Further Birmingham discussion - what about these places?
- Dax Jul 18, 2007 07:54 AM
Was looking this website which focuses on locally owned restaurants in the Birmingham area.
Was also looking at egullet and read about a few others. I realized I have not heard much, if anything, about the following places I found discussed on these sites.
Mise en place - the restaurant at Culinard?
Franklin's Homewood Gourmet
Iz (and Iz Two?
Cosmo's Pizza (fru fru pizza?)
Anyone have comments about them? I'll admit I didn't research bhmadining.com for info yet.
Cobb Lane was a Birmingham institution that was famous for their she-crab soup and chocolate roulage. I went there about 13 years ago and had a fantastic dinner there. A few years after that, they closed/changed management and it's been downhill since. Too bad b/c it was quite unique.
The resto at Culinard, which is the local culinary college, BTW, I've heard is very good. My brother went there a couple of years ago and was quite pleased w/his meal. They serve lunch, I think, as well as dinner. The cost of the dinner is probably comparable to Highland's, so it's a little pricey. You do have to make reservations and they change their menu daily or weekly. I've tried to get reservations at the last minute during the weekend and have been unsuccessful. You should check out the bakery a couple of doors down. Again, it's manned by the students, but I've had some good pastries there.
Standard Bistro is waaaaay down 280 in the Mt. Laurel planned community. I've heard it's a seasonal menu and has gotten some good reviews. I just haven't tried it b/c I detest 280. :)
I went to Iz on Rocky Ridge Rd a couple of years ago and wasn't impressed. It was just standard bistro food that was mediocre. I was a little surprised b/c it had gotten pretty good reviews.
I love Cosmo's pizza! That's a true birmingham institution as well. Great, innovative pizza. Service is quite laid back (i.e. slow) and there's quite a variety of people that go there, from the young and semi-worthless, students, families, etc.
Cobb Lane (*sigh* & said with some degree of nostalgia). Has changed hands a couple of times in the last few years. I dined there numerous times years ago & even held me bridesmaid party there years ago. It's a girly kinda place with distinctive character. The she-crab soup was wonderful and the roulage wasdark, bittersweet, with just the right amount of creaminess. It's my understanding that the new owners have kept most of the old menu, but I can't attest to the quality. It's a delightful place on cool days or evenings as they have a great hidden patio.
Mise en plaz - I've only eaten there for lunch a couple of years ago. It was prix fixe best I can recall and was really impressed with the food. I had a stellar french onion soup, but I can't recall the entree that I had (obviously it wasn't life-changing). Not to say it was bad or just adequate. I tend to remember horribly bad or incredibly good experiences. Unfortunately, merely good or adequate dishes leave my mind rather quickly. The restaurant is kind of out of the way, so honestly, I'd forgotten about it until you mentioned it. Might need to try it again soon.
I haven't dined at Standard Bistro yet.
Franklin's Homewood Gourmet. The Baby Bleu salad is absolutely wonderful! It has just the right mix of spring green, bleu cheese (Maytag?), balsamic v., spiced walnuts. Sometimes I get a bowl to go to take to potlucks. They have a really good penne, chicken, balsamic v., dish there that's tasty as well. Good cold dishes for warm days . . .
Can't comment on Iz or Fire. I hear better buzz about Fire though from my friends.
Cosmos - I don't think it's fru-fru. I consider CPK fru-fru. Cosmos is really good with fresh tasting ingredients (although I find the optional whole wheat crust a little off tasting). The huge plus is that they have a good variety of beer brands. You should be able to find a favorite there.
I assumed Cosmo's was a little on the fru-fru side due to its "gourmet toppings"
Hearts of Palm
Prosciutto Red/Yellow Bell Peppers
You don't make friends with tofu on pizza!
If you ever get a chance to go to one of the guest chef galas at the restaurant at Culinard, you should. They have a gala each quarter and a big-name chef comes in and works with the graduating seniors to prepare and execute a seasonal, multi-course menu with wine pairings. I've been to four, and each has been a real treat.
Standard Bistro is one of the best restaurants in the Birmingham area. If you can get past the 280 traffic, your journey will be worth it. I work nearby so I eat lunch there about once a week. Lunch is fantastic. Their Thursday special is chicken and dumplings. The "dumplings" are gnocchi, the chicken is organic, the veloute sauce amazing, and they pile it full of season veggies such as haricot verts. A dollop of creme friache on top, and you'll be mesmerized. Also worth trying is the "Healthy Fish," shrimp and grits (above par), pizzas and macaroni and cheese.
