Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General South Archive >
Jul 18, 2007 07:54 AM

Further Birmingham discussion - what about these places?

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.

Cobb Lane
Mise en place - the restaurant at Culinard?
Standard Bistro
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 for info yet.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sheilal

        I assumed Cosmo's was a little on the fru-fru side due to its "gourmet toppings"

        Alligator Sausage
        Artichoke Hearts
        Cajun Chicken
        Feta Cheese
        Fontina Cheese
        Hearts of Palm
        Pine Nuts
        Prosciutto Red/Yellow Bell Peppers
        Ricotta Cheese
        Roasted Eggplant
        Roasted Garlic
        Sundried Tomatoes
        Tasso Ham

        You don't make friends with tofu on pizza!

        1. re: Dax

          I always go for the same ole same ole. Anyway, the only things I would consider "different" is the alligator sausage, Hearts of Palm & tofu. Everything else sounds rather good ('specially since it's lunchtime). The ambience at Cosmos is decidedly not fru-fru though.

          1. re: sheilal

            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.

          2. re: Dax

            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.

        2. 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.

          1. 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.

            15 Replies
            1. re: Dax

              Zoe's has a pretty good chicken parm sandwich which they call the Greek Chicken Marinara, although it is a little light on the cheese.

              I have not been to any of the places you asked about. In my opinion, Chez Fonfon has the best burger in town.

              1. re: pinotboy

                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.

                1. re: pinotboy

                  Try the newly-opened Five Guys at Brookwood Mall next to Cocina Superior. This DC-based burger chain has the best "regular" burger in town. By regular, I mean not gourmet and under $5.

                  1. re: shelleymonster

                    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!

                2. re: Dax

                  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.

                  1. re: Dax

                    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.

                    1. re: Dax

                      Chez Fonfon grinds their own meat, and their burgers are cooked to your requested level of doneness. Also, their fries are not frozen and are cooked twice in the traditional manner.

                      1. re: pinotboy

                        Oh, it's next on my list for burgers, don't worry. They really need to make a website ...

                        1. re: Dax

                          The web sites for Highlands and Bottega (also owned by Frank Stitt) have been saying that Fonfon's web site is "coming soon" for what seems like several years now. However, the menu is accessible on Birmingham Restaurant's web site at:

                    2. re: Dax

                      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?

                      1. re: flyerguybham

                        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.)

                      2. re: Dax

                        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).

                        1. re: Dax

                          There is (or was) a similar place at Patton Creek called Xing or Zing or something like that. It was a complete waste of time and money. Even though my daughter and I ordered completely different items, they ended up tasting the same. It sounds good but the execution is lacking.

                          1. re: Dax

                            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.

                          2. re: Dax

                            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.

                          3. 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?