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In N Out Grill - Hoover

Let's face it - we've got a nice selection of Middle Eastern/Greek style places around town and some are better than others. When my friends told me about this place, they said they had been told it was good Turkish food. As I've never had true Turkish food, I was intrigued, and jumped at the chance to go. (And no, much to my dismay, this is not Turkish food, rather the standard Middle Eastern fare. The owner is from Jordan, so if anything, that is the take on his offerings.)

The recommendation to try In N Out came from a bunch of military guys who have served duty in the Middle East. I took that to be a good enough recommendation to give the place a try yesterday. Though I'd like to talk to the individual who said this was Turkish food. He may have been commenting on the milder spices used when compared to that of India.

Approaching the small storefront shop that is situated between Academy Sports and Stein Mart on HWY 150 in the Wal-Mart shopping center, I couldn't help but notice the large signs suspended on PVC poles that were meant to be attention grabbers. The sign on the storefront advertised Mediterranean/American food. My first impression was not a good one, judging this book by the cover. But the promise of good food within was enough to put the first impression on hold, and venture inside.

The place is stark - some simple tables, a few curved booths, minimal decorations. A few simple pictures adorn the walls; nothing fancy. The smiling man behind the counter warmed the atmosphere, and made the three of us feel quite welcome. We later would find out this was the proud owner.

We were the only customers when we arrived - too late for the lunch crowd, too early for the dinner time guests. However, we lingered through our meal, trying different dishes and sampling desserts. By time we left the first of the dinner time diners were arriving.

The menu is full of your typical offerings you can find around town. As advertised by the large signs outside, they offer a selection of American style food as well as the Middle Eastern fare.

To begin we started with the Hummus Dip with pita. The hummus was creamy, smooth, delicately spiced with a good drizzle of light olive oil, this starter was gone before we knew it.

For our main entrees we ordered chicken schwerma wrap, lamb schwerma plate, chicken schwerma plate, and the lamb kabob & chicken schwerma plate (to go for later.)

The meats are moist, tender, and flavored very well but not over seasoned. The pita is tender and doesn't overwhelm the wrap. The tazziiki sauce was a fresh compliment to the sandwich. The plates are served with salad and yellow rice and your choices of hummus, tazziiki, or the in house special made baba ghanouj along with pita triangles.

A word on the house made salad dressing - it is very good. Made in house, the owner wouldn't tell me what all he puts into the salad dressing, but it was quite different, and tasty. The salad is typical iceberg salad mix with the addition of peppers, tomato slice, and bellpepper slice, but the house dressing lifts this lowly salad to something more.

The baba ghanouj is unlike any other I've sampled in town. An instant hit at our table, we will be coming back for more. Even my husband who thinks eggplant is to be despised, loved the baba ghanouj.

For dessert we tried both the Baklava and the Burma. The Baklava is the usual mixture of honey and walnuts baked into the thin sheets of phylo pastery. Burma was a new offering for us. Similar in taste to baklava, this contains pistachio instead of walnuts. A nice way to end a good meal. Should have tried their Turkish coffee to go with it, but did not. We'll have to give that a try next time.

The menu offers a selection of other items we did not sample yesterday, but will be back to try: Kibbi and Yogurt, Foul Dip (fava bean dip), Shish Tauk, Kafta, Manakeesh, Tabouli Salad, stuffed grape leaves, and sambosa.

The food was good overall. Good enough for us to want to return to try out the other Middle Eastern offerings. This place isn't going to make you stand up in your chair and proclaim it's the best place in town, but if you're looking for a slightly different take on the usual, it should be good.

Jun 17, 2012
Jannae in Central South

Birmingham's Chef Chris Hastings (Hot & Hot Fish Club) vs. Bobby Flay on Iron Chef

I won't spoil it in case folks were busy watching the Oscars last night and missed the program. But, from what I saw, Chef did an excellent job of bringing a bit of the 'Ham to NY.

He took up local ingredients, as well as specially designed plates by local potter Tena Payne.

Very nice to see one of our local Chefs bringing Birmingham to light in a positive manner.

Excellent write up in this morning's Birmingham News.

Feb 27, 2012
Jannae in Food Media & News

Bham - Red Pearl Dec 2011 Chowdown

Sounds like a wonderful time! Very, very sorry I missed it.

Dec 10, 2011
Jannae in Central South

A good first time out.

I've driven by there a few times and wondered if they were any good. We'll have to check it out!

Oct 07, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

It was great to see you and your wife at Ollie Irene's last night Curej. It was a mini-Chowhound reunion when BD arrived.

There are a few new items on the menu. I had the snapper with leeks, parsnips, mussles, and this sauce that was quite nice. Also, I tried their new shrimp bisque. I could have supped on that and their bread alone last night and been satisfied.

