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Best of B'ham??

katiei Jul 10, 2008 09:27 AM

My husband and I moved to Birmingham in the fall and are still trying to identify the best restaurants, both upscale, hole-in-the-wall, and all in between.... We love all ethnic varieties, but appreciate authenticity. If you have any recommendations, we'd be very grateful!

We also would like to get out of the house and meet new people, so we are hoping to locate social groups/ happy hours where 30-somethings/ 40-somethings with similar interests in food and culture get together. In other words, where do the cool people hang out? :o)

  1. m
    mdt1 Jul 10, 2008 11:21 AM

    "Cool people" in Birmingham is very relative. What part(s) of town is closest to you? This should help with both restaurant and happy hour recommendations. Also, what are the places that you have tried that you like best so far?

    Here are a few links to get you started in the mean time:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/397560

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/422281

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429277

    14 Replies
    1. re: mdt1
      katiei Jul 10, 2008 12:33 PM

      Mdt1, thanks for the links-- very helpful! Ah, yes... perhaps I should be more specific when mentioning that we want to get out of the house and meet new people... Not sure if this is the best place to ask for recommendations for this, but if you are involved in, or otherwise know of any fun, down-to-earth, and welcoming groups that participate in anything from happy hours and wine tastings to supper clubs… sailing to ballroom dance… art appreciation to flag football… we would love to hear your suggestions!

      We live near Crestline Village, but we are happy to venture out of the neighborhood. We still have a lot of exploring to do, but of the restaurants we've tried so far, our favorites in Birmingham are Betolla at Pepper Place and Bottega Cafe for lunch, Red Pearl at the Oriental Supermarket for Chinese, Jim Davenport’s for thin-crust pizza, and Makarios for Mediterranean. We are still seeking out the best burger, best BBQ, best Mexican, best sushi, best fried chicken, best Korean, best Thai, and any other places that are just really good at whatever their respective specialties are. If you have any suggestions for “must try” places, I would appreciate them! I will continue reading the bham posts, too, because I have seen that there are some really good suggestions out there already.

      1. re: katiei
        sheilal Jul 10, 2008 01:01 PM

        You will get a dozen different answers to your questions by a dozen different people. But here are my picks:

        Best burger - Chez Fon Fon. I know, it's a bistro, but it's wonderful. Trust me! Plus, they have a great variety of cheeses in their cheese course.

        Best BBQ - I'm not a huge bbq eater, but for my money, it's Bob Sykes BBQ in Bessemer. I love Dreamland sauce, but their ribs are just "meh" to me.

        Best Fried Chicken - go no further than your local Publix supermarket. Seriously.

        Best Thai - Surin West in FPS.

        Best Mexican (Chain) - Habanero's.
        Best Mexican (Independent) - Iguana Grill in Hoover

        Try GianMarcos in Homewood for fabulous authentic Italian.

        If you like wine tastings, try the Grape at the Summit or V. Richard's in Forest Park. V. Richard's usually has happy hour wine tastings on most Fridays in the summer.

        There are quite a few social clubs around town but they usually require sponsorship and fees to join (e.g. Bham Ski Club, etc.) If you're just looking to "hit the scene", I suggest Superior Grille on Hiway 280. They have a large single clientele there but with an open air patio, live music and great 'ritas, who cares. You might want to try Art on the Rocks at the Museum. Third Friday of each month during the summer. They have a HUGE turnout each month. The next one is July 18th. It's a great time.

        1. re: sheilal
          katiei Jul 10, 2008 01:09 PM

          Thanks for all the suggestions! We'll check them out.... starting tonight!
          :o)

        2. re: katiei
          p
          pinotboy Jul 10, 2008 01:04 PM

          Burger (and fries)--Chez Fonfon in Five Points South

          BBQ--Highly subjective, but I would go with Miss Myra's in Cahaba Heights

          Mexican-For inexpensive food, El Cazador on Montclair Road (close to you)

          Sushi--Jinsei at SOHO

          Fried chicken--Seafood and Chicken Box in Center Point

          1. re: pinotboy
            Dax Jul 10, 2008 02:05 PM

            El Caz? It amazes me how some of my friends love this place. From my few lunch visits, it rates only 2nd to LaCochina on 7th Ave S as worst Mexican in town. Although the salsa is ok.

            Pinotboy, you have given me such good recs in the past, what do you tend to eat at El Caz?

            1. re: Dax
              p
              pinotboy Jul 10, 2008 02:52 PM

              Cancun Enchiladas (with shrimp). I also like the salsa.

          2. re: katiei
            Dax Jul 10, 2008 02:02 PM

            One of these days, perhaps we will actually get a large enough group of local hounds together for a dinner some place. 10 people could order nearly the whole menu at red pearl and share family style. Even with a few six packs of Tsingtao the whole dinner would be cheap. Or I'm open to other suggestions.

            1. re: Dax
              e
              eatyourveggies1 Jul 10, 2008 02:08 PM

              katiei, you should def. get to GianMarco's in a hurry.

              Also, check out Angel's Cakes and Confections in Crestline Village for the best caramel cake anywhere, caramel cupcakes, and gelato. They also do a good chocolate cake and a chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse and homemade peanut butter cups on top.

