Suggestions for a Chowhound new to Birmingham
I've just accepted a job there, and I've never been. I've been fortunate to have lived in some of the best food cities (Chicago, SF, New Orleans) up till now--what does everyone recommend?
I'll take suggestions on everything, from cheap sandwich shops to the fanciest place in town. I'm an obsessive cook too, so the locations of the best farmer's market and Asian grocery would be great. Heck, anyone know which bars have a good pub quiz?
You are moving to another great food city, albeit a sleeper.
See this thread for starters - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/346530. All four Stitt restaurants are a must for your local education. Add to Cafe Dupont downtown and you have enough to keep you eating well for a while.
For pizza, go to Betolla (authenitic Naples).
For markets, V. Richards in Forestpark and Tria in Homewood. If you're looking for the real farmer's market (where restaurants shop), go to the one on Finely Ave; From May thru September, the yuppies shop at the one at Pepper Place.
Birmingham, for a mid-sized city in the deep south, does have a lot to offer, but I find that I've gotten a bit bored with the food choices recently. It's probably because I've been here over 15 years (has it really been that long????) and I'm craving more variety. There are a couple of good korean restaurants here and I will give you the official korean endorsement of them (since they are my people). There's a pretty good korean market on Greensprings Hwy. in Homewood called "Asian Market"--no lie. It's on top of the hill near the intersection of Valley Ave and Greensprings Hwy. There is a small cafe located in the back of the market which I've never tried. I do like this market's kimchee. There is a slightly upscale korean bbq place that recently opened in Inverness off Hwy 280. It's pretty good and it's more about the atmosphere than just sitting down to a meal of good ol' korean grub. There's also a vietnemese restaurant on Greensprings Hwy across from Publix that is pretty good. This is the only vietnemese in town that I am aware of.
As much as I enjoy the Frank Stitt restaurants, I'm kinda tired of hearing that they are the ONLY must-eat destinations in the city. Besides, it's not at a realistic pricepoint that most everyone can experience and tends to attract the yuppie/moneyed crowd.
Pub quiz? The only bars that I've heard that have trivia or stuff like that tend to be in the 'burbs away from the city like in Hoover near the Galleria.
BTW, are you planning to live in town or away from town (i.e. Hoover, Inverness, Vestavia?)
Here are a few suggestions:
Thai & sushi - Surin West in the Southside area of Bham
Indian - Ahi Bite in Hoover or Taj India in Southside
Mid Eastern/Med - Nabeel's in Homewood
Best Fish - Ocean in Southside
Best BBQ - try them all & decide for yourself
Latino - Los Angeles in Lakeview area of Bham
Best Fusion (French/Japanese) - San San Trio in Homewood
Best gyros - Purple onion (local franchise)
Great hamburger - Milo's (local franchise)
Buzz worthy - LOCAL (in Vestavia), Cafe Dupont (downtown), The Bright Star (in Bessmer), Fox Valley (in Maylene), any Frank Stitt restaurant (all in the southside)
Fresh Market on Hiway 280 is good. Our Whole Foods (also on 280) will be opening soon (I hope!).
I'd disagree that Stitt restaurants are universally beyond the means of most folks. Highlands and Bottega Rest. are expensive by Bham standards - though a bargain relative to the OP's previous three cities. Fonfon and Bottega Cafe both have entrees in the $10-13 range; two can easily eat for under $40 without booze; the bar tab is what drives the bills in these last two joints.
I also don't think Stitt's are the only musts; as I noted the other thread, I think Gianmarco is fantastic (and as good as any of Stitt's places).
But I do think he merits mention in any list for the area not just because the food is great (consistently), but because he brought great food to town when we were a culinary wasteland and has trained many of the other chefs who now have their own places.
To prove that I'm not Frank's lapdog, however, I will say that his new sommelier service sucks. The guy is pretentious (which may be to be expected), hovering, and will steer you away from a good pairing to a mediocre or worse choice.