My table tried several of the new items including the snapper, shrimp bisque, shrimp salad, roasted garlic and cauliflower, the sauteed rapini, the newly revised flat-top chicken with rapini instead of the corn Curej had above, and the sweet potato and gnocchi.

The shrimp salad, an Asian influence salad, was good overall, but had a bit more of a bite than our diner was looking for last night.

The takeout I ordered for my husband was pretty good, even after it waited for him to eat some three hours later. The cooling in the fridge did not seem to mar the crispiness of the skin on the chicken, and it was as good reheated as he has had on site. That speaks well for the portability of their food, I think.

Drinks were spot on again last night. We tried their new punch, and think it would be super as a hot drink as well.

Can't wait to go back in a couple of weeks!

Oct 02, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

We had to introduce another couple to the plac tonight. Seemed like a good excuse to return after only a week of missing that flat-top chicken and ham plate. :)

Our friends were not disappointed. They will be returning and bringing their friends with them.

Sep 23, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Need Recommendations for Birthday Dinner - Birmingham Area

Thank you for the suggestions MG!

Sep 23, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Need Recommendations for Birthday Dinner - Birmingham Area

Birmingham Chowhounds, I need your help.

My husband wil be celebrating his 40th birthday this year, and I'm looking for a place to have his party. What I have in mind is a restaurant where they have a meeting room/banquet room where we can be a bit separated from the main dining area. I need seating for up to 25-35 people.

I'm planning to show a video during the dinner, and we are bringing our own cake. So, I'd like to have a place either where we can display the video via a projector on the wall, or plug in a DVD player into a TV mounted on a wall.

Guests will be buying their own dinner/drinks (please do not lecture me on how tacky this is - he's back in college, so money is tight for us.) As for type of food - he likes everything (except Indian), especially seafood, sushi, and a good hamburger. Price range - moderate.

I'm open to suggestions from as far South as Columbiana and as far north as Trussville/Argo/Springville. Would prefer to remain off of I-65 north, if possible. And, some of the folks invited do not drive on the highway.. so this needs to be somewhat easy for them to drive to.

Thanks for the help!

Sep 23, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Fox Valley Crab Cakes Available At Western Mt. Brook & Rocky Ridge

Evidently I've been living the sheltered life - I had no idea those creamy oh-so-good crab cakes Fox Valley makes can be purchased at the Western in both Mt. Brook and Rocky Ridge.

For those of you who think the drive down to Fox Valley is a bit far to go, here's a way to get your crab cake fix without making that drive.

Ironically Fox Valley is only 5 minutes from my house, so it's closer for me to go there.

Fox Valley Restaurant
6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

Sep 23, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

I completely agree, this place is an obsession with this household! One of our crew dreams of the flat-top chicken. He has a major man-crush on Zak and Chris for their food and drink mastery.

Sep 22, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

We went last Friday (09/16) for a friend's birthday. As a special treat, Chris brought out two plates of the house made "hog head cheese" as he called it.

BD, you are right, it's the most unbelieveable porky goodness I've ever tried.

We also tried another off menu item- the house made "Kit-Kat" bar, with a shot of milk. One bite, and I'll never buy the candy bar you get in the store. Good quality chocolate, crispy crunchy layer, decadent goodness.

Zak, the bartender, was given the challenge of delivering drinks to our birthday boy. The first was the Bankdweller, then they went off menu for a peach/mint combination that was as refreshing as it was eye catching with the fresh peach fuzz covered slices adorning the rim, and a nice long sprig of mint. That was followed by an eye opening playful anise/orange drink.

Like BD above, the ham plate is a must have for each and every trip, as are the house made boudin balls. We had three ham plates and two plates of boudin balls to pass around the table.

For our main, we had the flat-top chicken, slow roasted pork shoulder, catfish, and the breakfast plate.

The breakfast plate was the one dish we had not tried before. The baked egg, the crispy ham, pub fries, and tart salad were a perfect taste combination but the quantities left that diner looking for more.

Of course we all opted for desserts, and spent time passing spoons around for tasting the selection for our two friends who were new initates of Olie Irene's. They were so impressed with the place, they have plans of returning and bringing another couple with them to introduce them to the place. If I play my cards right I just might get the hubby to agree that we need to accept the invite to join them on Friday.

Sep 19, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

Loved the write-up BD! You need to check out their blog post regarding your stealth review. HAHA!

Sep 04, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

Drat, we'll have to coordinate our dinner's there next time. Would be good to see you and the family again! (As well as seeing Curej and wife, and the rest of the B'ham gang again.)

The slow cooked pork is melt in your mouth goodness. But, I was wanting to try something diferent, so went with the catfish.

I was going to try their fresh catch of the day, shrimp, but the catfish won me over.

