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Mar 9, 2012 12:27 AM

Birmingham Area Spots For A British Boyfriend Visiting First Time

Ok, well my boyfriend from England will be here for a solid month and I would love some selections. I do want all levels of cuisine, he has never had American cuisine and is really psyched. He really is into the thought of American food. I know a lot of the higher end, downtown places - but looking for anything in between really, and not just "American" ALL cuisines. Just so you know we are in the Hoover area but would gladly drive to try all new things - he is absolutely in this dream about American and the food. (I know - hard to believe but those Europeans do exist lol)

Please give me your suggestions - nothing too big or too small. BBQ is obv a must have here in the South, how about some good steak houses, wing places, BEST burger joints, classic Americana, chains that are very good and American-ish, and he is fascinated with the Chinese takeout in the little white boxes?? Apparantley this is something they see much of on movies but do not have there. So again, anything goes!

Please Help - He will be here Monday til April 10th. So lots of suggestions needed - of course I will be cooking for him of course a lot so if there's a certain dish that is absolutely needed to be fed to him homecooked, mention it.

Thanks so much y'all!

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  1. Are you absolutely sure your boyfriend is from England?.. I am from there and you can get every nationality of food from anywhere on the planet in the UK. Indian,chinese,thai,japanese,lebanese,morrocan,turkish,mexican,mongolian ..the list is endless.Us English probably cant be beaten on the eclectic nature of our food choices . Every town in the UK, even the smallest village would have its own chinese take out ( we call them 'take away' ) - so I cant quite believe your man has never seen one. Have you actually met him yet ?...its not one of those web based romances is it?... Where has he been to have not seen a chinese take out ? Are you sure he has not just been released from a long prison sentence? I am worried for you southern princess. :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: jimbobarelli

      I think the OP meant American cuisines, not other countries. And to be fair, when I lived in the UK I never saw Chinese food in those little white boxes you see on American TV shows - all our takeaways, no matter what country's food was inside, came in those little silver trays with a bit of white cardboard inserted in the top as a lid. Unless it was fish and chips, which was wrapped in, not newspaper (those days were gone in my village) but white paper.

      1. re: jimbobarelli

        Yes I just got back from "Lovely Freeze Your Face Off London". We ate some very nice meals but was quite unimpressed with the quality overall. Not just London, England as well. It was just hit or miss and as you know - the bill is always a shock for an American! Soooo expensive!! And I was there during your record cold...just about died, I was crying it was so cold.

        So yes you prob have all types of cuisine but for me, the price and cold made me understand why English like to be indoors. And I didnt say they dont have take out - they do not have the little white boxes with red writing you get in Chinese takeout here - him and all his friends discussed it quite at length. (Apparantly this is something they see all the time in American movies - another thing they had an hour long conversation over?? Red Solo/Dixie cups...they have never seen these and say they are in EVERY movie especially teenage type ones) LOL imagine my shock at not every having seen a Red Solo cup and not only that but being fascinated with it?? That was funny

        Bless your heart - thanks for your concern over my welfare but we've known each other quite a long time.

      2. Burger - 5 Guys, Flip Burger, J Clyde
        Wings - Moe's Barbecue (skip everything else on the menu)
        Southern/Low Country - Highlands, Dram/Avo, Dyron's
        Seafood - Hot & Hot, Ocean, 26
        Italian - Bettola, Bottega, Gianmarco's
        Mexican - Pinches, El Girasol
        Chinese - Red Pearl
        Pizza - Mafffioza's

        5 Replies
        1. re: mahalan

          You think Maffiaoza's pizza is better than Slice's? Although the pick whatever charcuterie and cheese options at Maffiaoza's are great and so are the 1/2 price beers on Tuesdays.

          1. re: Dax

            And where is this Maffiaoza's place guys? This sounds like something he would love - hows the atmosphere/decor?

            1. re: southernprincess

              Crestline Villeage.


              Mostly Moutain Brook families and their screaming kids. Decent pizza and a good enough selection of beers. Not great pizza; I think Slice is better and has some good beers.

            2. re: Dax

              Dax, I do prefer Maffioza's to Slice but I'm not sure it's because of the pizza. My only experience with Slice was tainted by receiving a very small pour on the glass of wine I ordered followed by ordering a dark beer (to avoid a repeat) only to discover that they failed to let the head settle (it arrived 1/3 head, 2/3 beer) to fill the glass. Needless to say, my mood from that point spoiled the pizza no matter how good it might have been.

              1. re: mahalan

                I hear you. Little Savannah did the same thing to me recently on one of their few draft beers. It drove me crazy at $6/glass. I was hesitant to say something but I should not have been at $6/pint at a higher end restaurant. I have not had that happen at Slice, or at least I don't recall it happening. I would definitely say something at a place like Slice if that happened.

          2. In addition to the high-end places you should think about where you eat every other week and take him there.

            I'd suggest Mexican (Chuy's, Rojo) [London doesn't have good options]. Cajun, which is not even a genre in London (Crazy Cajuns, but the boards can give you many more options). PF Chang's (not because it's the best but if he is interested in how most Americans eat then it's representative). And American Italian (Joe's Italian; Carraba's, yes another chain).

            And an American BREAKFAST (Original Pancake?). We take big American breakfasts for granted.

            And what's more American than a hot dog? Birmingham has a number of okay places. And Dairy Queen, for that matter.

            And a few drinks places: J.Clyde (he'll be shocked at the selection) or just show him to the microbrews at any decent bar/restaurant; Dram (cocktails); and American wine at any good restaurant.

