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Alabaster Area

  • Jannae Jul 25, 2010 06:44 AM
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The husband and I will be relocating to the Alabaster area next week. I'm familiar with the chain eateries around the area, but I'm looking for local favorites. Suggestions of places to try?

I guess this would extend to the Pelham, Calera, Montevallo, Saginaw, and Maylene areas as well.

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  1. When you're in the mood for fine dining, head over to Maylene to Fox Valley. Don't let the convenience store exterior fool you, the food inside is really great and the wine is reasonably priced. Service can be spotty -- but that's easily forgiven because Sue Lemieux and Anthony Mangold hire students from Montevallo University, which provides them good work experience and decent money. But especially if you live in that general area, Fox Valley is a great special-occasion place or a nice place to show visitors that just because you're out in the sticks that doesn't mean fine dining isn't available. Here's the most recent review in The Birmingham News:

    http://blog.al.com/scenesource/2008/1...

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    Fox Valley Restaurant
    6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

    7 Replies
    1. re: Big Daddy

      Love your review of the place! We'll have to check the place out for our next special "date" night.

      1. re: Big Daddy

        I second Big Daddy's recommendation of Fox Valley. If you're a wine drinker, they consistently are voted tops in that arena. They use quality beef and serve it to perfection. The cre crab cakes are mostly crab and very little filler.

        That being said, I've not been since the oil spill, so I don't know if that has affected their supplier and/or availability.

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        Fox Valley Restaurant
        6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

        1. re: sheilal

          With the recommendations, we'll certainly check it out for our next night out.

          1. re: Jannae

            We're liking Mikey's Grille just off the Valleydale Road exit from 65. Been there twice and were very happy both times. It's in the small plaza where Tin Roof BBQ used to be. I know it's not Alabaster, but you may be passing it driving home from work! Furthermore, I think Mikey was a fixture at Fox Valley in the past.....

            My only complaint would be that it's a little pricey.

            1. re: curej

              Curej, I had Tin Roof BBQ once - did they move, or are they out of business?

              1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                OOB.

        2. re: Big Daddy

          It took us a while to finally get to Fox Valley, and now I'm wondering why we waited so long! BD you're right, the food was quite good.

          And, you were spot-on re: the service. Our waitress, while very sweet when she was at the table, didn't visit the table enough to check for refills.

          However, once our dinners arrived, all was forgiven. The husband had the seafood sampler which was absolutely delicious (I had samples of his crab cake and oysters.) The crab cake was quite different from the crab cakes we've had in town. This one focused on the sweet crab, very little filling and seasoned perfectly. The oysters were dreged in a light cornmeal and fried. Though they were fried, they were not greasy or had that heavy feeling one finds often with fried oysters. The price for his dinner was a bit steep ($29) but the look of contentment on his face as he devoured the platter was evidence the price was well justified.

          I had the grilled redfish topped with a light Imperial sauce with lump crabmeat and jumbo shrimp that was topped with two perfectly fried jumbo shrimp. Yum..

          We topped off the meal with the trio sampler of the creme brulee. We both agreed the Bailey's Cream flavored was the best with the Godiva Chocolate coming in a close second.

          Fox Valley is about three miles from where we live. This could be bad, as knowing now that the excellent source of seafood is so close to us, yet the prices definitely put this wonderful dining experience in the "special evening" category.

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          Fox Valley Restaurant
          6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

        3. Jannae, if you haven't tried Joe's Italian, give it a shot. Some of my experiences have been better than others, but mostly I'd say it's pretty dang good! We went there tonight and I had an interesting dish...spinach gnocchi stuffed with goat cheese in a rich parmaggiano cream sauce. Very tasty. Their zebra cake is a great dessert, too. If you guys wanna meet up there sometime, drop a line.

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          Joe's Italian
          21 Weatherly Club Dr, Alabaster, AL 35007

          9 Replies
          1. re: curej

            We've heard from our friends down here that the place was pretty good. We'll give it a shot soon, and let you know so we can try to meet up for dinner.

            1. re: curej

              Stopped by Joe's Italian on the way home from work yesterday and picked up dinner to take home.

              WOW.. I'm impressed by the quick service and the depth of flavor in their sauces. Pasta was cooked perfectly and those meatballs are spot on.

              Haven't tried any of their cakes yet, but they are all quite tempting.

              Was let down with the salads. Just a handful of the bagged iceberg salad with nothing added to it. Still have to give it to the national chain on the salad and salad dressing.

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              Joe's Italian
              21 Weatherly Club Dr, Alabaster, AL 35007

              1. re: Jannae

                So funny! I had Joe's at lunch for the first time - went with a friend who *loves* the place and we both left disappointed.

