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Moving to Birmingham, AL and need lots of advice (long)

Birmingham Chowhounds:

I will be moving to Birmingham this weekend from Athens, GA (but was in Boston for 8+ years prior to moving home temporarily to Athens). I was/am a frequent poster on chowhound in these two cities. I do consider myself a chowhound who seeks out the best food wherever it can be found, be it at a hotdog stand, a taqueria, the Ritz, a Frank Stitt place, etc. I do not consider myself a "foodie" that follows trends and popularity more than the grub; the mere term foodie grates me almost as badly as being forced to watch the View.

I’ve done some research on Birmingham, mostly here, but also on Bhamdining.com, zagat and even city search (yes, city search is questionable at best, with Zagat being heavily influenced by advertisers as well). Anyway, on to the quest; I seek the following and/or any other recommendations my trusted hounds have. Specifically, I’d love to hear about your favorite places and/or dishes at these places.

A. Markets/Specialty Stores: I understand the Finley Ave Farmer’s Mkt, Tria and V. Richards are good markets, as may be Pepper Place. However, I do not know their strengths, so if they apply below please point this out.

1. Asian – primarily for Asian produce, meats, condiments, spices, etc.
2. Latin – primarily for Latin produce (primarily peppers), tortillas, meats, condiments, spices, etc.
3. Greek/Armenian – I understand there is a large Greek population here. Excellent, as I love shopping at Greek Markets for related products (fresh olives, cheeses, grape leaves, spinach pies, etc).
4. General Markets for produce, artesian breads, etc.
5. Best Butcher
6. Best Fishmonger
7. Spices

B. Restaurants by Cuisine/Ethnicity: For the most part, I prefer to have entrees top out in the low twenties for average dining but I’m not averse to spending more if the occasion warrants (i.e. I hear the Frank Stott places are delicious but spendy).

1. Latin American – I realize this a broad category, but I am specifically looking for:

a. Mexican – I realize Mexican cuisine varies by state, but I am seeking restaurants or taquerias offering varieties or pork preparation, including carnitas, al pastor, chorizo, plus carne asada and other beef preparations. Fish tacos a bonus. I tend to like tortas, corn tortilla tacos with just the meat, onions, cilantro, lime and maybe salsa verde, plus good plates if the accompanying rice and beans are well flavored.

b. Salvadoran – Primarily for pupusas as I have not (yet) explored Salvadoran cuisine yet.

c. Brazilian including rodizo and beyond

d. Cuban (yes, I am stretching the definition of Latin American further than I should but bear with me). I love a good cubano, as well as some other semi-Cuban treats.

2. Greek

3. Indian (all regions)

4. Italian (mostly prefer Northern). Is this one of the specialties at the Stitt restaurants?

5. Korean

6. Vietnamese (primarily for pho, bahn mi, and perhaps some other dishes)

7. Chinese – I realize “Chinese” is a vague term due to all the regional cuisines. I’m not looking for Chinamerican dishes like general gau, beef and broccoli, nuclear orange colored sweet and sour anything. I lived within a mile of Boston’s Chinatown (not large, but still delicious) for 3+ years and loved heading there weekly for my fix of Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghai-ese(?), Taiwanese, etc. Forgive me if I get the regions wrong. Any places serve a good Peking Duck or xiao long bao?

8. Seafood – I think I read here that The Fish Market is the real deal and the menu looks nice and varied. Is this the go to spot?

9. “New American” – this can be anything really, just looking for inventive cooking.

10. Meat and three joints.

11. Burgers and maybe hotdogs. Is Milos the place to go?

12. Pizza (not Greek pizza)

13. Barbecue – I’ve had Dreamland in the past and the ribs were ok but I’ve had a backyard offset smoker for 8 or so years smoking my own ‘cue so my expectations can be high. Prefer pulled pork to spare ribs, but love both, as well as brisket and properly smoked sausage. I think I recall reading that the Jim and Nicks’ outposts are pretty good?

C. Print Media/Local Blogs – this might belong on another board but since this request is already the size of a novella, please feel free to point out some good local resources for trusty reviews of local eateries, markets, etc.

Hounds, I really appreciate each and every one of you that is taking the time to read this dissertation. As I’ve said, I’ve been a long time contributor to other local boards and hope to be able to contribute about Birmingham in the near future.



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  1. Congrats on coming to our fine city! Although we are spread out as Atlanta, depending on the area that you move to, some of the finer/better markets and restaurants can be quite a drive (in miles or traffic time).

    A. Markets
    1. Asian - there are a couple of good Asian markets clustered in the Southside & Greensprings area of town. The one on Southside is at the corner of 7th ave south & 22nd street. It's small but convenient if you work in the area. The one on Greensprings is much, much bigger and offer live seafood and asian cooking utensils.
    2. Latin - we have a fairly large Hispanic community in the Hoover area. Lots of markets are in that area. A new smallish Mexican grocery opened in the Trussville area. It's good, but small.
    3. Greek - The Fish Market Restaurant, in Southside, ois run by Greeks and offers greek specialties, like olive oil, fresh fish (which is stellar BTW), etc. Nabeel's in Homewood (also a restaurant) has a market attached with a good selection of regional items.
    4. General Markets - can't go wrong with V. Richards or the new Whole Foods on Hiway 280. Further down on Hiway 280, there's a Fresh Market that's good as well. I haven't been to Tria so I can't comment. The Farmer's Market is great, as is Pepper Place.
    5. Butcher - Mr. P's Butcher Shop & Deli (in Bluff Park) has the best cuts around.
    6. Fishmonger - The Fish Market - hands down (see above)
    7. Spices - there's a Penzey's in Inverness on Hiway 280.

    B. Restaurants

    1. Latin America
    a. Mexican - The Iguana Grill in Hoover is really, really good and really authentic. Run by Hispanics for Hispanics with discriminating tastes. For more traditional fare with a scene, Superior Grill on Hiway 280 is good. They have an outdoor area with a band. Sabor Latino on Greensprings is good, no fuss Mexican.
    b. Salvadoran - I don't think we have one in Bham. We do have a fairly new Peruvian restaurant that gotten pretty good reviews. I have't tried it yet though. It's called Romans and is in Homewood (off Greensprings).
    c. Brazilian - alas, our churrascaria closed some time ago.
    d. Cuban - not sure on this one.
    NOTE - Los Angeles in Lakeview kind of spans Latino cuisines. Very, very good.

    2. Greek - Nabeels in Homewood (hit has good middle eastern good as well), Fish Market in the Southside, The Purple Onion for the best gyros, The Pita Stop in Southside, the various Greek food festivals held in the fall around the city.

    3. Indian - Taj India in the Five Points South area (good lunch buffet availavle) , Aha Bite in Hoover is outstanding for southern indian food.

    4. Italian - Bottega in FPS (yes, a Stitt restaurant) is really good. But hands down, GianMarco's in Homewood is fabulous. I also like Tamburro's Bella Notte in Trussville, not pretentious, just really good food.

    5. Korean - I don't know of one in our city.

    6. Vietnamese - Que Hong in Homewood (off Greensprings) has really good pho.

    7. Chinese - most around here are of the Americanized versions. The only authentic one I know of is at the asian market off Greensprings, there's a cafe adjacent. I've never tried it. And unfortunately, there's no dim sum in Bham. However, there are a couple of great Thai (Surin West in FPS) & Japanese (Kinomi in Trussville and Kimono on Hiway 280 in Hoover) spots.

    8. Seafood - you must, must go to Ocean in FPS! Everything I've ever had there is superb. Also good, is Hot & Hot Fish Club in Southside. The Fish Market is good for less expensive fare. The Bright Star in Bessemer has fabulous seafood (scampi, almondine, etc.!!

    9. New American - Highland's Bar & Grill in FPS (Stitt's flagship), Cafe Dupont downtown, daniel george in Mountain Brook, Fox Valley in Helena, Locale in Vestavia (the chef's table is supposedly outstanding-off the menu is to die for), The restaurant at the Museum of Art has a great Jazz brunch on the weekend and very good lunches.

    10. Meat & Three - Nikki's on the northside or Tracey's in Southside. The famous Irondale Cafe (The TRUE Whistlestop Cafe from Fried Green Tomatoes) has some of the best fried chicken I've tasted besides my Mom's. I'm not a dog lover, so I've defer to someone else on that subject.

    11. Burger's & Hot dogs - the new Red Robin in Trussville is wonderful for burgers. Milo's is the best fast food hamburger around with Hamburger Heaven a distant second.

    12. Pizza - Dave's in Homewood has great traditional and some unusual varieties. Tomatopie in Trussville is great as well.

    13. BBQ - Jim & Nick's has the best meat. However, my preference for sauce is still Dreamland. Costa's (several locations) is very good.

