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Two Days in Birmingham, AL

If you want true soul food, Eagle's Restaurant off Finley Avenue (on 16th Street)is the real deal. Sunday lunch is great people watching. Oxtails, neck bones and fresh, often organic vegetables, old-school style.


May 14, 2015
Big Daddy in Central South

Two Days in Birmingham, AL

Since you have a little time, drive to the Avondale neighborhood (2rd Ave S and 41st St.; that part of town and downtown are laid out on a grid). There is a Saw's Soul Food there with the barbecue and all. Nearby is Avondale Brewery, with a very nice taproom. Post Office Pies, which makes it own cheese, sausages, etc. for its pizzas, is also on that street and very good. Main dude worked a Gramercy Tavern, Per Se and one of the Momofuku restaurants. 'Nuff said.
Birmingham's top restaurants are run by Beard winners Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Chez Fonfon) and Chris Hastings (Hot and Hot Fish Club). All are in the general Five Points South area. Cherz Fonfon (French bistro style) and Bottega Café (casual side, versus formal Italian in the main restaurant) are open for lunch.
But if you go out at night, I would recommend Ollie Irene in Mountain Brook Village. Chris Newsome, the chef/owner, is one of the creative new guard of chefs in a maturing food scene.
Here is an article about local chefs that may help.

May 06, 2015
Big Daddy in Central South

Where can I buy fresh seafood straight from the Gulf?

In heaven, all fish stores are like Joe Patti's. My sister-in-law lives less than a mile away, which makes me jealous because I live five hours away.

Nov 20, 2014
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham's Rising Food Scene: Meet the ones who got it started and those who are keeping it fresh

Both are excellent points and both sets were finalists for the story. I think the food truck phenomenon is worthy of its own examination, especially people putting out seriously good food like Shindigs.
But I question the degree to which the food trucks have influenced (as opposed to enhanced) the food scene in Birmingham. The exception may be Schofield and Russell, who I believe originated the David Chang-style pork-belly bun in Birmingham. (Did I win or lose my debate with myself?)
Among the ones I listed, whose food do you like best?

Nov 19, 2014
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham's Rising Food Scene: Meet the ones who got it started and those who are keeping it fresh

This post on al.com/Birmingham Magazine melds two articles I wrote. I want to get a discussion going on the latter: Did I get the new guard of Birmingham chef-owners? Who did I miss? Who is on the next list of chefs or budding chefs who will make a difference in the next five years?

Nov 12, 2014
Big Daddy in Central South

Update? Best special (seafood) hot and sour soup in birmingham?

I had a seriously good bowl of Hot and Sour Seafood soup at Great Wall on Valley Avenue. They do the sour just right.

Nov 08, 2014
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham real tacos

I need to go check that out. Recommendations?

Apr 08, 2013
Big Daddy in Central South

Five- BHAM

Link didn't work: Here's the review

FIVE YET TO ARRIVE Dishes don't quite earn their price tags
Eric Velasco
FIVE ***/5 744 29th St. South, 868-3841

