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Birmingham Restaurants is Birmingham, Alabama's premier dining site. It offers a guide by both location and cuisine, video tours of restaurants, complete restaurant profiles with pictures and all of the details, a food and wine calendar and restaurant reviews, by columnist Jan Walsh, as published in Birmingham magazine.
As described in the following article in the NY Times, Birmingham has a vibrant restaurant scene.
Regular visitors to Birmingham know that it has a wide variety of excellent dining spots and the restaurant business here is highly competitive. Restaurant owners must provide very good food, service and value to survive. Here are a few dining suggestions for those of you who are not familiar with the city's dining options.
Fine Dining: If you are looking for the finest food regardless of budget...
1) Highlands Bar and Grill - was rated by Gourmet magazine as the #5 restaurant in the United States. Chef Frank Stitt has been repeatedly mentioned in numerous travel and food magazines and is widely recognized in the industry as one of the finest chefs in the country. http://www.highlandsbarandgrill.com/p... Highlands Bar and Grill is an institution on Five Points South, a popular dining and nightlife area. This bistro has an excellent bar adjacent to the restaurant and serves a martini that will compete with the finest anywhere. In operation for 24 years. AAA 4-DIAMOND rated. http://www.highlandsbarandgrill.com/
2) Bottega - also owned by Frank Stitt. Located on the Southside about half a mile from Five Points South. Bottega is split into two parts, a casual side that features lighter fare with a large bar and on the other side - a more traditional restaurant section. Fresh seafood, chops and steaks are featured in this local favorite that has operated in the same location for the past 18 years. http://www.bottegarestaurant.com/rest...
3) Ocean - as the name implies, this seafood restaurant with a superb oyster bar is located in Five Points South. Fresh seafood prepared a variety of ways. AAA 4-DIAMOND rated. http://www.birminghammenus.com/ocean/
4) Fleming's Steak House - this small national chain has superb steaks and a modus operandi that is typical of American steakhouses now. Everything is a la carte and the steaks alone are priced between $25 - $35 with each salad and side dish running between $6-$11. The atmosphere is warm with a handsome decor. Expect to spend $75 - $100 per person if you have a 3-4 course meal with alcohol. Superb food and excellent service. Located in The Summit on Highway 280. http://www.flemingssteakhouse.com/
5) Ruth's Chris - You have likely eaten at one of these locations somewhere else in the country. Similar to Fleming's it runs a close second. Located in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Homewood.
6) Don Shula's Steak House - same as Fleming's and Ruth's Chris. Located in the Winfrey Hotel at Riverchase Galleria shopping mall....a huge indoor mall located at I459-U.S. 31 South.
7) Gian Marco's. This is a small 50 seat Italian restaurant tucked away on a residential street in Homewood, a close in suburb of downtown Birmingham. Owner and Bronx native Gianni Respinto offers superb Italian fare in an upscale environment. This restaurant is extremely popular with locals and reservations are a must. This place is worth finding and driving to.
8) Copper Grill. This is a local lobster and steak house that has excellent food but gets mixed reviews on service from locals. A large lobster tank greets visitors and the food quality is outstanding. This is located outside Brookwood Village shopping center and has a superb atmosphere. Eat here if you want surf and turf and are willing to deal with potentially aggressive waiters who are known to 'upsell' appetizers and entree's to patrons. You will likely have a great quality meal and spend $75-$100 per diner including alcohol. http://www.birminghammenus.com/copper...
9) Hot and Hot Fish Club. Don't know where chef Chris Hastings came up with the "club" name for his award winning seafood restaurant over 10 years ago but this place is not a club. It is a small, superb seafood restaurant located on Birmingham's South Side tucked away off Highland Avenue. A constantly changing menu of seafood items is featured with fresh ingredients. If you are not a seafood lover, beware... there is only one beef item at the bottom of the menu! Superb bouillabaisse. http://www.hotandhotfishclub.com/
10) Bombay Cafe. Chef Darrel Borden has operated this fine dining restaurant in the Lakeview section of Southside for over 19 years. Another winner in terms of white table cloth upscale dining. Prices are more moderate that some competitors and I have always had a good meal there with excellent service. http://www.birminghammenus.com/bombay...