    C. Print Media
    www.bhamdining.com is a pretty good site. Unfortunately, it's not kept up to date on closings and new openings. www.bhammenus.com has a few links to on-line menus & websites for some of the restaurants around town. However, it's NO menupages.com. There's a dining forum on www.al.com that can get interesting at times. www.bhammag.com has a more comprehensive listing of restaurants however, there are no objective reviews or links.

    There's a couple of new restaurants that have just opened a couple of weeks ago, that's generated a bit of buzz. One is called Martini's and is in Hoover. Supposedly, great steaks & seafood and unbelievable desserts. The other is Icon at the Tutwiler Hotel downtown. Very high-end, very expensive. The owners operate the restaurant at the Museum of Art and another restaurant they closed to open up at the Tutwiler (G's is was called). The owner also operates a catering company- Kathy G's, if you are ever in need. At G's they served the best upscale black & blue burger I've ever tasted (kobe, angus?) and a nicoise salad that was to die for. I hope they have these on the Icon's menu.

    I truly hope this helps you get acquainted with our city. It's not New York, or Boston, but we do have our good points. :) And we do love to eat!!!

    16 Replies
    1. re: sheilal

      Sheila, most of my Bham research comes from reading your posts on Chowhound so I had hoped that you would respond to my plea. Much thanks, you're a treasure trove of info on the Birmingham dining scene. Printing this all out now.

      1. re: Dax

        I'd love to hear your opinions of these places. Post back with your thoughts & impressions. What area of town are you moving to? I could perhaps point out some places local for you.

        1. re: sheilal

          For the first 60 days, I'll be temporarily living in a corporate apt. at the Crowne at Grandview, on Grandview Parkway. Will be working downtown on South 7th St.

          1. re: sheilal

            Luckily one of my friends in town knows some good places.

            Four of us went to Bottega Friday. Unfortunately I was not too impressed with the pizza/salad thing I ordered (basically a pizza folded up with romaine and dressing). I cannot find them on the online menu, but I ordered the one with the apple smoked bacon and I think gorgonzola and kalamatas. The whole thing was incredibly salty, between the dressing (I guess?), the pure fat bacon (and I love fat) and whatever else was in there. Dining companions, however, loved their two pizzas and cobb salad; they also split two bottles of chardonnay (no idea about the label). I had two beers. I forget the name of the first (Hefeweizen) but they ran out immediately after and were also out of Bass (2nd choice after trying to re-order the Hefe). Service was off with the empty beer glass left on the table well after the 2nd beer arrived (and it took some time to even get a chance to order beer #2), as well as runners asking who ordered what. Also, when one of our party was trying to direct an out of town guest to the restaurant to join us and asked the waiter if he was good with local directions there, he replied "yes I am, but I'm much too busy to give them now." He wasn't that busy and at the least he could have tried to get the hostess or someone to try and get another potential customer directions to their restaurant. I hope I don't sound too whiny about service; it usually takes a lot for me to slam service after working in the industry for years back in the day. To be fair about the food, the others with me loved their dinners and are frequent diners there who swear by the food. Whatever, maybe I just ordered wrong on an odd night there; I'll give it another shot to try the pizza and mains.

            Our experience at Surin West could not have been more different. After trying unsuccessfully to get a table at various Latin restaurants (including Los Angeles) on Cinco de Mayo (stupid without a res I know), we ended up here as my friend likes it. We were seated immediately. Excellent coconut shrimp soup and a marinated roasted duck with a delicious red curry sauce with a hint of spice (to be fair, it wasn't listed as especially spicy). Duck texture was more beefy in texture, or actually almost stringy like goat, but it was nonetheless delicious. Dining companion had a roast lamb special which was quite flavorful but a bit on the sweet side; delicious but I had expected a bit of heat (again, not listed as spicy so that was my incorrect assumption). Service was excellent and efficient with recommendations given freely once requested. My friend also says there is a really good Thai place out 280 East somewhere - will need to check it out.

            Had some serviceable sangria at Roja after dinner at Surin West. It got better as the glasses kept draining.

            Stopped a Whole Foods for some groceries today. Typical experience and dependable.

            Went to V.Richard's both yesterday and today mostly to get a cup each of their delicious organic sweet tea.

            Is Fresh Market out by Target on 280? I saw it but didn't go in after my visit to Whole Paycheck.

            Looking pretty good so far Birmingham, thanks for all of the tips. I cannot wait to try them all.


            1. re: Dax

              Just to make a few minor corrections to your post, it sounds like you went to Bottega Cafe and not Bottega the white tablecloth restaurant next door. Sounds nitpicky, but they are two completely different restaurants and price points. I've had some fantastic dinners at both. Sorry to hear your experience at the cafe was so off.

              Also, you had sangria at Rojo, not Roja. I like Rojo enough for a casual, neighborhood kind of a place thing, but I don't go there for the food. I go there to sit outside, eat the shrimp salad, and have drinks w/friends. I also like to support locally owned businesses as well.

              1. re: gyp7318

                Yes we were at the Cafe, I forgot to mention that.

                And yes, it was Rojo. Sorry I was in a hurry when writing and quite frankly my Spanish is much worse than my French.

        2. re: sheilal

          Sheilal covered the waterfront very well. A couple of additional thoughts:

          Depending on the fish your looking for, Tria is good for the more exotic and flown-in from afar fish; Fish Market is best for fish straight out of the gulf.

          I second Sheilal on the Italian, Gianmarco's is best by far; Bottega Cafe is very good.

          For pizza, I highly recommend Betola (at Pepper Place); it's a neopolitan style with charred crust.

          For Indian, Taj India is my favorite, but Silver Spoon on Lorna Road is also very good.

          My one disagreement is Fox Valley - used to be worth the 20 minute drive, now I wouldn't cross the street to eat there. I don't know what happened, but it's not even a shadow of its former self.

          You didn't ask about sushi, but Jin Sei in Homewood is out of this world.

          Hopefully, you stumble on some places we haven't found yet. Please let us know.

          1. re: Bluehound

            I can't think to add a thing except welcome to Birmingham. The place not listed is the Kitchen Madonna Hash House.

            1. re: Bluehound

              Speaking of Pizza,is Carnaggio still open?I used to love peering back in the kitchen at the Italian mamas back there cooking in blousey white smocks...like something out of Big Night.Also,if Charlies Cafe on Arkadelphia is still running it used to be the best Meat and 3 in town.Are any Bham hounds down with Curtis Giles?He was the unknown Alpha chef...his Brochettes Q and Bayou[sat 6]was the finest restaurant in town a few years back.It shuttered and I would love to know where he landed and if he's still cooking somewhere in town.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                A reincarnation of Carnaggio's opened in Pleasant Grove (a western 'burb of Bham). It's nothing like the ole' superhighway location. Those were the days. What a dump, but what a meal! Mama mia!

              2. re: Bluehound

                Is the charred crust of the pizza from Betola's from a wood burning oven like the authentic pizza places in NYC? I can definitely tell a difference in flavor between gas & wood. I haven't tried Betola yet. Odd, since I literally work just down the street, but I forget it's there. I've seen no advertisements for it.

                1. re: sheilal

                  I believe it is a wood burning oven. I've been there twice and had really good meals there. It's a young couple that owns it---the husband is in the open kitchen and wife is the hostess/front of the house. Very nice couple. Their version of pain au chocolat made from their pizza dough w/bittersweet chocolate and ricotta is out of this world.

                  1. re: sheilal

                    He imported the wood burning oven from Italy, and imports his flour as well. If you work close, you gotta go.

                  2. re: Bluehound

                    Ate at Bettola for lunch today and had an excellent proscuitto, fresh mozzerella, arugula, and tomato sandwich. The dough for the "Italian flatbread sandwich" looked as it had been cooked in the pizza oven. Plenty of fresh ingredients and a large sized sandwich for about $9 before tax, tip, beverage, etc. Others really liked their pizzas and lamb sandwiches. Could not find their website, but found a menu here in pdf


                  3. re: sheilal

                    The char xiu pork and viet ham (mmm hog ...) bahn mi at Que Huong was great for dinner just now. Also, the viet iced coffee brewed table side hit the spot. Will be back for more dishes (ie the pho) when the weather cools down some or is all rainy out (whenever that will be).

                    1. re: sheilal

                      Just needed to make a correction to something sheilal posted above. The new restaurant at the Tutwiler, Icon, is not affiliated in any way with Kathy G (the caterer and operator of the cafe at the Museum). The Chef and owner at Icon used to work for Kathy G years ago and was exec chef at the Museum before opening G. He and his partner took over ownership of G from Kathy G within a year of opening. They closed G to open Icon last fall.

                    2. There are some good places to eat around here and it is getting a bit more varied over the years. When I get bored w/the restaurant scene or need some honest to goodness ethnic variety, I hop on 1-20 and head east to Atlanta. That is the only place to get great dim sum and interesting asian groceries.