Sep 03, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

Roomate's hubby, my hubby, and I went back to Ollie Irene's last night. The place was standing room only. We had a short wait (about 15 minutes), but were offered a temporary seat at the bar, which the men in my party declined. The staff were very friendly, and remembered we had just been there last Saturday.

When we were seated, we placed orders for three drinks: dark and stormy for my hubby, the pickled cherry lime Rickey for the roomate's hubby, and the brookdweller for me. We also sent in our orders for a meal of appetizers: boudin balls, the ham plate, and the crab claws.

The boudin balls and ham plate we had enjoyed on our last visit. The crab claws were a new venture. They are a marinated neat stack of tender, delicious crab claws with silverqueen corn salad. Pretty good, but we all decided the ham plate and boudin balls were the stars of the appetizer round.

For dinner the hubby went with the Ollie burger. The ground shoulder/brisket patty was much larger than the one on my burger over the weekend. The husband fell in love with the duck fat treated pub fries, and the flavorful burger.

I opted for the catfish. The catfish was raised from a lowly bottom dweller to the sublime. Two perfectly cooked fillets nestled among chopped bits of tender cajun ham and corn and green onions, with lemon butter sauce. Heaven!

The third member of our party revisited the flat-top chicken. He said it's a thing of beauty, and could not get the tender chicken out of his mind since our last visit. My husband sampled the chicken and declared it to be the best chicken he's ever had. (And I don't mind that their chicken even knocks my own chicken creations off the top spot, it's that good!)

They've added a bowl of cherries with mascarpone to their dessert menu. Don't let the simplicity fool you. Long stemmed fresh cherries surround a cloud of vanilla mascarpone.

The hubby tried out the lemon tart, and savored every bite. Normally he's not much for blueberries, but after one bite, he was sold on the tart.

I had the caramel/flan with a cup of their house coffee. What a way to end a fine meal!

If you have not yet made the trip over to Mountain Brook, do so today! They are located in the Western grocery store shopping center, sandwiched in between the Rite Aide and Smith's Variety.

The staff is very friendly, the atmosphere is homey, very comfortable. They've been open four weeks now, and from both visits, they appear to run like a well oiled machine. Things may be different back in the kitchen, but the customer's experience a flawlessly prepared meal.

Sep 02, 2011
Jannae in Central South

New Gastropub - Birmingham

I had dinner there tonight with the roommate (former chef and baker) and her husband.

We started off with drinks, a dark and stormy, and one of their special drinks listed on the specials board. We sampled some of the appetizers: the ham plate, cheese and crackers, and boudin balls.

BD, you were so on the money about the ham. It's a must try! The cheese and crackers and boudin balls were likewise delicious, but the ham plate with the marinated melon balls was the talk of the appetizers we selected.

For our entree we tried the Ollie burger, the pork shoulder, and the flatop chicken. You can tell they take the time to select the best ingredients and prepare them in a way that brings out the best of the product.

And, somehow we managed desserts - I had the rice pudding, my roommates had the lemon and blueberry tart and the peach tart as well.

By time we were finished with dinner, we were all sufficiently satisfied with the meal.

We'll be going back there (hopefully next weekend!) and often!

Aug 27, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Birmingham - new, or new to you?

Thanks for the tip BD. We'll have to give it a go next weekend.

Jul 17, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Busy Bee Burger in Chelsea?

Hm, that place is just down the road from where I work. I think the co-workers and I will have to give it a go and see how they are.

Jun 16, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Birmingham - new, or new to you?

The husband and I stopped in at Genghis Grill on HWY 31 in Hoover, in the same shopping plaza as 5 Guys Burgers.

Very much like the old Fire & Ice and Zyng that we liked on occasion.

Basically it's a buffet of raw food: various meats, veggies, seasoning, and sauces. You pick your selections, as much or as little as you wish, then take it over to the grill. They cook the food, add it to your choice of rice (brown, steamed, or fried) or pasta, and then bring it to you.

The hubby had a mixture of chicken, beef, scallop, shrimp, and squid along with his veggies and some kind of sweet and sour sauce. He had this over fried rice.

I selected chicken, shrimp, and squid, various vegges I thought would compliment the seafood, added garlic and ginger, and topped it off with their soy/honey sauce. This was then added over steamed rice.

We had barely sat back down at our table when the waitress brought our two meals over to the table.

The food was cooked very well, and I guess seasoned well for what we had. Next time, I'll add more garlic and ginger. But overall it was a good, somewhat healthy, alternative to the usual fare one finds as fast food in the area.

The one thing I like is you can go to their website and customize your bowl so you have an idea of the nutrients in your meal. I'm trying to be mindful of the carbs, so I knew going into my meal pretty much what I would be eating.

We liked it for the virtue that we can customize our meal without ticking off the kitchen, and the price was quite good. Lunch bowls are around $8 for a one time trip through the bar. Endless bowls run just over $10.