Five is a happening place, judging from the crowds packing this new restaurant at the gateway to the Lakeview entertainment district.
On a recent Thursday, Five was filled with professionals in pairs or groups, while a few trolled the packed bar area. Ribs cooked on the exposed grill next to the hostess station.
Five is a great spot for a post-work wind down, a girls' night out, a date before hitting a club down the street or a festive Sunday brunch.
It's also a visual feast. Mismatched chandeliers and stained glass windows dangle from the tin ceiling. Giant images of Bear Bryant, the Dalai Lama, Dwight Eisenhower and the Beatles, as well as smaller paintings of flowers and photos of ball players, hang on exposed brick walls.
The ornate wooden bar is stunningly beautiful, sourced from several places and built around two large pieces of stainedglass art and a mirror cut to evoke the sun.
Five fits into the growing genre of gastropubs, restaurants that offer high-end food and cocktails but in a more casual atmosphere and for less than fine-dining prices. Ollie Irene is metro Birmingham's gold standard for this new breed.
Five's cheeseburger reflects the restaurant's ambition. The $13 price tag is not unprecedented (and is even exceeded) around town, but whoever charges that much had better deliver. Five's version is a satisfyingly meaty, juicy, house-ground
patty accompanied by thin, hand-cut fries with huge potato flavor.
But among the many hits coming out of Five's kitchen were a few misses. Perhaps those are better described as opportunities to reach full potential in the latest restaurant from an accomplished ownership group that includes Chuck's Fish in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa and the well-regarded Dharma Blue in Pensacola, Fla.
Five's menu is built around a simple premise, offering five each of ''snacks'' (appetizers), entrees, ''signature cocktails,'' red wines, white wines, regional microbrews and macro beers. There's also one nightly special, one dessert and one beignet option on the Sunday brunch menu.
The inherent limits of that simplicity can backfire. You'd better like white chocolate bread pudding ($8), or you won't have dessert at Five. And vegetarians should wait for Sunday brunch.
Appetizers are portioned to share, but are not overwhelming for a solo eater. Spring rolls ($6) are big and meaty, served with an amped-up version of the sweet/spicy dipping sauce served in Thai restaurants. Another hit was Uptown Shrimp ($11), crisp fried shrimp slathered in a savory slightly sweet sauce. The bowl, a fried spring roll skin, is edible.
Yoshie's Chicken ($7) is bits of fried chicken dressed in aioli with sriracha. A squeeze of lime helped the overall flavor but the sauce could have used a bit more kick.
In Baked Avocado ($7), the creaminess of warm avocado played beautifully with sweet smoky bacon, briny shrimp and a
spicy binding sauce. But the presentation, a half avocado served on a carrot and microgreen salad, was odd. The salad was too warm to eat, but it wasn't an efficient holder for the avocado skin, either. Maybe this would work better as a dip in a bowl, not the skin.
The baby back ribs ($8 appetizer; $18 Wednesday night special) didn't work. The appetizer portion included five ribs, cut for maximum meatiness. But it was overly salty. Barbecue and sauces are extremely personal preferences, but the two sauces, one red and vinegary and the other black (burnt molasses?), did not rank among my favorites.

Five traces its roots to the Harbor Docks seafood market in Destin, Fla. But the fish at Five didn't always live up to that promise.
The Thursday-night special is Grilled Gulf Fish ($27), recently black grouper. You won't walk away hungry from this one; not only is the grouper a nice-sized portion, but the side of polenta with jalapeno and gouda cheese is huge. The fish was very tasty, too. But it was slightly overcooked. At that price, I expected better.
The salad, included with all entrees, exceeded expectations. Microgreens adorned with dried and fresh fruits and slivered nuts were refreshingly perfect for summer.
The stuffed shrimp ($23) really disappointed. The centerpiece - four large bacon-wrapped shrimp, filled with a could-be-crabbier crab mixture - didn't justify its price tag. Many diners will need all or most of the huge side serving of garlic mashed potatoes to walk away full.
Don't miss the Big Easy atmosphere of Sunday brunch at Five, which includes $2 mimosas and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar ($8).
Beignets were good, although pricey at three for $6. The accompanying caramel apple bourbon sauce was incredible. Bananas Fosters French Toast ($12) had a nice toasted banana flavor, with fruit sliced on top and whipped cream on the side.
Wings 'N' Waffles ($12) was an interesting take on the soul food classic. The thick honey-walnut Belgian waffle with whipped butter and maple syrup was good. But the fried chicken wings, which were breaded, could have used more seasoning.
Vegetarians won't be the only fans of Veggie Benedict ($13), a nutty whole-wheat English muffin topped with poached egg, sauteed veggies (zucchini and squash recently) and Hollandaise.
The strawberry-mango parfait that came with it was a hit with the adult who ordered it, but an even bigger hit with her 7-year-old daughter.
The contrast among staff uniforms - bow-tied bartenders versus servers in logo t-shirts - can be seen as a metaphor for the Five experience. The bartender uniform shows how the restaurant wants to be taken seriously, while the server uniform reflects a studied hip vibe.
To some customers, pricey entrees will be less appealing when delivered by someone in a t-shirt. But when Five is in full swing, many patrons will be having too much fun to notice. Eric Velasco is a staff writer for The Birmingham News.