                      For korean food, there are a couple of choices. There used to be a great hole in the wall on Greensprings Hwy in Homewood called Seoul Restaurant. They had a great bento box lunch. However, the owners sold to another family back in fall and it hasn't been the same. The price point has gone up and the bulgogi that I had was definitely not good--just sliced beef w/too many green onions in an oversalty soy marinade. Not good at all. I haven't been back since. There is a really good korean bbq/sushi restaurant on Hwy280/Valleydale Road called Ginza. It's owned by Koreans, from what I can tell (I'm Korean). The kimchee is great and you get a bunch of different pan chan during the meal. I've only been there a couple of times for bbq. It's really good. I think it's a FANTASTIC addition to the local dining scene. I just wish it were closer in town. I despise Hwy 280 traffic. :(

                      The only Vietnemese place that I know of is on Green Springs Hwy in the same shopping center as Seoul restaurant. I've been going there at least 5 years. It's good but the kitchen can be inconsistent. My favorites there are the sauteed flat noodles w/veges, beef, pork, and chicken. I've had it there where it's been slap yo' mama good and the next time it's been burnt and not so great. I'm dying to go there this week and try their Vietnemese crepes. I read an article about them (not from this restaurant) in the US Airways in flight magazine and now I'm craving them.

                      As far as thai on Hwy 280, you must be speaking of Emerald Forest, near Greystone. It's supposedly owned by a chef who used to cook at Thai Garden in Hoover. I've had friends who love Emerald Forest, but it is just a little too out of the way for them to go on a regular basis.

                      For asian groceries, I go to the Asian Market (yes, it's literally called that) on Greensprings Hwy near Valley Ave. It's in the same shopping plaza as Pizza Hut. Are you sensing a theme---Green Springs Hwy is like a tiny Buford Hwy (Atlanta) for Birmingham. There are some other Asian Markets sprinkled around Birmingham, but I like to get my asian groceries there. There is also a small cafe tucked in the back of the market. It has good, very homey Korean food but it is like eating in your favorite aunt's den. It's very much just about the food.

                      I heard from a friend this weekend that the former Anthony's restaurant downtown next door to the 22nd Street Jazz Cafe is opening up as a Thai restaurant, brought to us by the same owners as Chai's asian groceries next door. I drove by this weekend and saw no sign yet. It'll be interesting to see if it's any good. FYI, Chai's is primarily a chinese grocery store, I believe. I have never gone in there but heard that a lot of the Chinese students/researchers from UAB go there.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: gyp7318

                        As a fellow new Bhamite (moved in in January from San Francisco), let me reassure you that there is lots of good food here, and second all the above suggestions.

                        Two additions, though--for Thai, Taste of Thailand on Lorna Rd. in Hoover is better than Surin, in my opinion. You can order stuff "thai hot," which is actually reasonably spicy.

                        For BBQ, try Miss Myra's in Cahaba Heights (very close to where you're staying). Their chicken is incredible, and the pork isn't bad either. Go for the white sauce.

                        1. re: scoobyhed

                          Taste of Thailand is far superior to Surin. Absolutely.

                          1. re: scoobyhed

                            Had Miss Myra's the other night. I ordered the pulled pork and chicken combo plate with green beans and baked beans. Both beans were of the canned variety and nothing special. Pulled pork was good, albeit a little dry. That's my fault for going an hour before close since it was likely cooked overnight. The chicken was ok with the skin being really good but the meat just being ok.

                            Went back to Bettola last night. We shared a bottle of the merlot/cab blend (forgot the name), antipasti with salami, proscuitto, goat cheese, fresh parmesan, another cheese?, olives, roasted peppers, white bean puree, and marinated mushrooms. It was really good, especially with that bread which I assume is cooked in the oven. Also split the caprese salad (tomatoes were almost perfect) and the tuna carpaccio. Excellent service (Blake). I'll definitely return.

                          2. re: gyp7318

                            Great to hear! Thanks for the info.

                            1. re: gyp7318

                              One more thing---I much prefer Silver Coins (almost wrote Silver Spoons---loved that show from my childhood) to Taj India. The service can be really slow but the food is worth it. Warning: their spicy is SUPER spicy. While I like a lot of heat in my food, their heat is different than the east asian heat that I'm used to w/lots of red peppers and garlic. Silver Coin's spicy makes me sweat profusely but doesn't have the burn of red chilies. I even ordered my dishes mild because my waiter was worried that medium was way too spicy for a non-native.

                              1. re: gyp7318

                                Where us Silver Coins located?

                                1. re: Dax

                                  It's on Lorna Road in a shopping center before you cross 459. I didn't care for the TV show but made the mistake with the name. I could eat my weight in the spicy chutney they serve as a teaser. I agree that the heat is different; the waiters may be a little overly cautious in steering you away from the hot.

                              2. re: gyp7318

                                I ended up at Red Pearl Restaurant attached to Super Oriental Market at 243 West Valley Ave last night. While I took a copy of the menu with me, I already lost it. If I find it, I will scan and email it to birminghammenus.com. Anyway, I started with the scallion pancakes, which were thinner than I am familiar with, but good nonetheless, especially with a little sriracha. For my dinner, I had the beef with jalapenos. This was really good, although not as spicy as I had expected considering the name of the dish and the maybe 20 jalapenos sliced lenthwise. Leftovers were even better, as I added some of the Thai bird chilis that I bought at the market and made little roll-ups with the leftover pancakes. I think I will return soon to try the other dishes, like double and/or triple spicy (or triple chili, I forget the name) chicken, but maybe made with beef or pork. There are lots of dishes that I want to try there. English is limited.

                                I think Red Pearl would make a great chowhound outing for say 6-8 people. We used to do that a good bit up in Boston, as a way to meet chowhounders and try lots of new dishes at the same time. Maybe drop me a line if you're interested - daxius@hotmail.com

                                I also love the market there. Tons of fresh and frozen seafood of all types, including very fresh looking head on shrimp for like $3 or $4/lb. Oysters and lobster were cheap too, especially considering the high price of lobster in the Northeast (although I didn't check what type of lobster). Also had fresh fish, eel, etc. I didn't buy any seafood but I did pick up some sauces, some frozen bao, frozen goya/potstickers, a bamboo steamer, and a few other items.

                                Speaking of the bamboo steamer, is there a good restaurant supply store open to the public in the area? I need a mandoline.

                                1. re: Dax

                                  Have you tried the Asian Market on Greensprings for the bamboo steamer? They may have it for a pretty reasonable price. There is a restaurant supply place in downtown, somewhere on the southside. I want to say it's around 5th or 6th Ave South and maybe around 27th street or so? As long as I've lived in Birmingham (over 15 years) I don't know the cross-streets that well on that area of the southside. I just wander until I come upon it. You should be able to find it in the yellow pages I'm sure. I think it's called Bresco.

                                  1. re: gyp7318

                                    I picked a steamer up at Super Oriental but need to get other things at the res. supply. I will look into the downtown one. Also got your email, will reply later tonight.

                                  2. re: Dax

                                    BRESCO at 2428 Sixth Avenue South should have everything and anything you need.

                                  3. re: gyp7318

                                    I saw both Seoul and the Vietnamese rest today and will try soon.

                                  4. Sexton's Seafood is another fishmonger that has consistently fresh product. They are located in the Cahaba Heights nieghborhood (behind the Summit shooping center). A meticulously clean, well run operation. Worth a visit.

                                    3164 Heights Vlg
                                    Birmingham, AL
                                    Phone: (205) 967-3437

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tomself

                                      Excellent, and it's located right by me. Thanks for the info.

                                    2. Had sushi and tempura veggies/calamari at Sekisui in Vestavia last night. I do not eat much sushi so I left my friend do all of the ordering since she is a regular there. She ordered a nigiri sampler that had one piece each of salmon, yellowtail, tuna (not toro), shrimp, crab stick, some eggy something or other, and another whitefish. All delicious and fresh tasting, prepared in front of us. She also loves the scallop hand rolls so we got a few of those. Maybe a little much for me. Also ordered bell pepper, shitake, broccoli, calamari, and sweet potato tempura, which was ok I guess but a little bland. I finished off the meal with a spicy seafood roll, which was good but a bit heavy on the red pepper (I assume that is what it is; I love spicy but that was quite hot). All in all, I guess it was great? It definitely was good, but I'm no sushi expert so I could not tell if it was excellent sushi or not. The service, between the sushi chefs and the waiter for the drinks and tempura, was excellent

                                      Stopped by Pepper Place Mkt today. It was ok but I expected a little more I guess. I bought a homemade "blackberry" ice-cream that was lacking any blackberry taste. However, the tomato and goat cheese focaccia from the bakery at Culinard is very tasty. Hungry for a larger selection, we headed out to the Finley Blvd Mkt. Ok, now this is more my style - larger selection, watermelons bigger than a buick, plenty of fresh herbs, plants, flowers, vegetables, fruits, etc. I didn't buy anything today but will definitely return to buy some things to make a large dinner.

