Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Great Lakes >
Oct 27, 2010 06:44 PM

Is Birmingham, MI now to be taken seriously?

During the latter half of the 90’s, I often visited but finally gave-up on Birmingham. Chockablock with well traveled lawyers and local TV personalities, yet no respectable place to eat for less than $40/head. Inexplicable. The only place I even liked was Streetside Seafood. Have times long since changed? Sure, I don’t jump up and down for upscale chains (e.g., Mitchell’s), but at least they are a start.

Now, I read donbui82 and xman887 talkin’ about Tallulah and Café Via, respectively, not to mention a certain Buckeye MD celebrity blogger going berserk over The Forest Grill. Well, I’m a forgiving person, so I went back to Birmingham to check them all out. My impression? Birmingham has transformed into a key foodie hub in SE Mich.

I’ve said my piece on The Forest Grill, and it was quite complimentary; although, I can’t afford to again experience the place for little while, so I’ll leave it at that.

Tallulah was very charming. It’s (probably often) cramped, but “all the better” for people-watching. I had fowl du jour, with mashed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and sautéed microgreens. The bird was a nice free range turkey pulled from the oven precisely four degrees less than recommended by the FDA, which is how I like it. This can safely be done, when the poultry isn’t raised under sadistic conditions. Overall, I really appreciate Tallulah’s effort to offer the freshest, high quality foods from specialty local wholesalers.

Their kitchen’s reliance on the daily market may come at a cost, though. It seems as if they start “winging it,” immediately upon the arrival of their food buyer’s van each morning. Just my impression. Whatever the reason, the microgreens were extremely over salted, and the mashed sweet potatoes seemed diluted rather than concentrated by the cooking process. Granted, I ate and loved every bit.

My squirmy kid had sweet potato gnocchi sautéed in a browned butter sage sauce with other root vegetables / squash. The sauce and veggies were great. I’m not a gnocchi expert so I won’t comment on the actual dumplings. Others have posted that the gnocchi was very good.

Yes, I will again soon visit Tallulah (probably AFTER I can find a babysitter). FYI---Tallulah will start offering brunch beginning 14-Nov. I walked in on their “practice run” this past Sunday and spotted a plate of eggs with fingerling hash, thick cut bacon + duck sausage(!), real-bread toast and fruit garnish (other combos were noticed, but I focused on this one). As I was getting kicked out, for the reason that the practice run was by invitation only, I was pleasantly informed that my fancied combo will be offered for $9 once I return in a three weeks. Seems to me like you’d have to be crazy to stand in a long line to eat industrial food at nearby Original Pancake House, if for $2 more you could indulge in a quality experience at Tallulah. More to follow!!

Café Via….What an attractive little cove this place is located in. In addition to their mahogany/brass/leather interior, they have a semi-enclosed patio with a neat fireplace on the perimeter. I might be delusional to imagine eating on this patio during a winter evening, but I’m at least going to check into it. Food-wise, firstly, a rye bread comes gratis, straight from the oven, and it is not from a frozen / pre-mixed dough. Schwing! Secondly, I had a fresh house made ravioli stuffed with quality lobster claw meat and creamed corn. The ravioli dough was paper thin, and because it was seemingly set a bit to dry, it gave some resistance to the teeth. I figure this must be a mark of ravioli excellence, or something? Memorable flavor. One of these days, if I’m feeling rich (right, like I’m getting a Christmas bonus, in this economy), I’m heading back for their Sunday prime rib, as I’m positive it will be fantastic.

What do you guys have to say about Birmingham? Am I just late to the party, or am I bamboozled into thinking this place isn’t the joke that it is?

PS---The Birmingham Farmers Market suits me just right, but I’m sad to say that last weekend was the end to its season. Not an Eastern Market, though has much of the nice stuff found in the Royal Oak F.M. but without the crowds or redundancies, and is much more substantial than, say, the Warren, Mt. Clemens, Clarkston and even Rochester F.M.s, while already possessing the community charm to which the infant Auburn Hills F.M. (admirably but perhaps unrealistically) aspires. Comparable to the Ann Arbor F.M., maybe.

PPS---In Birmingham’s Shain Park, on Dec 3,4,5, German airlines and automakers, as well as their suppliers, will put on a “first annual German Winter Markt.” (JP or Boagman may be able to explain this holiday tradition). There supposedly will be all manner of decorations and festive live entertainment, ice carving, carriage rides, live reindeer, various other kids activities, as well as “traditional German food and drink.” I’m hoping for liquor in the streets, as well as something (any darn thing) better than Red Wings style street brats. Wishful thinking?

Streetside Seafood
273 Pierce St, Birmingham, MI 48009

Forest Grill Restaurant
735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Bummed about the FM being done for the season, I had hoped to go this Sunday. I agree with your thoughts on it, VTB...a nice alternative to RO.

    And please when someone gets details on the German them! It sounds fantastic

    3 Replies
    1. re: coney with everything

      Rochester is having a European-style Christmas market that same weekend, called the Kris Kringle market.

      I've been to the Christmas market they've had in years past (tho I guess they skipped last year), and it was fairly low-key, but it sounds like they've revamped it for this year. Might be worth checking out, especially if you're there for the light show and/or Christmas parade.