I think Franklin's is OK for lunch but overrated. I also think the quality of food has gone down in recent years. But maybe I'm just tired of the baby blue salad after eating it for the last 10 years.
Cosmo's has great pizza, and it's certainly not frew frew. They also have a good brunch with a build-your-own-bloody bar. Their hearts of palm salad is great. More restaurants should use hearts of palm.
Cobb Lane, not much to say except it passed it's prime many years ago. But it's still the bridal luncheon capital of the city.
I like Cosmos, but the one and only time I went the service was offensively rude, so I haven't been back. I probably will eventually. New York Pizza in Edgewood is also quite good. Service was friendly too. The debate about whether it's true New York pizza is beyond my skill set: I've had pizza in New York, but it was just food. I'll leave that argument to the connoisseurs.
I'm not a big veg pizza fan, but this was the best I've had in a while. Get it on the wheat crust. Delicious.
Mizan Plaz 4.5/5* very good especially for a culinary school where the students do the cooking and service.
IZ is out of business but it was 4/5 when it was open. IZ II is OK, but not a full service restaurant.
Fire...4.8/5 very good simple but well prepared food. One of my favorites, moderately expensive with a cajun/creole slant on some of the menu items.
Driving around Southside, I have noticed a few places and was curious what there stats are.
Becky's South at 8th and 20th proclaims the "best burgers" in Birmingham. Are they good?
What about Lucy's next door?
Is Tracy's Caferia good? Meat and 3?
What about New China Town in Five Points? Typical americanized "Chinese" food?
Also noted the buildig in Five Points with a sign reading "Makarios Kebabs and Grill coming soon." Any insight? Might be interesting.
Ate two slices at Cosmos yesterday. They were ok considering they are just slices with toppings thrown on at the last minute before re-heating. Service was a little on the slowwwww side.
Where can a guy find a good chicken parm sandwich? I considered the parm at GianMarco's last night but felt like I should try something else.
Cosmos is always slow. Its part of the charm. Their spinach salad is one of my favorite salads in town.
Lucy's is a nice coffee shop. Its been there forever and thankfully has been able to survive Starbucks (at least for now).
I really like New China Town. I'm veg, and their sesame tofu and vegetarian mongolian chicken are very good.
I am sure the kabob place will have a menu like Als/Purple Onion/Pyramids. Boring. I'd try George's on Green Springs in lieu of those options.
I can't speak for the burgers, but Chez Fon Fon has the best fries in town.
I must concur about Five Guys. Since the departure of Cheeburger, Cheeburger, I was at a loss for a "regular" burger joint that served freshly cut fries. And the fries at Five Guys are making my mouth water as we speak. These suckers are delicious COLD! And I don't DO cold fries.
I love Chez Fon Fon's fries, too, but 5 Guys are meatier, less refined, and you get a whole bunch of them!
I love the atmosphere at Lucy's, with its antique kitchen tables, local funky artwork, jazz playing in the background. Haven't had much of the food, but the old-fashioned cinnamon-crumb coffee cake was yummy and the cappucino was good, especially if Lucy's there making it.
Tracy's has a good reputation but I haven't been there.
Becky's does serve a pretty good burger. Hand-formed, not pre-frozen patties, with decent seasoning. It cannot however, be the "best burger" in Birmingham for the simple reason that while cooked to order, they are not cooked to your requested doneness (unless that happens to be medium well). Still, a good five-point-something ounce burger with bacon and cheese (only offered American) with fries (frozen) and a large drink for six dollars and change is much better than heading to one of the fast food places.
I stepped inside both Lucy's and Tracy's and will return to try both. The grilled panini options at Lucy's look interesting and so do the ever changing meat and three options at Tracy's.
My husband just pointed this site out to me (see Flyerguybham below). How cool!
I think that Lucy's has great paninis- the roast beef is my fav. They also come with pickled okra on the side, which is quite tasty. Lucy has said that the reason they have survived since Starbucks moved in is because of their lunchtime panini business. Interesting tidbit-Lucy started her business selling coffee from a cart on the street near UAB hospital.
While I haven't had the burgers at Becky's yet, I am somewhat skeptical. They only opened that place about a month ago, so unless they have another location, I think they have bestowed the honor of best burger on themselves.
Tracy's is OK, but for meat and three in the UAB area, I prefer Ted's. I usually order baked chicken at meat and threes, which can be very dry. But the chicken at Teds is moist and flavorful.