                                      Ate lunch at ... maybe Nikki's out by the Finley Farmers Mkt? Meat and three type? It's huge and the steam table selection is enormous. Loved the fried okra and mac and cheese, collards ok, but the fried chicken was dry. I should have asked for some gravy to go with it. I'll go back to try the other offerings.

                                      I think I will need to join a gym soon if I keep eating this way.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Dax

                                        Give Pepper Place a couple of weeks. As the season picks up you will see more farmers and the selections will expand. We are in the midst of a drought and that is impacting a lot of the local produce production.

                                      2. 1. Asian--Downtown I shop at the one located at the corner of 7th Avenue South and 22nd street, but there are many choices in the Green Springs / West Valley Avenue section of Homewood/Birmingham.

                                        2. Latin--I like El Mercado for Carnitas and other pork items as well as fresh corn tortillas. (A market with take out). I go to the one on Greensprings, but they also have a Lorna Road location. My favorite Mexican restaurant carnitas are served at Habanero's and they have more than one location. At any local Meican restaurant always ask for the "hot" salsa (or pico de gallo). Sometimes verde, sometimes made with dried chiles and always better than the "regular" salsa. Latin markets may be found in the same area of Greensprings and West Valley Avenue. The "Pig"--Piggly wiggly in Forest Park has a large Latin food selection as well. Cantina in Pepper Place has good fish tacos. Had a fabulous meal with friends visiting from CA at Sol y Luna on Saturday night--it's always excellent. 280 Cuban Grill may be the only Cuban restaurant, but my Cubano friends and I think it's very good.

                                        3. Greek. Nabeels and I like the gyros etc. at Naji's Pita Stop on West Valley--great fresh pita, too. (Low on atmosphere and served on styrofoam, but tastes great and they have a market as well).

                                        4. Indian. Taj India - I like the rabbit there.

                                        5. Korean - How adventurous are you?

                                        6. Vietnamese - I go to Pho Que Huong on Greensprings for pho noodle bowls. They are served with fresh jalapeno, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime on the side for seasoning. They also have summer rolls that are excellent with mint and shrimp.

                                        7. Chinese - My favorite is Shangri La. The food is very clean and fresh even if it is somewhat American. The Peking duck was fine. (If you're a duck-lover you should try John's City Diner downtown for dinner. They have the best, crispiest duck in town.

                                        8. Seafood. Definitely Ocean. The oysters and sea bass are incredible.

                                        9. New American. 26 (next to Ocean in 5 Points South) should be added to the list below as well as Icon Restaurant & Bar in the Tutwiler Hotel. I've had some great food at (local) restaurant and cocktail bar in Vestavia as well.

                                        10.O.T.s Neighborhood Sports Bar & Grill (Lakeview), Dale's Southern Grill (Vestavia) and John's City Diner downtown or Oak Hill Bar & Grill (Homewood) for meatloaf, fried okra, smashed potatoes, etc.

                                        11. Chez Fonfon & O.T.s both make a great burger.

                                        12. Pizza--My personal favorite is a whole wheat, thin crust Rock and Roll with anchovies on the side from Cosmo's in 5 Points. (Don't order thin crust to be delivered, tho' --it gets soggy).

                                        13.BBQ. I'm from Kansas City and somewhat of a BBQ snob. I usually make my own but I do like O.T.s dry baby back ribs on Tuesdays with a bottle of Gates BBQ sauce from Kansas City.

                                        14.www.bhamweekly.com, Birmingham Weekly published each Thursday and available at over 600 locations throughout Birmingham. Another "foodie" is always welcome. Birmingham Weekly covers food each issue and once a year we print a Menu of Menus magazine complete with menus, recipes, etc. from local restaurants. Call 939-4030 to find out where to obtain a copy near you.

                                        15.Oops. I skipped Italian. Have to say Gianmarco's or Bottega as well. Others invariablty serve a too-sweet Sicilian red sauce. I haven't been to Bettola, but those who have love it.

                                        Please let me know of any "jewels" you find here.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: lynn Leishman

                                          Just out of curiosity, why do you have to be adventurous for korean? In Birmingham, the korean food is pretty standard, "safe" fare--bulgogi, etc. Nothing too crazy!

                                          1. re: lynn Leishman

                                            Lunched at Cantina in Pepper Place today. The menu indicates that they serve their tacos on flour tortillas - gross - but when I asked the nice guy expediting, he said they have corn tortillas too but most people that eat there want flour (crazy gringos). I ordered a fish (fried tilapia) taco and a carnitas taco, both on corn tortillas.

                                            After ordering I spoke a while with the owner? who was expeditiing, asking whether they sold their carnitas by the pound (no, but he said some of the mercados out in Homewood/on Greensprings likely do), whether they or anyone in town serves al pastor pork (no, something about a health code issue? Maybe they cannot keep it on the spit and serve off of it?), about local chorizo tacos, about their Cubano (cannot wait to get back and try that) and whether they use real Cuban bread (he said unfortunately no one here makes fresh Cuban bread), etc. etc. He seemed surprised I asked all that, saying basically the majority of his customers do not like some of the stronger flavors associated with those meat preparations.

                                            Anyway, the carnitas was served with onion, cilantro and some "roasted salsa." Tasted like regular fresh pico de gallo to me, which I like. The carnitas was very tasty and there was plenty of it, not the best I've ever had but it was definitely good. Anyway, at least I found a Mexican-style taco that I like here. The fish taco was the tilapia, two slivers of avocado, chile arbolo salsa, and supposedly cilantro mayo. I could taste the fish and some of the avocado and that was it. There was a nice long maybe 1/2 filet of tilapia, which was nice. It was great. I only have two qualms about the tacos. 1) At most of the latin restaurants, carnitas, beef, etc. tacos are typically only $1.75 or so. They were $2.75/taco here. However, fish tacos are typically more expensive at the few places I have previously tried, so it balanced out. 2) Both tacos were served with only one corn tortilla rather than the traditional two. This was fine for the fish, but the carnitas taco in all its juicy pico/meat jus splendor caused the tortilla to split apart, dropping all of the taco goodness in my dish. Oh well, I scooped it up with a chip.

                                            Also, I asked for some picante and the guy gave me some russet red chile sauce, which I assumed was habanero based, but apparently not. I thought I heard the cook tell him chile en adobo (or chipotle en adobo) but I'm not positive. When I was about to put it on, he told me to go easy as it was hot but I had already tasted it and thought it tingly but not too hot. It was a great addition to the carnitas taco but overwhelmed the fish a little. I love to dice and use thai bird chiles on about everything so this was not hot, but good still. He also gave me, unasked, some chips and queso (they usually charge for them according to the menu). Chips were good but I'm not a huge queso fan.
                                            All in all, I really like this place. I want to go back and try the Cubano with a beer and try and convince them to make the mollete stuffer with carnitas as well as the other ingredients.


                                            1. re: Dax

                                              Just came back from lunch at Catina and had to share my thoughts about the place. I didn't mind placing my order at the counter, but I felt a little like cattle as the cashier was rushing and a bit rude. It wasn't even that busy. Went to search for a table and found several empty ones with some very uncomfortable, wobbly metal chairs. They were darling to look at, but I wouldn't feel safe if I sat on one. Found a table with sturdy looking wooden ones, but had to clean the table off as it had not been bussed yet. I had ordered the fish taco and a pollo taco with a side of sweet potato fries. My friend had the fish sandwich and guacamole w/chips. First off, the guacamole is some of the freshest I've tasted in a long time. It could have used a hint more garlic, but otherwise, no complaints there!!! I'll go back just for the guac. The fish taco was great, but a bit skimpy on the crunchy cabbage and cilantro mayo. Honestly, I couldn't detect any hint of cilantro. The tequila grilled chicken taco was very flavorful, but unfortunately, not of tequila. My greatest disappointment were the sweet potato fries. They were more straws or strings than fries. Which would have been fine if they hadn't been so dry. I'll go back for the guacamole, but I think I'll try the cuban sandwich or the cilantro chicken plate. They looked very good on other people's plates.

                                            2. re: lynn Leishman

                                              I just got back from El Mercado on Greensprings and love the place, despite the language barrier. I picked up seemingly fresh corn tortillas, cilantro, a 1/2 lb of carnitas, some roma tomatoes, some big spring onion looking things, plus a bag of deliciously picante salsa verde (free with the carnitas I believe) all for $8. I just made a salsa cruda with a lot of that and will eat with chips and carnitas tacos tonight, washed down with a few modelos. On such a nice day, this is the life.

                                              Also, picked up a menu from the "Asian Restaurant/The Koreans" from the back of the Asian Market place on Greensprings. The market next to Red Pearl is larger and more extensive, but both are great finds (thanks Hounds!). Also picked up a menu from Kabob & Curry, and San Miguel, all on or just off Greensprings. Little Bufford Highway, we are gonna become fast friends. Tried to get a menu from Pho Huong but it was closed from 3 to 5. Once I get my notes from my car about other places I saw, I will ask a few questions from the local hounds.