May 28, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Recent Bham eats

Finally got around to trying Flipburger over the weekend. The four at our table tried the D Lux, the steak tartare, and the more traditional bacon/cheese burgers, fried mushrooms, onion rings, and the buffalo sweetbreads. Of course we had the shakes - nutella and burnt marshmallow, the foie gras, the Krispy Kreme, and the orange/vanilla.

Everything was quite yummy, extremely rich (especially the d lux burgers with lobster knuckle, foie gras , red wine reduction, and truffle oil) and cooked to order.

I remember folks complaining about the overly loud music when the place first opened up - Sunday the music was down to a pleasing level, and you could actually have conversations with people at your table and those sitting across the way at another table if you wanted.

Our waitress was very attentive and informative as she gave us information about the various shakes, burgers, and side items. For those who ordered sodas, refills were generous and prompt in fresh glasses with ice. My water glass never reached half full (or half empty if you're looking at life differently) with the preemptive filling of my glass.

Would I go back? Sure. Would I blow my budget again by getting the most expensive burger listed? Probably not.

Apr 05, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Alabaster Area

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.

Fox Valley Restaurant
6745 Highway 17, Maylene, AL 35114

Mar 28, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Champaign-Urbana - Regional Recommendations

Thanks for the recommendation, we'll have to check it out.

Mar 07, 2011
Jannae in Great Lakes

Champaign-Urbana - Regional Recommendations

Thank you DD and PL for the tips. Even if there's no regional designation for the area, eating at the local non-national chain places will be great.

Mar 04, 2011
Jannae in Great Lakes

Best Thing I Ate All Week, Feb 20-26 (maybe we can do this every week?)

You slowly savor each and every bite, and wish you'd opted for the larger piece you gave to your spouse. As your spouse slowly consumes their slice of pie you begin to envision ways of stealing their pie, including rendering them unconscious. Then by some small streak of fortune, you remember there is more pie in the fridge. You happily sneak back to the kitchen and begin to nibble on the pie straight from the tin, thinking no one will notice the extra pie missing, or the smudge of powdered sugar on your chin.

Mar 03, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Best Thing I Ate All Week, Feb 20-26 (maybe we can do this every week?)

So far, the best thing I've had all week was the "crack pie" I made for our Oscar party on Sunday. (Found the recipe in the LA Times.) Course, I doubt that's what you're looking for DFK. :)

As for eating out - we've not been anywhere fancy. The best was a stop at Jim N' Nicks in Alabaster for riblets Tuesday night. Nice and smokey.

Mar 02, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Champaign-Urbana - Regional Recommendations

My husband and I will be visiting the Champaign-Urbana area in late April for about a week.

Coming from Alabama, we're looking to try out the regional favorites. Is there a cusine that defines the area? The "must go to" place that is found only in Champaign-Urbana region?

Is there something that's unique to that part of the state?

We're open to trying new things, all price points okay. Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner recommendations are greatly appreciated.

We'll be driving in on I-57, so any recommendations along the way are welcome as well.

Feb 28, 2011
Jannae in Great Lakes

Oscars 2011--menu ideas?

For Inception, if you think back to the cafe scene, they are sitting at an outdoor table with what appears to be coffe and some kind of a square cookie or biscuit. Or, you could have finger bowls with ice water in them for guests to use between courses.

Feb 23, 2011
Jannae in Home Cooking

B'ham fried chicken- Max's Deli of Seafood & Chicken Box?

The hubby and I were attending a meeting over in the Roebuck area last night, so we stopped by the SCB for dinner. He's never been, and it has been a while since I was there myself.

The waitress did say you can ask for a "light dusting" of the seasonings. So, we gave that a try, and it was actually not too bad.

The shrimp was pretty good, nice sized pieces battered and lightly dusted with what seems to be the same or similar crust as the chicken. The chicken leg I had to go with the shrimp was nice, very juicy with a good crust.

As for which I would prefer? I'm still leaning more towards Max's chicken, but SCB with a light dusting is a close almost tie to Max's chicken.

I noticed they also have grilled and blackened options on their menu. Must give that a try next time we're out on that side of town.

Feb 18, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Diet Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale

Check your local Publix store. If your store does not carry it, see if they will order it. I've done that a few times on other items with my local Publix stores, and it's worked out rather well.

Also, I checked out the Buffalo Rock Beverage Service web site and they are setting up a new retail online ordering system. It's not ready, however, the site ( gives the directions on how to order directly.

Feb 17, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Birmingham, Best Cheeseburger?

You had me at cheetos and sriracha.. then lost me at 5000 calories. You're killing my attempts to diet!

Jan 20, 2011
Jannae in Central South

Annual Wild Game Supper, Tonight at The Club, B'ham

So jealous we're not members. Be sure to let us know how it is!

Jan 19, 2011
Jannae in Central South