      1. re: gooddog

        The Rochester, Farmington and Birmingham Holiday Markets all run the same weekend. So many choices!!! I've been to the Rochester market in the past and found it a bit dull but maybe with the year off they will come back with a new spark. The B'ham market has some major sponsorship and it being coordinated by two German women (accent and Farmington is a hidden gem! Maybe I'll hit them all! Can't wait!

      2. re: coney with everything

        I just learned the details of this market..thought I'd let you know! It's the first weekend in December. It runs Friday 3pm -8pm, Saturday 11am-8pm and Sunday 12pm - 4pm. It will be held in Shain Park. I spoke with the women organizing the Winter Markt at the final B'ham Farmers' Market. It sounds like it will be great. They are attempting to create a traditional German Holiday Market. We were informed that there will be a wide assortment of vendors...from local businesses to many of the B'ham Farmers' Market vendors. I know for sure that the goat cheese guys (Crossroads Creamery), Cheeky Monkeys Foods, the french pastry guy (sorry don't know their name) will be there. I highly recommend all three.. The goat cheese is fantastic (I think we have tried every flavor they make) and have not had a bad one! Cheeky Monkeys Foods' coffee is amazing! It's FTO and roasted each cannot be beat in the freshness or flavor departments. Their organic baked goods are top of the line as well...their baked goods are so incredible. For lack of a better word..they are thoughtful!! Every cookie or scone is made like your grandma or mother would make them loaded with fruit or chocolate. I highly recommend the Apricot Almond, Pumpkin or Ginger Scones. Sorry..I'm gettting The french pastry place...wish I knew their name....makes the most delicious breads, croissants and biscotti. They used to have a place in B'ham but closed and were supposed to be reopening somewhere haven't seen that happen yet. Hope they do..I'll be first in line!!!

      3. No, I don't think you're off the mark, there is some really excellent chow there. (BTW grew up there, my home town -- used to have two grocery stores right on Maple!) I thought the Farmer's Market was very sparse and limited, no interest in checking out after a couple visits. But yay, I think B'ham is reflective of a lot of good stuff going on in food in the D. All good.

        9 Replies
        1. re: berkleybabe

          Nice place to be from, Berkleybabe. To be honest, I was hoping I'd get responses saying, "Hey, dummy, what about place x, place y or place z; where the heck have you been????"
          Maybe those replies are still to come.

          Wish me luck in soon getting to Cafe Via for Sunday prime rib. A person has to have goals, right?
          PS--was there something you were specifically seeking at the F.M., that was disappointingly unavailable?

          Cafe Via
          310 E Maple Rd, Birmingham, MI 48009

          1. re: vtombrown

            Ooo. Please keep me posted about prime rib. I'm looking for another prime rib spot. I must confess I loooove the prime rib at j alexanders and have yet to find a replacement.

            After all the rave reviews I'll give cafe via another whirl. My first and admittedly last time there was disappointing.


            1. re: donbui82

              donbui82, actually, there were only two good reviews, versus zero bad ones. didn't know about your experience...what'd you have?

              1. re: donbui82

                I think we need a prime rib thread.....Mmmmmm bloody rare as hell Prime rib.

                Rare enough that a good Vet could bring the cow back to life if needed.

              2. re: vtombrown

                Re: Bham FM -- just not as extensive as RO or Eastern Market, plus I thought prices were higher. Glad it's there, just not a destination for me, not enough variety or choices.

                1. re: berkleybabe

                  We frequent many local farmers' markets. Most of the vendors overlap. Most of the vendors at the B'ham market can be found at the Royal Oak, Farmington or Rochester markets. We have never found the prices to be different at any of the markets...the vendors we buy from are the same across the board. I think the B'ham Market was great this year. They added a lot of new vendors and choices. The one downside was the addition of two franchises..still not understanding that!! Why would a farmers' market have a Biggby Coffee or Great Harvest Bread as vendors? Isn't it the complete antithesis of the farmers market?

                  1. re: Jack Freeman

                    I was kind of happy to see Biggby for an iced coffee one hot Sunday!

                    1. re: Jack Freeman

                      At least Biggby is a local company. East Lansing born.

                      1. re: JanPrimus

                        While Biggby is a Michigan company they could do a way better job of buying Michigan products. Their coffee is purchased here but none of their paper goods or baked goods are from Michigan companies. I can't figure out why they sell baked goods that were shipped in from Chicago...why not use a local company. I emailed the owner and really didn't get an answer expect that if the vendors they now use let them down they would consider a local company....hmmmm. My new favorite coffee spot in B'ham is Commonwealth...great cup of joe and good food!

              3. "Buckeye MD celebrity blogger"


                Hardly a celebrity - the restaurant had no idea who I was, they just put out a damned fine meal!


                2 Replies
                1. re: uhockey

                  Heeheee. Well, I have to give our neighbors to South at least a little bit of "the business," right?

                  1. re: vtombrown

                    You could just poke fun at our dreadful restaurant scene or the fact that real bands go to Detroit and Cleveland then skip Columbus. :-)

                    Really though - people knock the Detroit area - I grew up just south (Toledo) and many of my best memories (hockey, music, and food) are set in the state of Michigan. Forest Grill is a standout restaurant on a national level, IMO and Roast trumps Simon's Lola by a landslide.


                    Forest Grill Restaurant
                    735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009

                2. The original comment has been removed