                                              Thanks folks.

                                            3. Dear 8 pounds 6 ounces baby Jesus, new born, not even spoken a word yet. If you ever, ever, ever ... ever, ever, ever, see me enter a place like Ixtapa on 280 East, please strike me down with a lightning bolt. For sure, I should have ran when they only offered (ground) beef and chicken as meat choices (I specifically asked about carnitas, al pastor, chorizo, hell even tongue at that point), or when I saw that they only offered hard shell tacos or soft flour tortilla tacos with meat, lettuce and 8 lbs, 6 ounces of cheese, but lo, I had visions of chile poblanos dancing in my head. I should have left with just the visions in my head or at least when the waiter laughed when I asked him why he only had gringo tacos. I must have forgotten Ixtapa in Mexico is only a tourist destination - because only people that like their food coated with about a pound of cheese to disguise the taste of this mess could enjoy it. I really wanted to try the chile poblano, which must have been from last week. I don't even want to describe it for fear of getting ill. You can imagine how bad the beef enchilada was and the taco was well, a bad taco. I'm definitely writing this off as a trial and error mistake, taking one for the team, etc. etc., as you cannot always win, but I will continue my quest. I will note that the service and (two) Dos Equis Ambers were great, and the chips and salsa were fine.

                                              Oh, also, is there a favorite, well priced, well stocked liquor store in town with good wines, plus various types of gin?

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Dax

                                                Alas, in the great state of alabama we are forced to frequent the state run ABC stores for liquor. here are a few package stores around, but their prices are exorbitant and their selection is less than what the ABC stores offer. Most ABC stores offer a ln increasing larger selection of fine liquors. Here's a link to their price list: http://www.abcboard.state.al.us/Docum...

                                                For wine, I like V. Richards or The Grape (located in Southside and at The Summit). Piggly Wiggly in Crestline has a really good selection as well.

                                                If you're in town on May 21, check out the Taste of the Nation Birmingham. It will introduce you to many of the city's good/better restaurants. http://www.birminghammenus.com/taste/

                                                1. re: sheilal

                                                  A stock-the-bar trip to ATL might be in order, with visits to Green's and/or Tower on Piedmont. Depending on how much you buy, you could quickly recoup the gas cost.

                                                  And the beer selection here is comparatively staggering, since AL hasn't "freed the hops" yet.

                                                  Hadn't read any of this thread until now. Fun stuff.

                                                2. re: Dax

                                                  Different ABC stores have different selections, although none will be as broad as you can find in ATL, esp. if you're looking for gin like Hendricks. You can get the standards (Saphire, etc) at most ABC stores.

                                                  For wine, the Western in Mountainbrook Village has a decent selection and the Village Wine in English Village has a very good selection. They also have regular tastings - but be careful about purchasing under the influence.

                                                  1. re: Dax

                                                    Dax - Saw this article in the last issue of the Birmingham magazine. You can access it on their website. Covers all the wine purveyors in town as well as some of the wine events. Thought it might be useful.


                                                    1. re: Dax

                                                      Oh, God, Ixtapa is HORRIBLE! Ate there once years ago, nothing but salt and grease. I felt like I had a hangover the next day, and I didn't drink anything! I don't know how they stay in business. Try Iguana Grill on Lorna Road in Hoover.

                                                    2. Hey Dax,
                                                      Since your well on your way to becoming B'hams Alph Hound please read my post and get out in the field and do some serious research.When in Bham over the years the Soul Food has been superb but I really need a local hound who's not afraid to hit the Northside and West end for an update.Thanks

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                        Will look into it.

                                                        I'm eating out a lot right now because I'm living in a furnished apt. When I move in a month or so and put all of MY kitchen gear into the place (if I find a rental house I like that is), I'll be cooking at home more often.

                                                        Either way, the other hounds that posted here know a lot more about bham chow than I do. I'm just doing my best to try them all and dutifully report here. It's also nice to have one thread that goes over a lot of cuisines/restaurants/markets/etc.

                                                        PS> Who makes the best empanadas in town? Mexican, Chilean, Peruvian, whatever, I like them all.

                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                          Sol y Luna has a crab empanada that is really good. I think Los Angeles has empanadas on their menu, but I haven't been in a while.

                                                      2. Another question - yes I am full of them - are there any places that do great, reasonably priced, multiple course prix fixe or tasting menus?

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                          Local in Vestavia Hills offers a lovely chef's table that's prix fixe.

                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                            Besides doing the Chef's Table at Local, the only other place I know of that does a prix fixe/tasting type menu is Cafe DuPont downtown. You can do three or five courses, choose them yourself or let the house choose for you. http://www.birminghammenus.com/cafedu...

                                                            1. re: bhamdining

                                                              What are the price points at Dupont for apps and mains?

                                                              And I just have to note a $4 charge for splitting plates seems a bit absurd. I guess this is for the separate plating and washing of disghes? It's more the notion than the actual charge.

                                                              Also, I just moved to Forest Park. Little Savannah looks great but uber-spendy. Any ideas for the area (not already mentioned perhaps)? I heard Silvertron was good, but it looks closed.

                                                              1. re: Dax

                                                                From what I remember, the prices at Dupont are about the same as Highland's and Bottega--probably $10-$18 for apps and entrees are about $18 for chicken dishes and up to the high 20's for others.

                                                                Unfortunately, after the owner of Silvertron died/was murdered (I don't think they ever released what happened to Alan Potts) a little over a year ago, the folks that took it over did a VERY poor job when they bought it and reopened it late last summer. I'll be curious to see if someone else buys it and reopens it to the neighborhood casual fare that everyone knew and loved about Silvertron.

                                                                For breakfast/lunch, you may want to give Bogue's a try. I really enjoy OT's in Lakeview across from the Oyster House. That's not Forest Park but within minutes of it.

                                                                1. re: gyp7318

                                                                  Silvertron is supposed to re-open by the end of the month under new ownership.

                                                                  1. re: bhamdining

                                                                    I read that in the Bham Weekly today and the sign out front says re-opening soon and hiring all positions. According to Bham weekly, the GM formerly of the Grape and some other place is trying his hand at managing the place. I never went to the Grape or the other place referenced in the article (which I do not have with me).

                                                          2. God knows everyone is probably tired of hearing my reports, but dinner at Red Pearl last night was just ok this time. Scallion pancake was good, although I am pretty sure it's just one of the frozen Wei-Chuan ones fried up in house. The 3 spicy chicken with basil tasted like soy, ginger and garlic plus some fried basil. I need to return to try the double spicy chicken, S&P squid, fried tilapia in black bean, and a few other things. It seemed most people there were eating the "pork baked tofu and bamboo shoots" plus some of the greens.

                                                            Any ideas about where to get some good curried goat or Jamaican beef paties around here?

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Dax

                                                              I have been reading your thread and am impressed with your extensive knowledge of the cuisine. I am also fairly new to Birmingham. Getting to know the area fairly well. Have tried some of the places you have mentioned. I am somewhat dissapointed with the lack of culinary diversity in the area. Do you know of any resturants that serve a good ceviche?

                                                              1. re: gingerrootinator

                                                                Good question re: cerviche but I have no idea. San Miguel, out on Greensprings, has various ceviche tostadas on their menu (which I just picked up, haven't tried the place) but no ceviche-specific plates.

                                                                1. re: gingerrootinator

                                                                  Sabor Latino out on Greensprings has 2-3 versions of ceviche on the menu. Going from memory only, but one is fish only, one is mixed fish and shellfish, and one I believe was octopus and something else. Haven't tried it yet but stopped in when getting carnitas and stuff for tacos at the Supermercado next door.

                                                                2. re: Dax

                                                                  Trust me, reports are good. Although I have lived here for some time; my work travel doesn't allow me the time to explore the area. Having someone with fresh eyes (and tastebuds!) is great. Keep them coming!

                                                                3. Just a few additions. I grew up in Alexander City (South of B'ham) and lived in Birmingham for a couple of years after college. Now living in Brooklyn, I'm sure alot has changed, but there are still a few places that I try to hit when at home visiting.

                                                                  1. Superior Grille - for the best fajitas with homemade tortillas and chips & salsa.
                                                                  2. Davenport's Pizza in Mt. Brook - great thin and crispy and authentic pizzeria feeling.
                                                                  3. Veranda on Highland - Darryl Borden's new spot since Bombay Cafe...better than any Frank Stitt place, by far!
                                                                  4. Jim 'n Nicks - good BBQ
                                                                  5. Milo's - a MUST experience
                                                                  6. Taziki's - a good Greek lunch/quick-dinner spot.
                                                                  7. Edgar's Bakery - good morning spot, although, I'm not sure where it's located now.

                                                                  Sorry to hear about your Ixtapa experience...that's typical Southern Mexican...which I miss like crazy...can't find it anywhere here in NYC!