            And you should know your local Indian places. The options here are a joke compared to London, but after some time he will be jonesing for a fix.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chrystan

              I love the J Clyde rec and notes about Bham hotdog places and agree. But we have tons of places that serve much better Mexican than Chuy's and Rojo is pretty lame for authentic (although a good place for a drink. Maybe El Barrio or any of the taqueries on Valley, Lorna, etc. Maybe even the Guzman taco truck?

              PF Changs and the chain Italian places are not worth the calories or money. I think London probably has us beat on authentic Italian and Chinese unless you are going for a study in what loads of people here eat because they do not know better or do not care to find it.

              1. re: chrystan

                Thanks so much Chrystan these are GREAT ideas, he's fascinated about Mexican food and Chuys has a great atmosphere. Also he cant wrap his mind around American bacon and also bacon served with pancakes and syrup!! LOL - he says they don't eat anything really sweet and savory together. But he loves sweets so he is gonna love it. On the other hand I cant give the "Full English Breakfast" any rave reviews. Maybe worth a try if you are in England, but just to say you had tried it. (Think beans - porknbeans type - on toast, with a grilled mushroom etc)

                Yes I think Sonic is even gonna be a really cool experience for him, he loves things that he's seen on tv but never in person, so drive up and order from car will be cool.

                All other suggestions I am taking down and they have ALL been very helpful. Really - and please keep them coming, he's flying in at 10 PM tonight and we will go to Buffalo Wild Wings - he loves chicken wings (dont get them in England really) and it's the only place I've found that's halfway decent and near my house that's open til 12 am. Plus, it's very "American"

                He will be here a month so please any other thoughts?

                1. re: southernprincess

                  I prefer On Tap to BWW for wings. Not sure where in Hoover you are but they have locations out on 280 and at the Galleria and are typically open later. Extra crispy with their (typically) delicious blue cheese. Fried pickles there can be good too. The Lakeview one has a great beer selection.

                  1. re: southernprincess

                    If you want the best wings I've found in Birmingham (and one of the best dishes I've eaten here), try the wings at Moe's Barbecue in Lakewood. Don't bother with anything else on their menu. I was not a fan of the place until a coworker convinced me to try their wings. Now, I'm a somewhat regular.

                    1. re: mahalan

                      I like the smoked turkey at Moe's and their collards are good. Mac is weak. Beans are ok. I think their smoked wings are pretty good but they are not crisp enough to be my favorites in town. I like crispy. Maybe if they could bake them off or fry them they would be my #1.

                2. I spent a summer in London and loved it. I'm a semi-anglophile. Don't even try to take him to Indian or authentic Chinese. I would focus on stuff you cannot find easily over there. I'm on mission to find the best burger and hot dog in Bham so I can speak decently well on those. Since you have a month I will list a bunch of stuff.

                  Burger - Chez Fonfon has the best, Tony's Hot Dogs in Hoover has a great greasy one, Dram has a good one. Green Valley Drugs in Hoover might be a uniquely American place with a good burger. Five Guys is solid. The Golden Rule in Irondale has a good one and is a good "American" experience.

                  Hot Dogs - Hands down, the Gus's Hot Dogs on 4th Ave N in downtown (special, chili, or chili slaw dog). Sophia's Deli is good downtown too.

                  Fast food - This is a gimme, Chic Fil A. I might swing him by Popeye's or Publix for the fried chicken.

                  Mexican - La Bamba in Homewood is my favorite cheap one. I have not had the taco truck or the more adventurous places yet. Pinches might be a good one too. I like Chuy's, the view is good while sitting outside on a nice day.

                  Go to Kool Korner for the Cuban sandwich (classic).

                  Take out Chinese - Chen Express in Crestline Village

                  BBQ - hands down Saw's. Jim N Nick's or Moe's might be good as well.

                  Higher end - Highlands, Veranda, or Ollie Irene

                  My favorite pizza is Bettola but you can get a Neapolitan style in London no problem. I'd go to Davenport's or Slice (mainly for the unique pizzas and great local beer).

                  Might want to take him to a deli.... Max's

                  Salem's Diner in Homewood has a good Philly Cheese Steak, patty melt, and solid hot dogs. The owner's really nice, great place.

                  I would take him to a meat and three, but I have not found one I truly like yet. Maybe someone else can touch on that?

                  For bars, I don't think there is a great one in Bham. JClyde tries to be a pub, but it does hav a great beer selection. I'd probably swing him by the Garage. Marty's for late night. I frequent Oasis and Pale Eddie's


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: armstwa

                    Max's Deli is a great idea. And for fast food I'd add Krystal. And serve him the (Texas Martini) margarita at Chuy's.

                    And Daylight Donuts or Krispy Kreme are decent American options.

                    A fried platter of seafood (esp hush puppies) would be ethnic food to him (Fish Market).

                    And there are no great bars in Bham, but options include On Tap, Parkside, Black Market Bar.

                    And please let us know what his take is on the places you take him.

                    1. re: chrystan

                      Take him to the Bright Star, especially if he's here for Commander's Palace week. If he is intrigued by Mexican food, definitely a taqueria like Gordo's on Valley and the Guzman taco truck on W. Valley. Creative take on American food: Ollie Irene.
                      Sorry I'm late. Welcome!

                      1. re: Big Daddy

                        The Bright Star is a great idea - and you should take a trip to Tuscaloosa and get ribs at Archibald's (and see the art museum -- it's a shame he'll leave before A-Day). Visitors from abroad prefer American wine and beer while they are here -- and boubon, not scotch. Like everyone else, they like to immerse tehmselves in the local culture. They like huge shopping malls. He'll love 5 Guys and lunch at the Farmer's Market and Mexican places on Valley Road and Q& S. I would take some day trips - one up to the mountains (state park near albertville or mentone), one to the black belt, one to the art museum in fayette, one ot a lake if you get a hot day. Listen to some bluegrass.