11) Sol Y Luna. Are you a tapas fan? If you are, try Sol Y Luna, located in Lakeview about three doors down from Bombay Cafe'. An extensive menu of tapas and upscale expensive tequilas are provided by Chef Guillermo Castro a native of Guadalajara Mexico. Chef "Memo" has a degree in architecture and has been in the restaurant business in the city for the past 14 years... Very fun atmosphere and decor. Expect to spend $50 per person including food and beverages but this is a fun alternative to the usual upscale fare. Los Angeles, a sister restaurant featuring upscale Southwest cuisine is located next door. http://www.birminghammenus.com/solyluna/ & http://www.birminghammenus.com/losang...
12) Fox Valley. If you are willing to drive a bit (or are staying in a hotel south of Birmingham) drive to Fox Valley located about 20 miles south of downtown. This is another longterm mainstay in the city's dining scene having operated out of the same location for the past 16 years. A Wine Spectator Award of Excellence Winner nine years running. Claims to have served 200,000 crab cakes since opening. Worth the drive. http://www.birminghammenus.com/foxval...
13) The Bright Star. When you look up the definition of "destination restaurant" in the dictionary, you will see The Bright Star. This is one of the few restaurants in the United States that has been in continous operation for a century, currently celebrating its 100th birthday. They must be doing somthing right. Frankly, locals have flocked there for years and the owner had to expand yet again about five years ago to handle the demand. So why is it a 'destination restaurant'? Because it is located in an old, rundown part of the metro area called Bessemer which is a part of the city's fading steel history. You must make it your "destination" to go there because nobody would drive to downtown Bessemer for any other reason. The Bright Star may remind you of The Tadich Grill on California Street in downtown San Francisco (opened in 1847). It has survived and prospered as a seafood centurian offering great fish in a traditional setting, served by professional, veteran waiters - not college kids. Like Tadich, The Bright Star is not trendy, but filled with rich traditions and great dishes that locals have enjoyed for generations. Few restaurants in the world can boast this. http://www.wcities.com/en/record/,267...
14) Cafe DuPont. Another AAA 4-DIAMOND restaurant. Once again.... known for its seafood and continental dining. Owner Chris DuPont has a big hit on his hands. Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham on 20th Street. If you are staying at a downtown hotel - avoid their restaurants and take a quick cab ride ($5) to Cafe DuPont. You won't regret it. http://www.birminghammenus.com/cafedu...
16) Prarie Fire Grill. This Southwestern, contemporary restaurant is an excellent choice if you are in the Highway 280/Inverness/Greystone area. Order the duck and don't look back. http://www.birminghammenus.com/prairi...
Moderately pricedlocal favorites include
1) The Pita Stop. This Lebanese restaurant has operated on the Southside for over 15 years and has expanded twice to meet demand. Excellent homemade Hummous dip and a great chicken kabob platter at excellent prices make this a winner if you want Lebanese fare. Atmosphere and decor are average however.
2) Nabeels. Has similar fare to The Pita Stop and is located in a nice neighborhood in Homewood - a suburb close to downtown. Owner-operator John Krontiras has a winning formula here that is well liked by locals. http://www.nabeels.com/
3) The Fish Market...is indeed a fish market featuring fresh snapper, grouper, shrimp and oysters pulled from the Gulf of Mexico only hours before being put on ice at this local eatery located in the UAB Medical Center. This is a Birmingham gem. Located in a renovated warehouse across from The Kirklin Clinic, The Fish Market is without a doubt #1 in food value in the city. Owner George Sarris has been in the seafood business in Birmingham for 30 years and uses his own trucks to bring the freshest seafood from Bayou La Batre, AL and Destin, FL for retail sale or to be served in this local favorite. Sarris also has strong relationships with suppliers in Boston, Miami and Naples. Traditional Greek and Mediterranean seafood dishes include grilled Snapper Athenian covered with grilled onions, feta cheese, tomatos and salonika peppers - all served for about $9-$13 including salad. Lunch items are priced lower. The atmosphere is fun with a Greek theme throughout. This is a self serve restaurant though, so be prepared to stand in line for 10 minutes or so during peak periods. Beautiful oyster bar with wine and beer only.