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: onesweetworld

                                                                    I second Davenport's pizza. It's quite good. The Veranda is no longer there. It will be the new Bombay Cafe location. I think it's to open sometime in August, if it's not already. The old one in Lakeview is now the Rare Martini, a casual restaurant/bar/nightclub.

                                                                    It's been forever since I've been to Superior Grille. When I've gone for lunch, it's been surprisingly good. I say surprising b/c at night, the place turns into this tacky neon palace where the bar and outside patio are both a giant meat market for the singles of the over the mountain area.

                                                                    1. re: gyp7318

                                                                      The Veranda on Highland has reopened and it's great! Ate there last week. The Veranda Burger was perfectly cooked, w/carmelized onions, bacon, mushrooms & bleu cheese. I asked for medium and got no flack about it. So many restaurants are scared to cooked their g. beef anything other than well. My friend ordered the dover sole and was blown away! I thought the beurre blanc was a tad too lemony for my taste, but it did not detract from the overall dish.

                                                                      1. re: gyp7318

                                                                        My bad--Bombay Cafe is no longer. I had heard they were going to take over the Veranda space and call it Bombay Cafe. Oh well. That's what I get for being a part-time resident of Birmingham!

                                                                    2. Wow, love reading all the replies! I have learned a lot about many different places in this city even though I have been here 15 years.

                                                                      I'll have to try Bettola. Last time we were at Pepper Place, we had a good meal at Cantina. I liked the tacos and also requested corn! LOL Did not like the sweet potato fries, as someone else mentioned.

                                                                      I know for southerners, BBQ is very personal, but I don't care for Jim 'n Nick's at all. I prefer Tin Roof at Southlake. Their pulled pork is my fav.

                                                                      1. Thanks everyone for the Taj rec. The lunch buffet was pretty good but will return to try more of their entrees at night and to be able to order various types of naan. Any recs aside from the previously noted rabbit?

                                                                        Taj India
                                                                        2226 Highland Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205

                                                                        1. Oh and has anyone been to that Latin rotisseria place out on Valley Ave before you get to Greensprings (heading outbound)? Yellow sign? I forgot the name, maybe Gordo or something? I walked in to take a look around on Saturday but everything is in Spanish. I recognized the carnitas, barbacoa (roasted goat/sheep), the rotisserie chicken, the tongue, etc. but my spanish is not that good. Since I'd just left El Mercado with carnitas, I just briefly looked inside. I was the only gringo there and didn't hear any English being spoken. Menu indicates only tacos and huaraches served.

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                                            Dax, I like you. You are an adventurous eater. I found a place online that serves curried goat for you while I was hunting down ethnic food in the surrounding areas. One place is in Huntsville:


                                                                            The other is in Tuscaloosa:


                                                                            There is a little Middle Eastern market between Acapulco and Pho Que Huong on Greensprings tucked away in the corner that often has goat in the butcher case. I've also seen it on Hwy 11 in the small meat market across the street from Wal-Mart in Roebuck. Acapulco has a nice buy one get one free special on Wednesdays, and I can recommend the chicken enchiladas in mole. They have horchata and agua de melon, as well.

                                                                            Sometimes El Mercado has goat on the steam line next to the pork, usually on the weekends. They might tell you it's lamb but it's goat and it's good!Have you tried their tamales yet? The pork ones are great with a dash of Sriracha and on special occasions they have chicken tamales with green chilis. Milder than the pork but really savory. There is no rhyme or reason for what they deem a special occasion but at a dollar a pop, I'm always happy to see them. We are always the only gringos there and the young guy behind the counter with the braces and the nice smile is the kindest and most helpful of the bunch. Keep an eye out for him. He'll pull you the tamales that are the freshest and most moist from the pile.

                                                                            1. re: BarbDwyer

                                                                              Awesome Barb, thanks. I've seen the barbacoa at El Mercardo the last two times I was there but when buying nearly a pound of carnitas (half of which rarely survives the drive home), I feel like a total glutton asking for some goat too. The nice woman behind the counter and I did the translation song and dance as I pointed to various things. She let me try the chunks of pork in chile verde sauce too. It's funny as she would say "green tomatoes" and I would reply with "tomatillos?" then she would smile like I wasn't the completely ignorant gringo that I am. Anyway, I saw the tamales and the younger boy (who might have been her son and was doing some translation) offered me some (to buy) but it turns out they were already reserved for someone (there were like 6 left). Talk about a tease. I'll be back.

                                                                              Would also like to find a place that serves house made tamarind juice.

                                                                              1. re: Dax

                                                                                Silver Coin has a revised menu and now offers a goat curry! I was not feeling adventurous enough to try it this weekend. It's been many years since I had any goat -- it was at a goat producer's conference in Missouri and we had goat jerky and BBQ goat.

                                                                                1. re: bhamdining

                                                                                  The goat curry at Silver Coin is great. I'd liked the one at Taj, but the Silver Coin one was even better.

                                                                                  1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                                    I've never had goat. Does it taste like lamb? What's the Indian word for goat? Perhaps I've seen it on the menu, but didn't know what it meant.

                                                                                    1. re: sheilal

                                                                                      It's like young mutton (or at least that's what I would imagine) or slightly gamey beef. More forward tasting than the red meats to which most are accustomed. Makes for a pretty rich stew, and you deal with bones more than most red meats because of the size of the animal.

                                                                                      But frankly, the spices and other ingredients provides more of the flavor in a goat curry, whether it's Indian, Caribbean or even Mexican. That's why most people, if they could get over their bias, would enjoy goat.

                                                                                      1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                                        Carribbean Goat curry is perhaps my favorite comfort dish when it's cold out, particularly if I can find some goods rice and beans and good bread to go with it.

                                                                            2. re: Dax

                                                                              FYI, this place is called Gordo's; I noticed it again when I was coming back from Red Pearl last night. Will try to stop in soon.

                                                                            3. Wow. What an informative thread! I have been dating someone who lives in Birmingham - I live in Atlanta - and was worried I wasnt going to be able to get my "foodie fix" over in the B. Boy was I wrong! So far, on my own, I've been to Surin, Chez Fon Fon (swoon), Satterfield's (swoon), Cosmo's for good brunch and great bloody marys....

                                                                              ...but finding this thread is such a treat. Lots of good recommendations at all price points...and good tips for finding ethnic foods there. Thanks so much :)

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: runningwithtweezers

                                                                                Do a search for Birmingham on the South Board only - there are lots of great recent threads on the food here. While the enthnic options won't beat my former home in Boston or even Atlanta, there are more options here than I first would have imagined.


                                                                                1. re: runningwithtweezers

                                                                                  I recently moved here from Atlanta and have been pleased to find lots of interesting food - and this site has certainly added to my knowledge. I do miss the Super H Mart out on Pleasant Hill (across from the big Super Walmart). Nothing here beats the food court there - or the fresh food and asian supplies all under one roof. I learned all the back routes to get there so I never really had to travel on Pleasant HIll.(ugh, traffic like 280 here!) I stop in everytime I come thru to visit my family.

                                                                                2. Taqueria - Gordo's: Greensprings Hwy to 433 Valley Ave - . It is attached to a Mexican market of the same name. Same plaza as Subway. It is authentic. You will have to use the point and nod method of ordering if you don't speak Spanish. My ex construction worker boyfriend found it with the help of all his hispanic co-workers.

                                                                                  Indian- Silver Coin - it is by far the best indian food I have ever had including Indian in many major metropolitan cities across the US. Way way way better than both Taj India and Aha bite.

                                                                                  Open Door Cafe - Good for Sunday Brunch. Bloody Mary's will knock your socks off! The shrimp & Grits is my favorite. Also they have a Jazz band with the famous Cleve Eaton on Bass. He is in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame if I am not mistaken.

                                                                                  Thai Emerald - Way down Hwy 280 but worth it, I think better than Surin for sure.

                                                                                  Yoe Express - Chinese delivery in Homewood and Hoover. Especially great if you don't feel like getting out.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: missmorgan

                                                                                    Does Gord's have empinadas? I too have been looking for them. I did find Papusas - in the freezer at the market by Iguana. Didn't care for them, so I am strill looking for a better source.

                                                                                  2. I found this board when I went to NYC last Labor Day...it was greatly helpful. Since then, living in "The Ham" I found it again looking for resturaunt reviews.

                                                                                    DAX- great thread, Ive read it through and tried a few of the suggestions.

                                                                                    Open Door - As said above is great, for dinner or Sunday brunch! If going to brunch make sure to make reservations!

                                                                                    Last night my wife and I went to the Burly Earl for the second time...and now after 2 trips it is safe to say it is the BEST BAR FOOD I have ever had. Not just in BHam, but any where. Great Burgers (I recomend The Smoke House), really good fries and onion rings, Awesome chicken fingers (what my wife got last night) with a really thin perfectly seasoned breading...really I think the best chicken fingers Ive had in my life!, and "The MacAurthur"...corned beef and pastrami with provalone on an onion roll...wait thats not all!...it is then battered and deep fried! WOW!