I do enjoy the Surin in southside, but I think the Surin in Mountain Brook is better. They have one of my favorite dishes in town-forgive me if this is spelled wrong- kao mo kai. It's chicken and rice baked in a little tandori pot, which comes with this amazing green sauce that is to die for. And the bonus is that you can get gelato at Angel's after you are done. It's across the street from Surin in Crestline Village and it's the real deal. Great seasonal flavors.
I haven't been to Cobb Lane, but I do remember being unimpressed with a recipe of theirs printed in the paper. It was apparently for one of their most famous dishes- it was chicken with 2 kinds of canned creamed soups. I was shocked that they actually admitted that was the secret recipe. No good.
Looking forward to reading more from everyone!
BTW, I'm from Minnesota and I have been dying to find a place that has a big selection of pies. I miss the places where you can choose from 30 kinds, ranging from heath bar to rhubarb. Anyone know where I can find some pie?
Miss Myra's has a good selection of really home-cooked pies. Not close to 30, but usually 6-10. The peanut butter pie is awesome. Miss Myra's is in Cahaba Heights (and in my opinion, the best bbq in town - I'll usually get a half or whole (depending on how many are eating) bbq chicken with white sauce and a side of their great cole slaw to go. It's great for nights when I don't feel like cooking.)
I read in one of the local papers that Makiarios is open but haven't been yet. I will have to try it for lunch soon.
I also read that sadly Birmingham is getting a Fire and Ice, which had locations in Boston and Cambridge, MA. This is a type of place where you go to the cold area and pick out your meats, fowl, seafood, vegetables, plus sauce and they cook it on a huge grill for you. The you wait around to pick it up while slurping down over-priced syrupy drinks. While an interesting concept, the execution is horrible as the "cooks" are cooking everything in little piles at once, causing the ingredients but mostly the spices, to meld with other orders. It's like EZ Fry Wok in which I first created ungodly combinations of various types that even my college roommates wouldn't eat until drunk(er).
Fire and Ice reminds me of this place in Atlanta during the 1980s. They had big ol pits in the dining area. People would pick out their steak, then cook it themselves on the pit while swilling $1 beers from the honor-system buckets (wisely) located near the fire. The restaurant really packed them in for awhile until people realized they were still paying regular prices -- and cooking it themselves.
At least Fire and Ice cooks it for you. But if I'm going to pick out my animal before it's prepared for me, let it be in a Hong-Kong style Chinese restaurant for five fragrant flavor fish. Or dungeness crab with black bean sauce. Or... excuse me, but suddenly I've got a craving and need to drive now to Atlanta's Hong Kong Harbour to slake it.
I had lunch at Makarios yesterday, ordering a cup of lentil soup and a lamb shawarma with fries. I really enjoyed the lentil soup, although the steam table temp must have been set to 5000 degrees since I burned my mouth about 8 times trying to eat it (as I kept trying to down it before it cooled below the temp of molten lava). Then again, I love lentil soup. It could have use a little more seasoning.
Lamb shawarma was good I guess, as I have more experience with gyros than shawarma, which although somewhat related, use difference toppings. There was a very strong taste to it, which was almost over-powering to me. Waitress had no idea, but asked the BOH who basically didn't want to disclose ingredients but mentioned cumin as being one of the stronger spices used somehow. I don't know but it was very strong. Fries were just ok frozen (as expected). Total was like $10 pre-tax and tip, including a coke. I'll certainly return to try some other dishes but might ask ahead on the seasoning.
When I think of Cosmo's I think of good pizza[not great]and scandal.If memory serves the former owner went on the lam from the law and was hunted down in Israel. Better pizza is available at Carnaggio's,which I understand has moved to a new location.Hope they took the big Italian mama's throwing dough in white smocks in the back.That and the highly aromatic white cheese they used as their basic pizza cheese.Does anyone know what kind of cheese this is?
We haven't been to Cobb Lane since they changed ownership (again), but it's a charming place for outdoor dining and they have some real old-style Southern-ladies-who-lunch type things on the menu.
As someone else mentioned, the quarterly guest chef dinners at the Restaurant at Culinard are quite good (although the service is spotty), and they're a real bargain, too.
Have not been to Standard Bistro, but chef/owner Alan Martin used to have another place in Birmingham that we loved called Metro Grill. He worked for Frank Stitt at one time, if I recall correctly.
Franklin's is known for his "baby blue" salad. Good place to get lunch take-out, lots of different salads especially.
