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Aug 25, 2007 03:19 PM

Birmingham, AL - Help

A couple of us are planning on heading from Florida to Birmingham to try Frank Stitt's rest's (Highlands, Chez Fonfon and Bottega). If we stay in the downtown area will we have a hard time getting to these rest's or should we stay in another side of town? Aside from his rest's do you have any recommendations of "don't miss" places to try? Thanks.

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  1. You'll be fine downtown or you could pick one of the hotels in Southside. If you stayed at the Pickwick, you could walk to all of his restaurants. (I can't attest to the quality of the rooms, but the location would be great.) You might want to try both the restaurant and the cafe at Bottega if you want the full Stitt experience. Ocean is really good and is in the same area. If you want to grab a beer (and it isn't 100 degrees), I would suggest the Garage and/or Rojo. Both are in Southside and have really great patios. When are you planning on coming? Some of his restaurants are on vacation either right now or around labor day, and are closed on Sunday and/or Monday so plan your trip accordingly. Have fun!

    1. The Pickwick has recently renamed itself to Hotel Highland. I think they also went through a big renovation. The Doubletree at 20th Street S is nice, and the Tutwiler Hotel has recently undergone a rennovation. The new restaurant there, Icon, under former Restaurant G chef Geoffrey Slate has gotten rave reviews.

      My favorite restaurant is Ocean, and it's kid brother, 26, is great too. Chez Fonfon, Bottega Cafe, and 26 are all open for lunch. Highlands, Bottega, Ocean, and another recent favorite, Veranda (about a block away from Bottega), are only open for dinner.

      For something uniquely Birmingham, try the all the way dog at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs, and standing-room barely hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint downtown. There you can sample the brown sauce that every hot dog place in town has, but nowhere else in the country has heard of.

      Another star restaurant in Birmingham is Little Savannah on Clairmont. The chef/owner, Clif Holt was recently invited to cook a dinner at the James Beard Foundation in New York. Anthony Marini of Local was also invited, but I haven't been as impressed with his restaurant as others.

      Since you'll likely have time to kill when you're not eating, check out downtown Homewood, an interesting shopping district. Savage's Bakery is awesome - nothing brightens a day like their orange smiley face cookie. Also in Homewood you'll find the original location of O'Carr's, definitley my favorite lunch spot in the city. I think I could eat their chicken salad and fruit plate every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.

      If you're here on a Saturday, go to the Pepper Place Market 7-12 every Saturday through October 6. Stitt did a cooking demonstration there in July, but you still have demonstrations from George Reis of Ocean and 26 on Sept 15 and Darryl Borden of Veranda on Sept 29, among others.

      Sloss Furnace is an old pig-iron blast furnace, and is really cool to visit. You can arrange a guided tour as long as you call at least 2 weeks in advance.

      8 Replies
      1. re: shelleymonster

        Thanks to both mdt1 and shelleymonster... I really appreciate it.

        1. re: dmfnole

          You're in for a treat, because you can do a great walking tour of some mighty fine restaurants. Highland's, Chez Fon Fon, Hot and Hot Fish Club and The Veranda all are within blocks of each other. Another few blocks from that is The Garage, a mighty funky bar that should also be enjoyed during the day. (If you like Indian food, another good restaurant in that area is Taj).

          Hot and Hot has not been suggested yet, but it's a don't miss. Get a spot at the chef's counter, along the open kitchen. They do a tasting menu and have the option to pair wines with each course.

          The Garage is cash only, although they have added an ATM. The courtyard is way cool, with an ancient wisteria forming a knotty canopy in places. There are old statues, bird baths, etc scattered all over. Good selection of beer, although they ice it down.

          Veranda is doing a brunch that gets some acclaim. So you actually could do a Friday thru Sunday morning extravaganza that hits all the above-mentioned spots.

          Stay at the Highland Hotel (formerly the Pickwick). It's in 5 Points South, blocks from the Highland. It was recently renovated, and seems pretty nice. Ocean and 26 (both I'd recommend) also are in that 5 Points South area.

          Enjoy your stay. And ditto the recommendation of the Pepper Place market. I rarely miss a Saturday.

          Here's a link to look up some menus:

          1. re: Big Daddy

            Do you think we need to rent a car?

            1. re: dmfnole

              If you stay at the Highland Hotel, there are lots of restaurants in the Five Points South area within walking distance, so you don't necessarily need a car. Stitts' Highlands and Chez FonFon, and Ocean and sister restaurant 26 are all within a couple of blocks. A little farther walk you'll find Veranda (New Orleans influenced) and Hot and Hot Fish Club. Check out our web site,, for more info on restaurants. As another poster suggested, if you can head downtown for lunch at one of our great hot dog joints, either Pete's Famous or Gus' Hot Dogs.

              A fun place to check out in the Five Points area between meals is Charlemagne Records. You'll find a good description of it here (, as well as other things to do, but most will require a car.

              1. re: bhamdining

                thanks! very valuable info. I just want to make sure that if we fly in and don't rent a car that we are staying in a safe area

                1. re: dmfnole

                  Yeah, if you stay in the suggested hotel, you should be fine. Everything is really close, and you could always take a cab back to your hotel if you ended up venturing a little further away.

                  1. re: mdt1

                    Please realize that you can't just stand on the corner of a street and hail a cab here in Bham. You'll have to call the cab company for a pick up.

        2. re: shelleymonster

          The best cheesecake that ever found it's way to my gullet can be found at O'Carr's Deli.It has to be tasted to be believed.Their milkshakes are beyond compare and the service[by waitrons that have been there for eons]is fast and efficient.This is old-school Birmingham dining at it's finest;plump sandwiches,fresh breads and a charming dining room make this a must visit for any touring hound.

        3. I would recommend you make reservations so you are sure to have a table. I think Fonfon is walk in only (not sure) but the other two especially Highland's gets booked up.