AMBIENCE Visual feast, hip atmosphere Hours: Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. -2 a.m.; Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Prices: Appetizers, $6-$11; entrees, $13-$24; nightly specials, $12-$27; brunch, $12-$13. Alcohol: Cocktails, beer, wine Credit cards: Yes Personal checks: No Reservations: No Health Department rating: Not yet rated DETAILS Address: 744 29th St. South Phone: 868-3841 Rating: Three out of five stars Hours: Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. -2 a.m.; Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Prices: Appetizers, $6-$11; entrees, $13-$24; nightly specials, $12-$27; brunch, $12-$13 Alcohol: Cocktails, beer, wine Credit cards: Yes Reservations: No

Jul 26, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

BHM - Current favorite, light(er) dishes this summer at local restaurants?

It wasn't exactly light, but the rabbit ragout with house-made pasta occasionally on special at Ollie Irene last month was so, so good. It was rich, rabbity down-home comfort food, veering into Spain with the occasional olive. If Wil E Coyote ever caught Bugs, this is the recipe he should use.

Jul 16, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Vegetarian in B'ham

Go to Chez Lulu. Plenty for the vegetarian. Plenty for the omnivoire. Funky but charming atmosphere. English Village.
Or go to a nice Italian place like Gian Marco's, Bottega, Bettola. All have plenty of vegetarian options. Indian restaurants Silver Coin, Taj India, Sitar all have numerous vegetarian options.

Jul 16, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals

Thank you. This is helpful. We definintely were eyeing Claunch and spending time at the park. These are other great ideas we can put in the hopper.

Jun 29, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals

We're considering a family trip to Helen Keller's birthplace in a couple of weeks. Any dining suggestions around there from the 'Hounds?

Jun 26, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham Serious Knife Sharpening

Talk to Susan at Birmingham Bake and Cook, 980-3661. Her shop is in Inverness, down Valleydale Road a bit from the U.S. 280 intersection.

Jun 11, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Bhm - Where do you buy your spirits?

You hit my two favorite places.

May 22, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

BHM - Food Truck Round-Up tomorrow

Where do you live/what's your range?
Unfortunately the suburbanization of America has created this perverse division between what's accessible and what's not -- even within the same metro area.

May 22, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

BHM - Food Truck Round-Up tomorrow

It does miss the point. But then again, I feel the same way about $3+ tacos. The common denominator, and the main saving grace, is both can entice people who otherwise never would darken the doors of an authentic restaurant. (Or won't venture to Saigon Noodle House on 280, a newbie-friendly locale).

May 21, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

BHM - Food Truck Round-Up tomorrow

John T. Edge will be signing his book on food-truck food at Pepper Place in the morning, and will head from there to sample some food truck fare for an article. Frankly, if he doesn't hit Taqueria Guzman (the taco truck on West Valley), he's missing out. What other trucks should he hit, and why? (And yes, Shindigs' crispy pork belly buns should be high on that list).

May 18, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Grocery Stores in Bham

More arts and crafts at Pepper Place today than food vendors. In the spring, it pays to arrive early (heck, it ALWAYS pays to arrive early there). Only scraps left by 9:30. New meat vendors out there this year, too.

Apr 14, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Grocery Stores in Bham

For meat, also include New York Butcher Shop in Cahaba Heights (part of Vestavia Hills off U.S. 280) and Fresh Market on U.S. 280 near Inverness.
For produce, check out Murphree's fruit and vegetable market on Cahaba Heights, or (a little farther out) Andy's stand on Rocky Ridge Road. The Summit shopping center soon will have a Thursday farmer's market.
The Pig often has decent meat, especially when they put the Duroc pork chops on sale.
Decent wine selections are the MB Western, Whole Foods and to a lesser extent, NY Butcher Shop.
And when the Saturday farmer's market, Pepper Place, cranks up this month, you need to go. Not only for the produce, but also for locally and sustainably raised meats.