3) Surin West has operated a very popular Thai restaurant in Five Points South for approximately 10 years. Good, spicy Thai favorites and a nice atmosphere make this a good option for Thai dining. Sister restaurants include Surin of Thailand in Mountain Brook and Surin downtown.
4) Mexico Lindo. This is a Mexican restaurant owned and operated by a man and his sister (the bartender) from Mexico City. This is not Tex-Mex and as a result has quite a bit of fish on the menu including great Fish Tacos. I like the decor which is decidedly "not TexMex". Located close to downtown in Mountain Brook.
5) Cocina Superior. Upscale Tex Mex in a beautiful setting located at Brookwood Village. This restaurant has a very expensive interior that has nothing to indicate that it is a Mexican restaurant - a great atmosphere. Superb selection of Tequilas. The oysters are superb. Try them!!
6) Superior Grill. Operated by same owners as Cocina Superior in a traditonal Tex-Mex environment in Inverness/280. http://www.superiorgrillbirmingham.com/ Remiscent of a Pappasitos restaurant in Texas.
7) Iguana Grill on Lorna Road in Hoover is the latest addition to this list of fun, distinctive Mexican restaurants. The Iguana Grill is located in a new, small strip center on Lorna Road that is owned by local Mexican businessmen. This eatery has an expensive and distinctive decor and excellent food at very reasonable prices. Highly recommended and worth the drive.
8) All of the top rated BARBEQUE places including:
Full Moon http://www.fullmoonbbq.com/, Demitri's, Dreamland, Johnny Rays http://www.johnnyrays.com/ and Golden Rule http://www.goldenrulebbq.com/. What should you expect from Birmingham barbeque? PORK. This ain't Texas folks so don't always expect to find beef. When ordering a sandwich locals often ask for their meat to be chopped...and if you are really local - you can ask for "outside chopped" (which includes a bit of the charred exterior) or "inside chopped" which is only the inner juicy meat. If you want to impress with your local BBQ knowledge, order "chopped half and half" which will include a little of both. RIBS. Ribs here are wet and sloppy and great. If you have not eaten BBQ ribs from this part of the country, don't wear your nicest clothes and try a short sleeved shirt. Like KFC, they're 'finger lickin' good' . They are all authentic and excellent. If you like pie, go to Johhny Rays and roll out of there after eating a BBQ plate and a big slice of pie. You won't need to eat for the next day or so.
9) Chinese favorites include: Golden City, Ming's Cuisine and Shangri-La.
10) Thai Emerald is an excellent choice if you are in the Highway 280 area of Inverness or Greystone.
11) La Paz is a fun Southwestern, Tex-Mex joint located in Mountain Brook's Crestline Village. A solid 12 year performer locally keeps its menu fresh by rotating in new dishes frequently. http://www.lapaz.com/
12) Brio Italian Restaurant is located outside Brookwood Village in a beautiful facility with towering ceilings. This is a highly successful chain out of Ohio that is very popular in major markets across the U.S. Recommended...good food, service, location. http://www.brioitalian.com/locations/
13) McCormick and Schmicks. Another well regarded national chain that operates in major cities across the U.S. A huge seafood selection with fish from four oceans. Extensive list of fresh oysters and a beautiful free standing building located outside of Brookwood Village...both M&S in Washington, and Las Vegas are super.... http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/i...
14) The Village Tavern. You will love this place! This is a small chain out of North Carolina and has hit a winning combination of atmosphere, great variety of food at fair prices and great service. You can get anything here from a large variety of salads and a burger or two - all the way up to rack of lamb and huge steaks. An extremely warm and intimate setting located in The Summit, next door to Flemings Steak House. http://www.villagetavern.com/location...