                I had the eggplant parm, which was different for me because the eggplant a.) wasn't fried and b.)still had its skin on which I've heard before is the mark of an unauthentic e/p. At a certain point, it's easy for eggplant to get a slimy texture in which case it did here, and that was not pleasant.

                My friend had one of yesterday's specials which was chicken with penne and some sort of tomato cream sauce. Neither of us cared for that either.

                We decided that dessert would make up for the entrees so I got a slice (if you can call that monster a slice!) of strawberry cake and she got the Oreo cake. My preference is that cakes have sweet icing on them and mine was mostly white and colored whipped cream. Let down.

                Can't win 'em all.

                1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                  That is a let down. We were happy with our entrees. Wonder if there's a different cook staff between lunch and dinner?

                  1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                    We ate at Joe's last night with great anticipation. We had hopes of finding a restaurant that knows how to serve simple, unadulterated, Italian food. Unfortunately, we left somewhat disappointed. I ordered the Lasagna Bianca – “scratch made lasagna” with spicy Italian sausage and turnip greens, sort of a take on sausage and kale. The sausage was spicy as advertised, and complemented the turnip greens very well. The problem was that it was drowned in a pool of cheesy cream sauce. My wife ordered the Lobster ravioli for $20. That, too, was submerged in a white sauce. The homogenous filling consisted of finely processed lobster mixed with ricotta, I’m guessing. There were absolutely no small pieces of lobster meat, which would have given the dish a much more rustic and homemade quality. Instead, its taste and mouth feel leads me to believe the pasta came straight out of a package. For $20, I thought the dish should have at least some “made from scratch” qualities. My daughter’s spaghetti aglio e olio was just OK. The garlic was cooked beyond golden, and was dark brown and fairly bitter.

                    Noticeably absent from the menu were simple selections like Ensalada Caprese, cured meats, cheeses, olives, and other antipasti.

                    The service, after a 30 minute wait, was good, although rushed. They are not hurting for business, so I think they are trying to accommodate all of their guests. This isn’t a place to have a leisurely meal , at least on a weekend night.

                    Their beer list includes some six or so selections from the French Canadian Unibroue brewery, in addition to the usual (plus Naked Pig).

                    We really hoped to find an inexpensive Italian place that understands the beauty of simple, well-prepared foods. We’ll give them one more try, but I’ll go with lowered expectations.

                    1. re: G200

                      Well, Joe's is no GianMarco, but since we're talking about the Alabaster area here I think it's still reasonable to give them a nod or two. Down "this way" the other decent Italian restaurants include Dolce Vita, Amore, and I guess Bellini's. I think Joe's is a more "fun" spot than any of these other alternatives.

                      Like all of you Chowhounds, I wish we could have an excellent Italian restaurant in Birmingham, but I've been here for ten years and still no go. I don't even really think GianMarco compares to Italian restaurants in big northern cities with historically large Italian immigrant communities (like Boston, Chicago, or NYC). Heck, I've had much better Italian food in Syracuse, NY (I dream about Angotti's beans and greens). I am not confident that we'll ever have great Italian food here, but I think it's still useful to point out the best options that are available. If you just can't get satisfaction, go pick up a good Italian cookbook and do it yourself. It's actually one of the more straightforward cuisines to do in a home kitchen....especially the simpler dishes that I like the best.

                      1. re: curej

                        Curej, Italian places in your area -- I guess my fave is Dolce Vita that you mentioned, but (besides the awful, vinegar-overload salad) Leonardo's can also be quite good. Do you agree? That's not exactly Alabaster-area though.

                        My vote for best Italian in the metro goes to Bottega.

                        I think the reviews in this thread, while obviously mixed, were fair to Joe's. You mentioned above that you'd also had some experiences there better than others. It is what it is. I cook some Italian dishes at home but when I go to an 'Italian' restaurant, I'm looking for...like most people there...good 'Italian' food. I'd give Joe's another shot. Ah, everybody sometimes has an 'off' day.

                        1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                          @DFK: You prefer Bottega to GianMarco? I haven't been to Bottega in awhile (2007). I guess it's time for another try. I liked it a lot then.

                          I work downtown and live out in Indian Springs. Once I have broken the gravitational pull of Birmingham and have slogged my way through the traffic hell called 280 I really don't like to drive back into town, or even as far back in as Vestavia or Mountain Brook. The Summit is about as far back west as I ever want to go.

