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Great restaurant in Birmingham?

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Hey all,
I'm traveling from New Orleans to Birmingham to visit my parents for Christmas and was hoping someone could recommend a good place for dinner. My parents have only been in Birmingham for ~2 years now, but I believe they have frequented at least a few of the many restaurants. I'd like to take them out while I'm visiting, or, if unable to get a reservation, buy them a gift certificate for Xmas. What I'm looking for:

--preferably Creole/French/seafood/Italian
--upscale, with a good wine list
--unique and interesting food/decor/ambiance

My parents have lived in New Orleans for many years, so they certainly can appreciate a delicious and enjoyable dinner.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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  1. For French, I recommend Chez FonFon. A great bistro feel with a lovely fromage course. Another plus about this place - it's owned by Birmingham's own nationally renown chef Frank Stitt.

    For seafood, try Ocean or Hot & Hot Fish Club. Both are upscale with great wine and great ambiance.

    For Italian, Gianmarco's in Homewood is THE place to go. The only place IMOH. Another alternative is Bottega (not the less expensive Bottega Cafe). It's really good with a new addition of a salumi bar from what I've been told.

    Veranda on Highland's is probably the best creole/cajun/New Orleans influenced place in town. In fact, it may be the only one (besides the chains). I haven't personally been, but I hear that the place is upscale and the food is great.

    All of the places mentioned above, except for GianMarcos, are located in the 5 Points South area. Go to this site for menus, sample menus, and/or profiles of most of these places I mentioned. http://birminghamrestaurants.com/menu...

    BTW, a fantastic place that's more New American/Southern continental than anything else, is Highland's Bar & Grille. It's owned and operated and "cheffed" by Frank Stitt himself. Very pricey, but the service is THE best in town. If you want to impress, this is the place to go!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: sheilal

      Wow, lots of info here sheilal. Thanks for taking the time to offer so many suggestions!

      1. re: sheilal

        While I think it's a great restaurant, I don't necessarily think of FonFon as "upscale." Of course, "upscale bistro" is something of an oxymoron.

        Man, I need to get over there. Haven't been in forever.

      2. All very good suggestions. For seafood also add Ocean on 20th Street South in 5 Points South. For a place with a smaller but still upscale vibe, try Little Savannah in Forest Park.
        Also worth mentioning for your family, the Veranda chef came here from Commander's Palace and worked for Jamie Shannon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Big Daddy

          Good to know about Veranda - thx Big Daddy

        2. I would take them somewhere for something other than Creole. Birmingham has a few options, but it's far from NOLA as far as Cajun and/or Creole offerings.

          I like Veranda, but don't necessarily go expecting Commander's Palace (even with the former chef - by the way Commanders has been around forever and there are lots of former CP sous chefs floating around) fare.

          I would do one of the higher end Stitt places or Hot & Hot.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Dax

            Thx Dax

            1. re: Dax

              I agree 100 percent, Dax. Those would be my Top 3.
              I thought the Commander's angle would be of interest, especially since he asked for creole options. Frankly, I can think of a few places in New Orleans I'd go to rather than Commanders. Peristyle and Bayonne leap to mind.

              1. re: Dax

                I've actually never been to Hot & Hot, though I've lived in Birmingham for much longer than it has. However, I've heard (and maybe even on this board) that its quality is significantly diminished whenever Chris Hastings isn't physically on the premises. Is this still the case?

                1. re: bovinekid

                  Like any restaurant Hot & Hot has it's off nights. I went recently with clients (and Chris Hastings was absent) and me and one of my clients had numerous custom requests with our meal and not only did the staff knock themselves out to fill our requests but my client (who lives in Kansas City) said he had one for the greatest dining experience of his life. The chef that is in charge when Chris Hastings is not on the premises is named Chris as well. He runs the place and pays attention to the food detail as if the place was his own.

                  1. re: bovinekid

                    I do not have much of a comparison point as I have only been once (on an expense account ); I must say everything there (particularly the pork trio) was quite excellent that night. I have no idea if Hastings was on premises.

                    I also had a phenomenal dinner at Little Savannah last night. It's only about a block from where I live and I don't go there enough, but the Wed night prix-fixe "Neighborhood menu" is a good deal for 3 courses for $35 plus certain bottles of wine are 1/2 price. The salad with gorgonzola was simple but delicious, the scallops were some of the best I have ever eaten, and the beverages were amply consumed. Good times, great service. Maureen and Cliff do an excellent job with that little place.

                  2. re: Dax

                    We're not overly critical eaters, and the Commander's connection is interesting, so I think we'll give Veranda a shot. Thanks for the input!!

                    1. re: knowla

                      Veranda is great, don't think otherwise. I love the soft shell crawfish when available/in season.

                  3. No one's mentioned Cafe DuPont downtown, which has a lovely downtown city feel to it and some Creole-influenced dishes. Some of the best scallops I've ever had were there. They at one time did a tasting menu that I thoroughly enjoyed.

                    You can read reviews of many of the restaurants mentioned here at www.bhamdining.com.