A couple of weekends ago, I had the greatest email pop into my inbox from Garden & Gun asking me if I wanted to go explore Birmingham with Alabama Travel for a piece they’re working on about the diverse food scene in Birmingham. After jumping up and down in my chair, I immediately said yes and started planning my itinerary with them. The focus were James Beard-nominated chefs and restaurants as well as some cool new places that have just hit the scene and are making quite a bit of noise in the restaurant community. Check out the digital feature with Garden & Gun here.
If you want a romanticized description of what Chelsea (my friend who accompanied me on my trip) and I did for our three-day stint in The Magic City, explore the daily recap from day one, day two and day three at each respective link. If you want to plan a trip to Birmingham and follow in our food footsteps, follow this link to see our map for each day!
Before Garden & Gun reached out to me to co-produce this story with them, I was just on the brink of planning a trip to BHAM to experience it for myself. As a quick 2.5 hour drive from Atlanta, it’s been on my to-visit list for quite some time since all of my friends who have visited have shared nothing but wonderful things about their time there. My former boss who grew up in Birmingham gave me a list of all of her favorite places and had some of her relatives share some of their favorite BHAM experiences as well. Without them, I wouldn’t have brought home the most delicious loaf of sourdough as a foodvenier. *note: if the term BHAM offends anyone in Birmingham like Hot-lanta does for us Atlantans, please let me know and I will amend the copy.
If you haven’t ventured to Birmingham, you’re sorely missing out on a bevy of unique opportunities that await. Not only do they house a fantastic collection of James Beard associated chefs and restaurants, but the city is still brimming with small town charm and has a lengthy list of neighborhoods surrounding it to explore.
Our most anticipated dinner at the Highlands Bar & Grill started the three-day food tour after a full day of nibbling on some biscuits from Alabama Biscuit Co., bratwursts from Brat Brot, and the famous orange smiley face cookie from Savages Bakery. With full stomachs, we wobbled our way back to the Redmont Hotel to sleep off the food coma that had settled in.
The next morning, we woke early to check out the new Essential coffee shop opened by the owners who previously operated Feast & Forest and lingered there a while nibbling on pastries and sipping on cappuccinos before heading up Morris Avenue to check out the revitalizing neighborhood. Next, we drifted across town to the Forest Park neighborhood to visit Shoppe Birmingham– which as a budding garden enthusiast, I couldn’t wait to explore and photograph. Shoppe exceeded expectations in so many ways from the artfully decorated greenhouse to the interior rooms filled with unique gardening tools- falling in love was not hard to do.
When lunchtime rolled around, we went off in search of some fine BBQ at none other than Saw’s Southern Soul BBQ. There are a few outposts around town and we found ourselves at the Homewood location. If you like mixing your traditionally sweet BBQ sauce with the vinegar based Carolina sauce, you’re going to love Saw’s Sauce. My only regret was not bringing a bottle home. To get our sugar fix, we headed to Big Spoon Creamery for one of their famous ice cream sandwiches and a scoop of seasonal peach ice cream. We had gone into the ice cream parlor vowing ourselves to only have one bite before throwing caution to the wind and devouring both confections down to the last crumb. For dinner, we cleaned ourselves up and dined at Hot N Hot Fish Club taking note from the locals to order the tomato salad and two seasonal fish dishes. Looking for a twinge of fun, our evening ended at the Atomic Lounge– an awesomely eclectic bar with different decade themed rooms, a wall of costumes you can wear, games on every table, a nod to Sargent Pepper as their bar mural, and broken box tv’s flashing “Atomic Lounge” subliminally throughout.
Our final morning was spent tasting different vendors at Pepper Place Market, like Hero Doughnuts, and picking up some provisions for home before heading to the Continental Bakery for some of their famous sourdough, a spot of coffee, and a fresh pastry. Our lunch plans to dine at Johnny’s Restaurant were deterred sadly (I had heard amazing things!) so we found ourselves at the health food spot, Real & Rosemary, before exploring the rest of the Homewood neighborhood, running off for a quick popsicle at the original Steel City Pops, and taking the elevator to the top of the Vulcan Statue. We, unfortunately, had to call it quits a bit early since my car was having a brake issue (the joys of owning a 2001 Land Rover Discovery) and we headed home without getting to try the other Chef Hastings restaurant, Oven Bird.
I truly didn’t think I was going to enjoy Birmingham as much as I did. I feel like there is still so much to explore what with a hearty list of amazing breweries, restaurants opening up every month, speakeasies the locals informed us about, and charming inhabitants who made us feel like we were a part of their family at every place we visited. Thank you to Garden & Gun and Alabama Travel for giving us this opportunity to explore the city in greater depth. Make sure to pick up a copy of Garden & Gun’s October issue on newsstands Sept 16th to see the full feature!
Know before you go: Birmingham is still a traditional and connected city. Everyone was curious who we were and why we were taking photos of our coffee. When mentioning the assignment we were on, they excitedly started telling stories of where we should go next, what they do for a living and where they live in proximity to what neighborhood we really were in. Don’t be in a hurry in this place, it won’t get you anything but agitation from the inhabitants. People move a bit slower but thankfully are kind enough to let you settle in at your own pace.