                                                                                    In summation if you have not been to the Burly Earl (7th S and Richard Arrington)...GO!

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: birminghamvisitor

                                                                                      Burly is ok for bar food I guess. I eat lunch there about once every other week. I saw in this week's Bham weekly that they will have having live music at nights and have a myspace page.

                                                                                      OT's tends to have decent bar food too.

                                                                                    2. A belated welcome to Birmingham, Dax. You've gotten plenty of amazing info, so I thought I'd fill in a few of the blanks while underscoring some of the recommendations.

                                                                                      Yes, GianMarco's. I've eaten in the dining room, at the bar and at the chef's table and the food, service and vibe were great. Really neighborly. The owners owned a restaurant in Brookwood for a while, but because of a rift started their own. Chowhounds, correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, I like the place a lot.

                                                                                      We have more Korean restaurants than Vietnamese. The one I've been too is behind an Asian grocery store on Green Springs Hwy., just north of the pho shop recommended earlier. The name on the menu is "The Koreans Restaurant." They do the bi bim bap in the magma-hot granite bowls and other stuff. I've been pretty pleased with it.

                                                                                      Speaking of restaurants behind groceries, try Red Pearl Restaurant. Some locals have said that you need to know Mandarin to get good food. I know a little Mandarin, but I didn't need it to get some authentic dishes. Some are on the menu, like sizzling intestines (not interested in chitlins, no matter where they come from) and chilled spicy chicken feet (didn't like them).The owners are from Hong Kong, and much of the food is sans that ubiquitous brown sauce, although I think those who want it can get it.

                                                                                      Niki's West on Finley is my favorite meat and three place. I take all of my out-of-town visitors there, and everyone from my omnivorous elbows-on-the-table friends to my fairly strict vegetarian buddies love it. The tall, imposing-looking gentlemen on the service line have a rep for being a bit intolerant of himming and hawing in line, although I've never been rushed along. It helps to survey the offerings before getting in line, though. I love the Greek chicken. I get extra sauce, which is a light, savory, lemony jus.

                                                                                      I had a very, very good burger at V. Richards this weekend, the James Beard burger. They cook it to your preferred doneness, and the fries were delicious. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a DC-area chain that recently moved into the spot abandoned by Marble Slab Creamery (or one such ice cream shop) is also very good. They only cook burgers well done, but they are still consistently juicy. The toppings are remarkably fresh. My only criticism: The area where you get condiments is prohibitively tight and not easily maneuvered when more than one person is trying to get catsup.

                                                                                      Nabeel's and Naji's are my favorite Middle Eastern/Greek grocers. Naji's bakes pitas for restaurants all over the region, so the turnover is really fast. I think they bake whole wheat ones on Wednesdays, but the frozen ones are for sale all the time for a pittance, $1 or so. I go there for pita bread rather than get the loaves at the grocery store.

                                                                                      Barbecue-wise, I'm a child of eastern North Carolina, so if I want real NC bbq, I've gotta make it. Jim and Nick's is fine, but when I want a pulled pork sandwitch, I go to Dreamland in Birmingham.

                                                                                      I hope this helps. Happy dining!

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Nichele

                                                                                        Thanks for the info and reply.

                                                                                        Red Pearl is sort of hit and miss for me. What dishes do you like there?

                                                                                        Lots of recent threads on Bham on Chowhound, would love your input on them.

                                                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                                                          You're welcome. I love the scallion pancakes, which are not as light and airy as the ones off the street in Beijing, but whatcha gonna do? I'm pretty sure they just fry the ones they sell frozen, but I still like them with sweet chili sauce.

                                                                                          I really like the beef with Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. I'm mad for Chinese broccoli, and they prepare it perfectly. They'll go easy on the oil if you ask. The beef is tender and thinly sliced, and is much more of a condiment than anything else. The broccoli is the star.

                                                                                          I also asked for a yummy egg and tomato dish and they served it up properly, with almost ripe tomatoes firm and intact. Many other dishes are typical fried meat with brown sauce affairs. Yuck. I don't know who suggested it, but a Chowhound trip there would be great, especially since it's so cheap. Two friends and I did the same a few years ago and loved it! Now, if we could only get our hands on the Chinese menu.

                                                                                      2. Dax,

                                                                                        If you are a "wino" I highly recommend Classic Wines in Homewood. Easily one of the best wine stores in the southeast. Very knowledgable staff and incredible prices (especially on the vinage wines). They regularly sell Latour and Cheval Blanc at 75% of typical retail.

                                                                                        To put it into perspective, I live 2 hours away in Auburn. I regularly go to Montgomery, Atlanta, Chatanooga, etc and Classic is the best.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: kastnna

                                                                                          I like wine but I am about as far from an expert as one can get regarding the various wineries/labels and vintages. I mean I'm not regularly chugging two buck or Yellow Tail, but you won't find me straying above $15 bottles (retail) too often either. Either way, I can use their advice and friendly prices to my advantage. Thanks.

                                                                                          1. re: Dax


                                                                                            I'm also a wino of the cheap persuasion and I recommend Classic Wines. I don't go much anymore since I no longer work in Homewood and since i started making wine, but they have plenty of good wines for $15 or less. They'd be crazy not to. A few other good wine spots are Mountain Brook Western Grocery Store, the Homewood Piggly Wiggly (honest!) and, my favorite, World Market, especially the one near Target on 280.

                                                                                            The Western and the Pig have weekly tastings that are casual and informative. The latter has rows and rows of good wines for around $10. Check out Three Thieves. Their Pinot Noir is overpriced per the trend, but the rest are about $10 for a liter juglette. I love their unoaked Chard and the Shiraz so much I got a couple cases while they were on sale--6 bottles for $36. I'm not as sold on the Cab and the Zin, but they're still perfectly fine wines for quaffing. I also dig the Three Thieves "Bandit" in a 1 liter box. The Pinot Grigio was my summer sip--great for picnics.


                                                                                            1. re: Dax

                                                                                              I would try Classic or Western in Mt. Brook village. I would look for bottles imported by Grassroots. We have a friend who works there and he has never steered us wrong.

                                                                                          2. Not open yet, but reportedly coming soon to Vestevia Hills will be a new Cuban Sandwich shop, opened by Silvesonso Ramirez and his son. Mr. Ramirez owned Kool Korner Groceries in Atlanta and until closing it recently produced legendary Cuban Sandwiches (search on Chowhound and most any other Atlanta food blog). I don't know if the new place will bear the Kool Korners name or not, but it's worth keeping an eye out for. Many of us in Atlanta are eager to make the road trip for one of his Cubanos.

                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: SalMonela

                                                                                              Do you know where in Vestavia Hills this is going? I grew up in Atlanta and fondly remember the Havana Cuban restaurant on Buford Highway and its cuban sandwiches. I read they had a fire there recently and hope they open back up.
                                                                                              Can't wait to try Sr. Ramirez' version. Our one authentic Cuban restaurant closed a few months back.

                                                                                              1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                                                Heard on the radio today that Kool Korner's Grand Opening is this Saturday in the Vestavia Hills shopping center by Publix. They mentioned a $3 sandwich, chips and drink special that day plus live music. i won't make it Saturday due to city stages (mmm atomic dogs) but Giddy Up!

                                                                                                1. re: Dax

                                                                                                  Obviously they were woefully unprepared for the turnout for their grand opening. The line to order in the packed shop when I got there at around 3pm was only about 10 minutes. After about 45 minutes of waiting for my sandwich, during which time they never even got close to calling my number, they announced that they were out of bread. I decided it wasn't worth another 10-15 minutes of standing in line to get my money back, so I just left feeling very disappointed.

                                                                                                  They were only churning out about 2 sandwiches every five minutes (or longer), yet they continued to take orders almost up until the time they announced they were out of bread. They couldn't have told people waiting an hour for a sandwich that they weren't getting one?

                                                                                                  This leaves me really torn about trying the place again. I've been hoping for years for a good place to get a Cuban sandwich in Birmingham, but this extreme failure of customer service is pretty inexcusable.

                                                                                                  1. re: bovinekid

                                                                                                    Not that that's not an example of a bad experience, but opening jitters/snafus are more normal than not. Certainly if advertising a grand opening on the radio, they should have been prepared for crowds. Still, I'm going to try to get over there this week.

                                                                                                      1. re: Dax

                                                                                                        I agree that opening snafus are common, and the running out of bread thing, while annoying, is an excusable example of this. The problem is that it seems nearly impossible for them to not have known about this well in advance of it happening, yet they still allowed people to place new orders and wait around for no reason. To me, this seems like flagrant disregard/disrespect for your customers on a level I have rarely encountered.