                          Since the best restaurants are in closer to town, I really feel the pain of the sparse restaurant scene out here. I'd go so far as to say it was even better around here a few short years ago. I really liked Prairie Fire Grill, Standard Bistro, and Original Joe's. I really liked Copelands, Flat Rock Bistro and Bahama Breeze (which were chain restaurants), too. All of these are now history. Not a lot to choose from out here anymore. Can I have some cheese with my whine?

                          1. re: curej

                            I would put Bettola in the same class with GianMarco's and Bottega. Although they were initially known primarily for their Neapolitan-style pizza, they also do a really good job with their pasta dishes.

                            If you work downtown, it is convenient to stop by Pepper Place on your way home for an early dinner.

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                            Bettola
                            2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

              2. I'm with curej.....been here 22 yrs, not sure we'll ever see great Italian here and strongly prefer to cook my own at home. When we do go out, we go to Amore on 280. Atmosphere, service and food are consistently very good if not great.

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                Amore
                5510 Highway 280 Ste 116, Birmingham, AL 35242

                1. I am relieved to see that others share my opinion of Joe's. I have been disappointed with each of my 3 visits. I kept giving them another chance because everyone in this area keeps saying how wonderful their food is. I just don't get it.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: lizzieslulu

                    @lizzieslulu: Just out of curiosity, why are you "relieved"? This isn't a test. If people are made uncomfortable by comments made here for or against a restaurant, cuisine, or food item, I'd submit that we're doing it wrong. People like what they like. There's no shame in that. I don't believe that there is a "right" and "wrong" about food, anymore than I believe you have to like opera to truly love music (I'm partial to blues and jazz).

                    I think that Chowhound is most useful when it leads you to users whose opinions seem to jibe with yours. The others aren't "wrong", they just have different tastes. I'm the first to admit that I'm pleased when someone agrees with my opinion(s). But I resist feeling badly if others don't agree with me. Life's too short.

                    1. re: Al Imentrie

                      @Al, maybe let's be a little more gentle with the tone. I understand Lizzieslulu talking about being relieved that she's not alone. I can't find it at the moment, but one of the larger threads on another forum like this happened to be entitled something like "Places Everyone Else Loves But I Don't Get It" or something like that. When you hear all over town that place "x" is great and you give place "x" a couple of shots, for me anyway, it's natural to wonder "what am I missing?".

                      @Lefty: I've never tried Amore. Is that in the same shopping center where a Cajun/crawfish-type-of-place is? I may have my shopping centers mixed up, sorry.

                      @Curej: yes, I'll take Bottega any day over GianMarco. Someone told me that another franchisee is looking to open Copeland's back up here in Bham (it'll obviously be in another location) but I liked it a lot too. Since you mentioned Prairie Fire Grill, have you been to Chuck's Fish? It's in that very same strip mall that PFG used to be in.

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                      Amore
                      5510 Highway 280 Ste 116, Birmingham, AL 35242

                      Chuck's Fish
                      508 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401

                      1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                        @DFK: We went once and didn't really like it enough to go back...Plus, what I really liked about Prairie Fire was the bit of a southwest twist and spiciness. PF wasn't for everyone. My fried said everything was way too salty for his taste.

                        1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                          Went to Chuck's again Friday night. My wife and son split a grilled grouper dish and I had shrimp and grits. We lived in Charleston SC for ten years, so I kind of have formed idea of what shrimp and grits should be, and didn't like Chuck's version. In particular, the shrimp were grilled and rather tough...maybe tiger shrimp rather than lowcountry or gulf shrimp. Possibly even previously frozen. The shrimp in lowcountry shrimp and grits (in Charleston anyway) are typically a bit smaller and quite tender, I think lightly steamed or sauteed. I often find tiger shrimp to be tough even when cooked optimally. But I'm not certain that that was the issue.

                          My wife got a salad and found the dressing so acrid that she couldn't finish it. She liked her grouper. It was a generous serving and well (not over) cooked.

                          Chuck's prices are pretty steep. For the prep and entree quality, I wasn't satisfied. I'd pay that much for dinner at Ocean, but I really can't put Chuck's in that same category. I think that'll be our last visit.

                          Finally, there was a lot of hugging and chumming going on between the male and female waitstaff next to the sushi bar, very close to our table. It seemed a little inappropriate/non-professional, but our server was adequately attentive, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

                          I want Prairie Fire back!!!!!

                          1. re: curej

                            re: "I want Prairie Fire back!!!!!"

                            Me too.

                            1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                              Duck Tacos. Stacked fried green tomatoes with crabmeat. Ancho pepper ribeye. Pork tenderloin with walnuts and some outrageously delicious sauce. White chocolate bread pudding that I've never found a match for. I could go on and on. Even the salad with the tiny tortilla strips was awesome. I wants to cry.