Where to eat in Birmingham, AL?
February 9, 2014 7:20 PM   Subscribe

It's another "where to eat question", sorry. Difficulty level: Valentine's weekend, gluten free, interracial same sex couple.

My sweetie and I are playing "meet in the middle" for Valentine's this weekend in Birmingham (yay!). I'm looking for restaurant suggestions. We're not necessarily looking for fancy, though fancy is not out of the question; basically, I'm just looking for suggestions and we'll figure out price points and what we feel like this weekend.

I'm gluten free, which knocks most commercial Chinese and Japanese off the table (though we love sushi and I can bring my own tamari). She's mildly lactose intolerant. Otherwise, we'll eat almost anything, with a preference for non-chain non-USian food (with the exception of BBQ).

As the shingle says, we're an interracial same sex couple, so somewhere two chicks obviously out on a date (we're not super PDAish, but we do hold hands in public when we can) aren't going to get hassled would be great. (I would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not a knock on Bham; I've been down to the city during Pride before and love it. It's just... a comment on life as an interracial same sex couple.) We won't actually be going out on Valentine's (we'll be driving in Friday night), which makes that easier, at least.

I've done some Googling, and we'll be hitting up Jim n' Nick's (though I'm happy to take suggestions for better BBQ, this seems to be the internet's consensus). Otherwise, Googling for gluten free Birmingham turns up a lot of chain food (which is totally fine if that's what we end up doing, but...) The last Birmingham food question I can find is from 2009, and while it has lots of great suggestions, I'd love newer ones too.

tl;dr: If you had one meal to eat in Birmingham this weekend, where would you eat? Cheap, fancy, and anything in between is welcome; we just want good food.
posted by joycehealy to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Joe's Italian, their service is great and their options for dietary needs are good, too.
posted by prototype_octavius at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2014

Jim 'N Nicks is really some good BBQ. Technically a chain, but a small one, and I'll put them up against a lot of mom-n-pop joints.

I live in-state, but far enough away that BHM's not quite my backyard, but here goes. Disclaimer: have not been there in years:

Silvertron Cafe

Next, may be pricier than you want, but I've met this chef and it's on my bucket list:

Hot and Hot Fish Club

Based on general part of town and the kind of cuisine they are, neither should be highly likely to contain diners that would hassle you. Of course, we're apparently not that bad about this sort of thing, generally... :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2014

Oh dear. :) When the Daily Show strikes... :) Like I said, I'm really not trying to say anything - I love Birmingham! - we've just had some bad experiences elsewhere and I'm likely feeling a little touchy.

I will totally watch that. After I stop goofing off here and get the rest of my grading done.
posted by joycehealy at 8:16 PM on February 9, 2014

I really love the Bottletree Cafe. It's very hipster, but there's next to no chance you'd be hassled there, & the food is delicious without being too pricey. I'm not super au fait on which of their menu items would be gluten-free, but you can check out their menu here.
posted by littlegreen at 9:23 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long-time B'ham resident, now ex-pat here. I'll second Bottletree as a good standby for hipster drinks and small plates food. Other options:

taj india: really really good indian food. I've lived on the west coast for years now, and I still come back to b'ham and go to taj.

rojo: cool mexican bar/restaurant in an amazingly walkable historic neighborhood. think sangria and dim romantic lighting.

niki's west: best soul food/meat and three place you'll find in b'ham. I promise. please go there. get the collards and greek style tilapia and be happy.

saw's bbq: in avondale, where all the cool kids are these days. better than jim and nicks.

Bottega: if you want a nicer place run by one of b'ham's better known chefs.

garage: one of my favorite bars in the US. horse stables turned antique hoarder's lair turned bar.

I can't imagine you'd get hassled at any of these places, except maybe niki's, which is pretty old school.

Have fun!
posted by silverspeak at 9:41 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jim & Nick's is some respectable bbq, but our current favourite is Saw's, either their bbq restaurant in Homewood or Saw's Soul Kitchen in Avondale. (Their smoked wings with white sauce are freaking delicious, too.) We're not gluten-free, but I know that a friend who is eats there.

For a romantic dinner, BitterOldPunk & I had a fabulous anniversary dinner at Vittoria Macelleria, which Urban Spoon lists as gluten-free friendly. (Then again, it's also tagged as vegan friendly, which is an odd description for a place that specializes in charcuterie.)

I will second the recommendation of The Garage for drinks, especially if it's nice enough to sit in the courtyard. Bring your camera.

I loved Rojo for a long time, but my last lunch there was disappointing, and apparently they're a bit hit-and-miss lately.

If you're checking out the Bottletree's menus, do take a look at their Sunday brunch. They do a good one, and the hours are a civilized 11-3. It looks like there are at least a couple of options that involve neither bread nor (possibly flour-thickened) cream sauce.

Hope you and your beloved have a wonderful, romantic, hassle-free weekend!
posted by elizard at 10:04 PM on February 9, 2014

This may not be what you're looking for, so I'm just putting it out there. Two of the most lauded and respected restaurants in the US are in Birmingham.
Hot and Hot Fish Club
Highlands Bar and Grill
Multiple James Beard Awards between them.
posted by tmharris65 at 2:22 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have no idea what the crowd is like there, but I have to throw in my two-cents for The Bright Star.

Lots and lots of menu options, so you should be able to do gluten-free without hassle.

It's in Bessemer, and whenever I was in town to visit the steel mill, we'd do lunch at the Bright Star.

I can vouch for the snapper throats. And I NEVER eat fried fish.

Also a James Beard award winner.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on February 10, 2014

Returning to add:

1. Meant to attach a caveat to my post: not being gluten-free, I'm a bit ignorant about what you may not be able to eat. (I know enough to know that it's astounding what can contain gluten, but not what those things might be.) I hope I didn't steer you wrong there, and apologies if my suggestions were way off for that.

2. Oh, holy cats, yes, Highlands. Some of the most delicious food you will ever put in your mouth. My dad still talks about the wild mushroom & applewood ham grits he had when he visited us 2 years ago.
posted by elizard at 6:48 AM on February 10, 2014

Long time resident here.

Fancy tier: Highlands Bar and Grill (5 years running a James Beard Best Restaurant Nominee, which is fairly impressive), Hot and Hot Fish Club, Bottega. Highlands and Bottega are Frank Stit restaurants, who pretty much made the good food scene here.

Sub Fancy tier : Chez Fon Fon (sister restaurant of Highlands, some great dishes but much less pricey), Bottega Cafe (same deal, less expensive but still not super cheap).

Hip places : El Barrio (great, expect to wait though), Bottletree Cafe, Saw's, the Paramount (just opened, opened by the same group from Trattoria Centrale and El Barrio. Sports Bar vibe, but with old school video games. Skeeball, etc. Elevated bar food. Haven't eaten there, but the chefs are great so I'd expect it to be). I don't agree Saw's is all that. I'd recommend Full Moon as the best BBQ in town, but everyone here has an opinion about that. Jim N Nicks in 5 points has introduced Nashville Hot Chicken, however, and it is mighty tasty.

Sunday Brunch (if you are still around): Trattoria Centrale or Dyron's.

Drinks: I'd highly recommend hitting up the Garage, Avondale Brewery or Bottletree.

You won't get looks or hassled at any of these places. I think it's much better than you expect, although I can understand your reservations.
posted by dig_duggler at 6:56 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, it's Frank Stitt, not Frank Stit....grumble grumble.
posted by dig_duggler at 7:26 AM on February 10, 2014

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