              1. re: eatyourveggies1
                katiei Jul 10, 2008 06:33 PM

                yum... caramel cake... I'm SO there! :o) GianMarco's, too!

                1. re: eatyourveggies1
                  sheilal Jul 11, 2008 06:29 AM

                  Wait a second, hold the phone? There's gelato somewhere in the city? I had no idea. I absolutely love gelato. I'll have to go to Angel's and check it out? Do they have a website that lists flavors? I got turned onto gelato when I visited my daughter in NYC and she took me to Il Laboratorio de Gelato in the Lower East Side. The pistaschio was wonderful & creamy. And I swear the granny smith apple tasted exactly like the real thing. Amazing.

                  1. re: sheilal
                    e
                    eatyourveggies1 Jul 11, 2008 06:42 AM

                    Their web site does not list flavors, as they change each day. You can also find gelato at Whole Foods. Angels is better, but on a hot day it's fun to shop with a half pistachio/half dark chocolate cone.

                2. re: Dax
                  katiei Jul 10, 2008 06:32 PM

                  Dax, a local hounds dinner sounds like fun! Please keep me posted!

                  1. re: Dax
                    b
                    Big Daddy Jul 11, 2008 10:36 PM

                    I'm in. Red Pearl or a taco hunt.

                  2. re: katiei
                    m
                    mdt1 Jul 10, 2008 10:07 PM

                    If you like Indian food, Silver Coin in Hoover is the best in town. There are a lot of fun brunch places in town. Cosmos in Five Points has a bloody mary bar and good food, but be willing to sit awhile. The Birmingham Weekly is a local, free paper that comes out on Thursdays. They have weekly picks of things to do including lots of listings for wine tastings and food events. There are a lot of food and wine opportunities in the summer and fall, so its a good resource to keep track of what is coming up. Finally, if you haven't been to the farmers' market at Pepper Place, check it out. It is on Saturdays from 7-12 through September.

                3. d
                  dkst0426 Jul 10, 2008 02:49 PM

                  I enjoyed Jim & Nick's and that big wings place in Hoover near the mall. Shoot........I forget the name. Maybe it was just plain "Wings"?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: dkst0426
                    SkippyLeBeef Jul 11, 2008 09:23 AM

                    I'm heading to the Red Pearl for lunch today. Lucky me!!!

                    Also, best real tacos, any Gordo's location....

                    1. re: SkippyLeBeef
                      Dax Jul 12, 2008 01:35 PM

                      Just picked up a lb of carnitas from Gordo's on West Valley. Their version is better than the Mercados', by far I think. Much more moist and flavorful; the Mercado version can be a little dry at times. Still went to the Mercado to pick up 2 pork and 2 chicken tamales, some fresh tortillas, and some limes, onions, avacados, etc, plus some of the excellent picante salsa. The very nice lady behind the counter shyly holds up the bag of salsa and says "very hot" to which I smile and respond, "picante!" Baby steps.

                      Then stopped by San Miguel for a "cubano." I'm typically wary of ordering a cubano anywhere but at a Cuban place but I'm getting desperate here. My skepticism is warranted; for around $8 I received a giant torta containing what looks like a very thin chicken-fried steak cutlet, ham, some unidentifiable meat products, beans, fresh avocado, pickled jalapenos, lettuce and tomato. It may not have been a cubano, but it was delicious in its own right. Helped someone jump their car when leaving so my karma is also now in balance. I find it's somewhat distracting not to eat the cubano, some carnitas and/or a tamale while driving home. The aromas could drive a person insane.

                      1. re: SkippyLeBeef
                        Dax Jul 12, 2008 01:36 PM

                        Just picked up a lb of carnitas from Gordo's on West Valley. Their version is better than the Mercados', by far I think. Much more moist and flavorful; the Mercado version can be a little dry at times.

                        Still went to the Mercado to pick up 2 pork and 2 chicken tamales, some fresh tortillas, and some limes, onions, avacados, etc, plus some of the excellent picante salsa. The very nice lady behind the counter shyly holds up the bag of salsa and says "very hot" to which I smile and respond, "picante!" Baby steps.

                        Then stopped by San Miguel for a "cubano." I'm typically wary of ordering a cubano anywhere but at a Cuban place but I'm getting desperate here. My skepticism is warranted; for around $8 I received a giant torta containing what looks like a very thin chicken-fried steak cutlet, ham, some unidentifiable meat products, beans, fresh avocado, pickled jalapenos, lettuce and tomato. It may not have been a cubano, but it was delicious in its own right. Helped someone jump their car when leaving so my karma is also now in balance. I find it's somewhat distracting not to eat the cubano, some carnitas and/or a tamale while driving home. The aromas could drive a person insane.

                        1. re: Dax
                          katiei Jul 12, 2008 01:56 PM

                          Interesting sounding Cuban! I'll have to check that out AND the carnitas from Gordo's. And I've been meaning to ask about the best tamales... Just based on tamales alone, would you vote for Gordo's, Mercado, or elsewhere?

                          Kudos on your new karma! :o)

                          1. re: katiei
                            Dax Jul 12, 2008 05:18 PM

                            I've pretty much only had the tamales at the Mercado around here.

                            Sol y Luna has an interesting pork one too, but it's not my idea of a traditional tamale.

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