Bringing back Birmingham
Once a fading American steel city, Birmingham is poised to make its mark among the great food towns of the South. Downtown’s formerly quiet streets are starting to buzz again thanks to young creatives returning home and moving into historic buildings turned-apartments, and openings like the Pizitz Food Hall, filled with eighteen international concepts from Israeli shawarma to Hawaiian poke. And all while the city’s old guard—Frank Stitt’s venerable Highlands Bar and Grill, Chris Hasting’s Hot and Hot Fish Club—still earn their keep.
Find downtown’s Thomas Jefferson Tower for brunch at Roots and Revelry, located on the second floor. Go indulgent with an order of biscuits and sawmill gravy followed by Berkshire pork chilaquiles. If a coffee and pastry is more your style, head to Feast & Forest for a cortado and homemade pop tart.
For lunch, Pizitz Food Hall offers global fare, from Latin-inspired ramen to Alabama’s first Ethiopian restaurant. You could also head over to Avondale. Built in 1887 for mill workers, it’s now a hip, walkable neighborhood home to Post Office Pies (pizzas topped with goodness like roasted garlic and housemade sausage), Saw’s Soul Kitchen (order the Pork ’n’ Greens), and Avondale Brewing Company.
Or, drive south to Homewood for Johnny’s Restaurant, where Timothy Hontzas channels regional ingredients into a meat-and-three menu with a Greek accent—he hails from a strong Greek-American community that has fed Birmingham for decades.
A visit to one of Frank Stitt’s restaurants is practically required when in Birmingham. The flagship, Highlands Bar and Grill, was an early disciple of the farm-to-table movement. Bottega brings dinner-only Italian; next door is trattoria-style Bottega Café. And Chez Fonfon is classic French meets Alabama bounty—if the weather suits, ask to sit on the patio and sip a glass of grüner.
Two other solid dinner options come by way of Chris Hastings. Hot and Hot Fish Club blends Californian, French, and Southern cuisines, while Ovenbird is an ode to live-fire cooking—an evening among friends in the courtyard begs for shared plates like blistered okra and spit-roasted duck.
Close out the evening with cocktails. For retro-futurism charm, head to the Atomic, where you’ll be transplanted to a 1960s living room. Or, study the periodic table of Birmingham icons at the Collins Bar while munching on bacon fat-fried tater tots and sipping a unique creation—there’s no cocktail menu, but tell the bartenders your preferred spirit and tasting notes and they’ll craft a new favorite.
Between meals, make time for exploring Birmingham and its history. Take a stroll along the Rotary Trail, a four-block linear park downtown, before heading to interactive museum Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Magic City is holding its own on the music scene front, with notable venues including Iron City and the century-old Lyric Theater. Swing by Saturn to catch an indie band and cocktails by mixology maven Steva Casey.
A recent renovation returned the Redmont Hotel to the Art Deco splendor of its heyday. Built in 1925, it has hosted some notable figures (including Hank Williams on the last night he was alive in 1952). These days it’s an easy choice thanks to its downtown location and rooftop bar with a sweeping view of the city skyline.