                                                                                                        As a savvy consumer, this kind of willful disregard, even on one occasion, should be enough to prevent me from ever returning. As a Chowhound, however, I have little doubt that I will break down and try again, because I really want that friggin' sandwich. In fact, I'm even thinking about going over there right now. I'm so weak.

                                                                                                        1. re: bovinekid

                                                                                                          Please let us know if you cave in. I would love to get a report on the sammiches.

                                                                                                          1. re: pinotboy

                                                                                                            Not today. Didn't feel like driving all the way over there. Looks like Dax did it, though.

                                                                                                            1. re: bovinekid

                                                                                                              I have a question, I have a job offer in b'ham; and no idea where to live. I am looking for a trendy/hip/modern/indie area since I am 26 and single; like little 5 points in Atlanta, Lakewood in Cleveland, Wicker Park/Bucktown in Chicago, or Hillcrest/Pac Beach in San Diego.

                                                                                                              I'm looking for cool shops, vintage stores, non chain restaurants and non chain shopping.

                                                                                                              What areas of B'ham are cool?

                                                                                                              1. re: malibujessi

                                                                                                                I'd recommend 5 Pts South/Highland Avenue area, Forest Park, or the downtown Homewood/Soho area. If you want something a bit more suburban feeling, look in the Broadway section of Homewood or around the "villages" (e.g. shopping centers) of English Village, Crestline Village, or Mountain Brook Village.

                                                                                                                1. re: malibujessi

                                                                                                                  Birmingham is a very drivable city. I'd say Forest Park if the commercial district wasn't so small (I live there) but maybe at 26 if you could find a nicer place in 5 Points then you could access most of those types of places. Maybe Mtn Brook Village or English Village, both on the pricier side. Feel free to email me as this is getting off topic for Chound.

                                                                                                                  1. re: malibujessi

                                                                                                                    Ditto on the 5 Points South and Highland Avenue areas. If you have a dog, Highland's the place to go. They have three cool pocket parks along the road that are dog-friendly.
                                                                                                                    The Edgewood area of Homewood is near a bunch of non-chain restaurants (mostly ethnic) and markets (Mexican and Asian), as well as a great high-end independent Italian restauran, Gian Marco's. Soho, unfortunately is chain restaurant city (although the restaurant Jinsei, which is great, is part of a local chain).

                                                                                                                  2. re: bovinekid

                                                                                                                    I thought the sandwiches at Kool Korner were delicious (we had a Cuban and a chicken sandwich), and the service, for counter service, was excellent. I never go someplace until they've been open at least a month to avoid those new-restaurant snafus.

                                                                                                    1. Chowhound alert! Recently opened (late June) Kool Korner sandwich shop on Montgomery Hwy, Vestavia Hills makes THE ultimate Cuban sandwich. The proprieter, Mr. Rameriz closed his Atlanta shop (which was a local institution) and retired to B'ham. I know a few people who have made the drive from ATL just for one of his sandwiches since he came out of retirement.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                                                                          Yeah, pretty decent Cuban. VERY garlicy.

                                                                                                      1. I can only respond briefly right now, but look forward to going into further detail later. I think in many ways you will find the cuisine of Birmingham more rewarding than that of Boston. I was honestly underwhelmed with many food categories in Boston - particularly Mexican and BBQ.

                                                                                                        Atlanta's best Cuban Sandwich shop - Kool Korner, recently moved to Bham. Went this weekend and it was a B+/A-.

                                                                                                        Satterfields is a joy - perhaps the best New American cooking in the city. I prefer it to Hot and Hot Fish Club by a good margin. Bellini's is quite good. Surin is great.

                                                                                                        Everything Stitt does is wonderful, but Chez Fon Fon is my least fave of the four.

                                                                                                        Ginza in the suburban Inverness area has great Korean and Sushi - best Asian value in the city.

                                                                                                        Bettola is truly amazing Tuscan/wood-fired oven Italian. Rivals Bottega.

                                                                                                        Ocean blows the Fish Market out of the water.

                                                                                                        A new Vietnamese place - Saigon Noodle House - is pleasing me and all my friends.
                                                                                                        Hamburger Heaven is the place to go for a burger and shake in the classic sense.

                                                                                                        Taj India is a regional best.

                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: BhamGuy

                                                                                                          Granted I've only been here a little over 2 years while I spent 8+ in Boston, but Boston's food scene blows Birmingham away by leaps and bounds. It's also 4x the population size. Yes, Birmingham does barbecue, Mexican and even New American quite well but it's underserved in a number of areas, most particularly regional Chinese and multiple option Thai, Viet, etc. cuisines. Still, I have been much more impressed than I expected.

                                                                                                          I still need to try Satterfield's.

                                                                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                                                                            Agreed that the Asian options here are extremely thin. My accountant in Boston was married to a Chinese guy and they used to take me into Chinatown and show me some amazing stuff.

                                                                                                            But coming from Atlanta, I found Boston's food scene stuffy and underwhelming. It felt like you had to put on a sportcoat and spend $60 to get anything resembling a good meal. Atlanta was filled with fairly innovative options for under $25. That's another thread, though.

                                                                                                          2. re: BhamGuy

                                                                                                            I'll have to agree that Ocean is far better than The Fish Market, but you're also talking about two very different dining experiences. Ocean is fine dining, while Fish Market is decidedly casual. Oceans serves lobster pot pie (delish!) and FM offers grilled amberjack poboys. That being said, the oysters at both are remarkable!!

                                                                                                            1. re: sheilal

                                                                                                              I agree with much of what BhamGuy says above, with the exception of his comment that Satterfield's is perhaps serving the best New American cooking in the city. That would be Highlands, hands-down.

                                                                                                              I can't say that I have ever had a bad meal at Satterfield's (I would estimate that I have eaten there around 10 times), but I have never had a truly exceptional or particularly memorable meal there, either. Without fail, every time I eat there I come away saying, "For that kind of money I could have eaten at Highlands and had a MUCH better meal." To me, Satterfield's (like Little Savannah) serves good (but not great) food, but frequently charges prices higher than Highlands, which they cannot begin to justify.

                                                                                                              Now, I can understand his comment that he prefers it to Hot and Hot. As I have said on this board a number of times, my experience has been that Hot and Hot has been on the decline for several years, due primarily to the fact that Chris Hastings is spending too much time on other endeavors. Since he has now taken over kitchen duties at Standard Bistro on at least a temporary basis, I would expect that decline to continue.

                                                                                                              Dax, my advice would be to try Satterfield's only if someone else is picking up the tab.

                                                                                                              1. re: pinotboy

                                                                                                                I think Highlands is fabulous, to be sure.

                                                                                                                1. re: pinotboy

                                                                                                                  We have had some fantastic meals at Satterfield's. If you haven't been in the past year or two since Haller Magee took over as chef, you should give it another try. He's young, enthusiastic and talented. Sit up at the chef's counter where you can chat with him -- he's almost frenetic, but if you let him know you'd like to try something more innovative, especially if it's not too busy, you never know what he might come up with just with what's on hand.

                                                                                                                  I love Highlands, and it is indeed the number one place I would send people, but Haller's approach tends to be a little different. Unlike so many of the chefs in this town, he is not from the Frank Stitt school, so he brings a different approach, including dishes that pay homage to New Orleans, where he lives for several years, and his native Mississippi.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bhamdining

                                                                                                                    I have been a couple of times since Magee took over, and I think that he does a good job. But, neither of those two or so meals has been truly exceptional.

                                                                                                                    As I said before, even the new and improved Satterfield's does not hold a candle to Highlands; then again, you probably have to go to NYC or San Francisco to find a place that does.

                                                                                                            2. I'm so glad this thread is still somewhat active! I'm going to be in B'ham later this week and was looking forward to going to the Grape. Unfortunately, it's now closed so I started doing a little bit of research.

                                                                                                              I've narrowed it down to daniel george, Veranda on Highland, Bottega, Village Tavern and Satterfield's. I haven't allowed myself a good splurge (price or calorie) in quite a while and plan on doing that this week.

                                                                                                              Would any B'ham locals care to share which of the above is their favorite? Or, if there's somewhere else that's even more highly recommended?

                                                                                                              A couple of preferences (although not hard and fast requirements):

                                                                                                              - I'd like to stay fairly close to 280.
                                                                                                              - I like wine but my companion does not drink so flights, half-bottles or similar offerings would be preferable.
                                                                                                              - A seafood-only menu will make my companion put on the puckerface.

                                                                                                              Thanks in advance!

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                                                                                All three preferences spell out one choice: Go to Satterfield's. It's off 280, offers a daily flight geared to that day's menu, and offers a heckuva lot more than seafood.

                                                                                                                1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                                                                  Thank you, Big Daddy! I'm looking forward to reading today's menu when they post it. It looks like they have a lot of my favorites plus a few items that my companion will enjoy.

                                                                                                                  I admit, I'm jealous of you and Dax and the other Bhounds adventures at Chen's. I'm only 90 minutes from Bham. I need to start visiting the city more often.