15) P.F. Changs. OK so you have probably eaten at one of these somewhere in the U.S. What makes this one different? If you are visiting the city in the Spring or Fall and want to eat outside while having a 10 mile view of the mountains south of town, go there early. The food is consistent with other locations across the country with a view to die for....located in The Summit on Highway 280. http://www.pfchangs.com/location/loc_...
16) The Cheesecake Factory. Like P.F. Changs you may have visited one of these somewhere else in the country. In city after city, The Cheesecake Factory is often rated as one of the top ten restaurants. A staggeringly large menu covering virtually every cuisine at downright reasonable prices make this place a hit. Each restaurant is beautful, does not take reservations and is invariably mobbed every night of the week by patrons wearing everything from cutoff shorts/Tshirts to coat and tie. Forget it on weekends unless you have the patience of Job...located at The Summit. A good strategy here is to never dine in, but order take out. The take out menu is approximately 12 pages long!! http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/m...
17) Carrabba's. Another good quality chain restaurant known for traditional Italian recipes. If you have eaten at a Carraba's somewhere along the way during your travels and like it - you can find this one on Highway 280 in the Inverness area. http://www.carrabbas.com/menu.asp
And here is eating on a BUDGET....
1) Rojo. This is a cool joint frequented by the young crowd on Birmingham's South Side. Located across from Rushton Park, Rojo owner Clark Lopez, a native of Peru has offered a fun menu of Latino and Southwestern cusine for several years. Rojo has a fun rustic decor and is self serve but has a nice bar with a fairly extensive list of imported beers. This is not hard to find if you can follow Highland Avenue about a mile out of the commercial areas and into the beautiful residential area of Southside. A fun, out of the way inexpensive gem. http://www.birminghammenus.com/rojo/
2) Tazikis Greek Fare - This is a self serve restaurant located in a new strip center on Highway 280 in Mountain Brook. Nice salad and lamb dishes are available at super prices. Located next to the Hampton Inn. If you are staying there and don't want to drive, give it a try.
3) Moe's Southwest Kitchen. This is a fun, creative franchise organization with various locations. A variety of tacos and burritos with clever names are served made-to-order while you watch using fresh ingredients. Decent selection of beer is available and you will enjoy the funny oil paintings of Jerry Garcia and others on the walls. This is a quick stop and a good price.
4) Sol Azteca has traditional Tex-Mex fare served by a family of three brothers from Northern Mexico. Located on Highway 31 South in Vestavia in a nice little strip center on the high side of the highway. Their homemade salsa as it tastes like it just came out of the blender with lots of fresh tomatos and cilantro. If you go on a Friday or Saturday night, get there early or hit the bar while you wait on your table. Downright excellent portions at around $10 a pop...
5) ) Zoe's Kitchen features salads and chicken dishes with a Greek flair. Various locations with clean, updated decor. http://www.zoeskitchen.com/
6) Que HongVietnamese Restaurant. While there is virtually no atmosphere at this eatery located in the Green Springs area, it has good fresh food that is frequently not only by Southeast Asians in the city but by Chinese residents as well. If you are a Vietnamese fan, go by and see them....
7) Curry in a Hur ry is an Indian eatery located in a former pool hall in 5 Points South. As the name implies, this is fast food made while you wait.
8) Sabor Latino offers "South American" cuisine according to the sign inside their restaurant located in a strip mall on a hill in the Green Springs shopping area immediately outside of Birmingham and close to I-65. Owned by a family from Peru, Sabor Latino offers utterly huge portions at downright reasonable prices in a dark decor. Don't come for the atmosphere, but if you are hungry and on a budget, you can load it up at Sabor Latino.
John's City Diner is great for vegetarians. Check out this link.
Birmingham Dining Southern Cuisine -Southern Style Soul Food at it's best. Located on the east side of Birmingham off the Oporto Madrid exit of interstate 59/20. Don't let the location fool you, just one taste and you will think you are back in your grandma's kitchen. See their online menu here: http://www.birminghamdining.mobi
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