Iz is now closed except for special catering events. Iz Too we liked but I wouldn't go there if you've got to be somewhere else soon. (See review at http://www.bhamdining.com/iz-too/)
Fire was good, but the atmosphere couldn't seem to make up its mind whether it was fine dining or family friendly. The kind of place where I'd probably go quite frequently if I lived in the neighborhood. The shrimp and grits were very good, and they had a seven-hour lamb shank that was delicious.
Haven't been to Cosmo's in a while. We liked the pizza a lot (they have unusual toppings but make a very good traditional pizza too), but when we used to go, the place always smelled like bathroom cleaner. Don't know if it's still like that.
I went to Fire for the first time about a month ago, and was really pleasantly surprised. I found the service was impeccable without being stuffy. I'd say it's definitely fine dining, but I'm sure there's a neighborhood contention that would be comfortable with kids there. All the food we ordered was wonderful. My husband and I are really picky, and this was one of the best meals we've had in Bham in a while.
Hi everyone - I just discovered this website and I'm in foodie heaven. I never realized there were so many others out there in B'ham like us (us being me and my wife, always trying new places around here). So hopefully I'll be posting and learning a lot around here.
To address Dax' question, specifically Cosmo's, I wanted to recommend it as a fun laid-back place to get Sunday brunch. Just go at noon or later if you want to partake in the self-serve Bloody Mary bar (well, they bring you the alcohol, you mix as desired with lots of fixin's). I've actually not had their pizza yet, but their brunch a few times.
Iz Two was completely uninteresting when I poked my head in a few weeks back. I've had Fire on my list for a while. Based on the chat here, I think it just got bumped up to the top of the list.
My personal favorites around town right now are Cantina, the Vietnamese place on Green Springs whose name I can never remember (and wouldn't be able to type even if I could), Jim N Nicks (though my true favorite BBQ is Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur which I pilgrimage to on a semi-regular basis), umm, where else? There's too many. Ate at Sekisui last night, sushi was good, grill items took FOREVER to arrive, almost an hour. Missed our movie because of it. Trying to think where else I've eaten in the past couple of weeks... La Paz... bought some Continental Bakery bread this morning at Pepper Place... I eat at Brio a lot especially with vendors from work, it's my chain restaurant of choice and it's friendly and safe for business partners and such. :-) Finally tried the cheesesteak at Salem's diner after Craig Ferguson raved about it when he was here. Now, I'm -from- Philly, so take that for what it's worth. The filling was fantastic. The bread was, like seemingly every other cheesesteak outside of Philly, not close. Still enjoyed it though. Finally made it to the Finley Blvd. Farmer's Market today, too... wow. What a gem. Totally sketchy industrial wholesale and farmers selling. There were some vendors that look like they'd done hard time. Recently. ;-) But that's the appeal of it all. Wife and I just finished chowing on a big ole pot of corn on the cob from one of the vendors there. Anyway, enough rambling. So happy to have found this site!
Iz Two is great for lunch if you happen to be in the area. I'm always happy with the sandwiches I get there, and I love that they come with sweet potato chips. Their chicken salad and pimento cheese are available to go, and really good to have on hand for a quick sandwich to go. The dessert case looks amazing, but I've never gotten anything there. They prepare a take-home dinner every night - one choice, and you're best to order ahead.
I love Cosmo's, but it's definitely not a place to go for a quick slice. I'll go with friends for dinner, and we'll drink beer and maybe munch on garlic bread while we're waiting for our pizza. The calzones are really good too.
Sekisui - I've had the same problem there before with the grill items. Luckily, they have some of the best sushi in town so that's all I really order.
Finley Ave- next time you're over there try the Smokehouse. Everyone says that Nikki's is the place to go, but it's done downhill since the sons took over. The Smokehouse has the same huge steamtable with tons of selection - try the fried grouper and be sure to grab the tartar sauce next to the register.
One of my recent favorites is Ginza Korean BBQ on Valleydale. There's a small grill on the table where they cook your meal in front of you, but it's not over the top like Japanese teppan-yaki places. Try the spare ribs or the shrimp and mushrooms. The sushi is pretty good too - we usually order a roll or two for an appetizer.
Cosmo's Pizza - Don't go for pizza. Very average. Go for beer cheese soup, Italian sausage & pepper sandwich, muffaletta, any salad, brunch and the bloody mary bar.
New China Town in Five Points- Next question
Chez Fonfon- Burger is very good but don't waste time w/ that just go straight to the Steak Tartare.
Surin- good, not great. Very consistent. Their lunch menu is a good value IMO.
Bottega Cafe- There are some very good items on the menu, but it lacks consistency. Going to the cafe side is more about being seen than it is about eating great food. The one day I do like to go for the food is crab cake Monday. I haven't been in awhile, but it was always very good. Get there early though as they do sell out every Monday night.