Apr 12, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

El Barrio -- Birmingham

It is thick with people in the evening -- lots of downtown workers waiting out the traffic and downtown denizens hanging out. But it is worth the wait.

Mar 13, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham Area Spots For A British Boyfriend Visiting First Time

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!

Mar 13, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham -- Anyone eating anything good these days?

Wow, that marrow appetizer sounds good.
Yes, Ollie Irene is a semifinalist for a JB Best New Restaurant, six months after it opened.
Highlands for Best Restaurant, Chris Hastings and Bettola's James Lewis for Best Chef of South and Nick Pihakis of Jim N Nick's for Outstanding Restaurateur -- all semifinalists.
Finalists to be announced March 19, and winners on May 9.
For a city of this size to have such a huge presence in the first cut for the Beard Awards is a testament to our restaurant scene and its budding maturity.
Nowadays, it's not just Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings, who have done so much to build our reputation. These nominations reflect the new approaches and new ideas -- with the same level of attention to quality, flavor and presentation -- we've been seeing around town at places like Bettola and Ollie Irene.

Feb 22, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham -- Anyone eating anything good these days?

I am a big fan of the Pho No. 1 at SNH, with the brisket, rare beef, tendon, tripe and meatball. Banh Mi #2, the one with the pate, is also much loved.
Last week I had another fabulous meal at OIlie Irene, an unbelievable french onion soup, sweetbread salad, house-made sausage and burrata with a house-made Sicilian pesto. Great food and great folks there.

Feb 21, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Missing Mancha's

From what I was told while researching tamales and Mancha's legendary version -- including by a guy whose mission once was to duplicate the recipe -- there are no tamales in Birmingham like theirs anymore. Closest you may come is the Mississippi style, but the consistency of the masa dough will seem wrong to the Mancha's fan.

Feb 13, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Birmingham -- Anyone eating anything good these days?

I've been digging El Barrio, especially the verduras tacos, ceviche tostadas and pastor tacos.

What's good out there for y'all? We've been too quiet lately.

Feb 10, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Lunar New Year cravings (any area)

True. But you'd better go tonight, because they're normally closed on Mondays.(I'm in negotiations with my family for tonight's dinner).
I used to make a steamed whole snapper "with five willowy shreds," in this case shredded ginger, garlic, cilantro, green onion and reconstituted dried mushroom, seasoned with some soy sauce, then finished with a spray of hot oil. MMmmmmmmmm.

Jan 22, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Lunar New Year cravings (any area)

Man, I miss dim sum. And I love the way those discs of rice cake soak up the sauce in the stir-fry.
Know what you mean about the moon cakes. And, if you're approriately polite, you have to eat the full moon.
I have not seen anything special in years past on Lunar New Year. But the one year I went to Chen's on LNY, it was packed out early.

Jan 20, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Lunar New Year cravings (any area)

Monday is the Lunar New Year, starting the Year of the Dragon.
What LNY cravings do y'all have?
For me, it the spicy beef tendon followed by sauteed snails at the Red Pearl in Birmingham, or the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Chen's in Hoover and the Taiwanese braised pork belly there.
It doesn't have to be Chinese (Koreans, Thais also observe the same new year day), but what do you want to eat on Jan. 23?

Jan 19, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

Bham - Red Pearl Dec 2011 Chowdown

We'd love for you to join us. To stay informed, join this discussion group (Chowhound does not like us planning these in this forum):
(If this link doesn't work, see the first post above.

Jan 08, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South

pizza/wings [Birmingham]

Their wings are much larger than BWW's, so you will get more cluck for your buck (sorry) if you do OT.

Jan 04, 2012
Big Daddy in Central South