Surviving the week in Birmingham
November 22, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I will be visiting family near Birmingham, AL for just over a week. What should we see, eat, drink, and do? Where can we find the essentials like good coffee and cocktails? We've got reservations at Highlands Bar & Grill one night, but that's the only plan so far.

We've been there before, but this will be the first time we'll be there long enough to have time to explore the area--and long enough to get bored and potentially a little cranky if we can't indulge our spoiled West coast cityfolk desires. I'm not assuming that we won't be able to, I just don't know where to start looking. So where's the best place for really good coffee/espresso? What about (either going out or shopping for) fancy foods and well-made cocktails? Are there any awesome bookstores, bakeries, boutiques, or other shopping places we should check out?

Extra-special snowflake stuff: Is there a local sex/kink scene of note, or a great sex toy shop? A good place to shop for plus-sized clothing if I find myself in need? An awesome candy store or toy store?

We're actually staying in the Hueytown/Concord area, so recommendations for anything closer to there would be great, too.
posted by rhiannonstone to Travel & Transportation around Birmingham, AL (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Good call on Highlands. On the fine dining tip, I can also recommend Frank Stitt's other restaurant Bottega.

Other great eats:
Little Savannah
Sol y Luna

For coffee:
Urban Standard
Primavera Coffee
posted by hominid211 at 12:37 PM on November 22, 2010

I've heard tell that Jim Reed Books is unmissable.
posted by scruss at 12:54 PM on November 22, 2010

The Bottletree is good for music, food, drinks, sometimes show cool movies.
The Garage is good for beers, not sure about cocktails there, but they have a sweet patio if it's not too cold (think it's cash only).
There is also the upside down plaza, if you like your bars more dive-ey.
Rojo is good for casual food/drinks and it's around some parks.
The V Richards market is kind of cool.
The local free paper is called the Black & White, it'd have some ideas and should be easy to find in the downtowny places (probably not in Hueytown, which I don't really know anything about).
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 12:59 PM on November 22, 2010

Yeah, Highlands is teh yum.

Love Stuff is a sex shop in Hoover where the porn is overpriced but the toy selection is OK and the women who run it don't make me feel like a creepy skeeve. It also survives despite self-righteous squawking and repeated legal threats from the No Fun Allowed crowd, so I kinda love it for that.

I'm no help on coffee recommendations. I drink mine at home. But cocktails I can help with! If you want fru-fru drinks, check out The Blue Monkey. Next door to them, J. Clyde has a great beer list and delicious fried sauerkraut balls.
Yeah, really. Go to The Garage, also, which made the list of Esquire's Bars To Drink At Before You Die. But what Birmingham does really, really well is the dive bar. The Nick: a great little grotty rock club. Marty's, which closes at, I think, 6 AM, and is where the professional drinkers drink professionally. Or Rojo, a Mexican joint that feels like a dive bar and serves both delicious cheesy foods and cold beverages. Or Bottletree, a newer rock club with an all-vegan menu and excellent bartenders. (Hi, Greg! You rock!)

For less insalubrious entertainment, visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park, site of our national disgrace. Or take a day to check out the Barber Motorsports Museum; they've got some super cool motorcycles.

Drop me a MeFiMail, I'll buy y'all a
drink while you're in town.

On preview:

Oh yeah! Reed Books! Prepare to lose a day in there. It's like the magical used bookstore you've always dreamed about, run by PRECISELY the kind of guy who you would expect to be running a magical used bookstore.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010

Primavera Coffee is pretty delicious, but out of the way. Urban Standard makes a good cup of coffee too, and they're just a few doors down from Reed Books (aka The Museum of Fond Memories). Then go to Brick & Tin for lunch.

J. Clyde is my favorite beer bar, especially on Thursday nights (1/2 price low gravity pint night). Speakeasy has delicious drinks.

Little Savannah, Satterfields and Hot & Hot Fish Club are all great dinner places.
posted by wearyaswater at 4:52 PM on November 22, 2010

A little late, but I thought I'd come back and say thank you for all the great suggestions! I had a blast at Jim Reed's (and ended up having to ship my book purchases back home because there were too many to fit in my luggage), was grateful to find really good coffee at Primavera (and talk about the State of Coffee in the World with the guy behind the counter), and had one of the best brunches of my life at Little Savannah (my partner actually liked his meal better than the one he had at Highland).
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:23 PM on December 22, 2010

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