Hot and Hot- Just Go. Never had a bad meal. I've had things that I liked more than others of course, but overall a 9/10 most visits.
good chicken parm sandwich- If you've found the answer to this PLEASE let me know. I had one at Salvatore's that was really good once, but when I went back it was very sub par.
Miss Myra's- Best place for ribs. That is all I get there. Their side items are canned veggies, frozen, etc...but the ribs are excellent.
Chicago Style Pizza- Tortuga's (3 locations) I'm from the Chicago area originally so I was a little skeptical about this offering in Birmingham. The owners are from Chicago and worked in a couple of Chicago's well know pizza joints. It is authentic Chicago Style Deep Dish pizza. They do have thin crust as well.
They've closed down what eventually became the Restaurant at the Culinard. It's only available for special events. But before it closed I had one of THE best meals of my life there. It was prepared not by students but by Chef Meriday, who left, opened a place on St. Croix, and now runs a spot in one of the Carolinas. He's from NC, but a former student of his says he's in SC. Any info? He's worth tracking down. Seriously.
The Bakery is worth trying for lunch or tea. The sandwiches and salads are good, and the space, though close to I-65, is pleasant and airy. It's only open M-F.
I think that Cobb Lane is closed and if it isn't, it's a pale imitation of what it used to be. I don't care for the Culinard restaurant, but I haven't been there in a few years. I had a very bad experience with their bakery, so I kinda steer clear for fear of wanting to strangle somebody there. Standard is great, but take a designated driver with you. It's way out! We have to go straight through Mt. Brook to get home, so it's not worth it to us. Chris from Hot and Hot consults and is part owner...or he was at one time. That could have changed. Don't know much about Is and Iz Two anymore. Fire is packed with old people...it took over as the old rich person restaurant in Mt. Brook when Mauby's closed. I don't think of Cosmo's as frou frou pizza, but it might be because the place looks dirty to me every time I go in there. Yuck.
Went to Cobb Lane in January and was VERY disappointed. Food was mediocre at best and it's too dark and quiet in the back room. Will not return!
LOVE, love, love Cosmos. No fru-fru, just plain AWESOME pizza (and calzones...green olives and sausage, yummm) and though I haven't been to many brunch spots in Bham, Cosmos is one to beat. Terrific, fresh, hot...loved it.
I dine at Cosmos nearly every week lately and have been going there for the 20 years thev've been open. Yes there is a storied past, but don't we all have something in our past. There are now new owners and they are super folks. Bill stays in the kitchen and keeps the food quality the same. The soups are a must even the Zuchinni Cheese is awesome. Try "cracker thin whole wheat crust" if you like thin and crispy. The slices at lunch are the weakest thing on the menu. Muffaleta is best in town and even on New Orleans bread and the alligator sausage is straight from cajun country.
The trick with service is that the kitchen cooks everything to order so it takes a long time to get your food.... so order sticks and sauce or olives... as long as you are not in a hurry and have a snack it's worth the wait... Calzones are one of my favorites but lately my new favorite is the chicken pesto sandwich and always the spinanch salad.
Lisa is usually my server and I do know that the regulars to do get the royal treatment. Just ask for Lisa (owner) tell her it's your first time and she'll take of you I swear.
And I haven't even mentioned the often overlooked Chocolate Mousse for dessert. worth the trip alone!!!! Give it a try if it's been a while. Never had poor quality food once. Place seems clean to me.. the landlord is finally getting a makeover for the patio area which is long overdue and not Cosmos fault... many people think the patio is dirty but it's more old and worn out than anything and was out of their control.. Give this local institution a try sometime when you are looking for a laid back meal If you are in a hurry let your server know and order immediately be sure to ask what can be prepared quickly (you can do soup and salads in a hurry) also this is one of those places that's vague about seating yourself.. be certain someone sees you grab a table... it's possible to be overlooked sometimes hence some of the slow service complaints.. and you can ask for your check when you get your food and pay the bartender if you're in a hurry
Standard Bistro is one of the 2 best restaurants around BHM in my opinion - seasonal american cuisine, with an emphasis on game. Try the fried green tomatoes with remolaude... WOW!!
Our other favorite is Satterfield's in Cahaba Heights. Owned by a pastry chef, the desserts are to die for! The food is excellent --- improving all the time. Thursdays all wine is available by the glass.
I'm also surprised no one has mentioned New York Pizza or Gian Marco's (Italian) both in Homewood.