat at the counter overlooking the kitchen). Irregardless, it is light years ahead of any other Chick. Parm. I have ever had.

      1. Have you ever tried Fife's meat and three? I don't know if they are still in business but when I lived there I loved it. It is downtown

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jfields

          I have never heard of them in my 15 years of living in Birmingham. Where are they located--the general vicinity if you don't have the address.

        2. Sorry for the delay but I don't get to use the computer much, I am not certain where downtown I can't remember the address but I will check around and let you know.

          1. Not exactly hole in the wall, but the Cantina (same owner as Sol Y Luna and Los Angeles) in the Martin Biscuit Bldg is excellent and reasonable. Great place to sit outside when the weather is nice. An Italian place just opened next door (starts with a B, but the name escapes me) which is also excellent and very reasonable- mostly pizzas and antipasta (you select your own). The starters are also very good; we had the grilled octopus in a red sauce - outstanding.

            More of a hole in the wall - Roho on Highland - solid basic American fare and reasonable Mexican.

            Not on a hole in the wall, but not on your excluded list - George Reis' Ocean and its less formal sister - 26.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Bluehound

              I did not know there was a new restaurant next to the Cantina. That sounds good!

              As far as Ocean and 26, I was looking for casual, reasonably priced fare. I think Ocean is going to be out of the "casual" price range. I've heard very mixed reviews of 26 but I heard that it was in the mid-price range. I guess I was looking for casual restaurants that my friends and I either forget about or haven't heard of yet. Yes, Rojo is a staple. It's not great but it's not too bad, either.

              1. re: gyp7318

                Where to start? Charlies on Arkadelphia is an outstanding meat and 3 run by a tiny Vietnamese woman who is an excellent Southern cook. Purple Onion on 11th near UAB has consistently good Lebanese food.Carnaggios in Bessemer is the real deal Italian,mom and pop food,the pizza is great. OT's in the Lakeview area is damn fine sportsbar food,oblong chargrilled burgers and good fried onion straws.Lots of good options abound in Bham for off the beaten path dining.

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  Hmmm, I'm intrigued by Charlie's. I looooove a good meat and three. Are they closed for dinner? Purple Onion, oh where do I start w/thee? I can't eat there unless it's 3 am after a late night of bar-hopping and clubbing. However, I don't think it's great food, just merely good. I went there A LOT during my college and post-college years in b'ham over 10 years ago! OT's is a good one that I haven't thought about, so thanks for reminding me. Never heard of Carnaggio's. I'll have to research that one.

                  Thanks to everyone for giving me some great suggestions that I had either forgotten about or had never heard of.

                  1. re: gyp7318

                    No, in the tradition of great meat and threes, they're only open for lunch.

                2. re: gyp7318

                  Bettolla. It's absolutely incredible. Seriously authentic homemade pasta, a great wine/drink menu and amazing appetizers. This is definitely a must go.