2018 TICA Annual
|Events: August 29 - September 2, 2018
Show: September 1-2, 2018
Awards Banquet: September 1, 2018
Whether you want to
indulge in the finest of dining or immerse yourself in the local ‘down home’
culture – we can certainly find a place you want to eat! A full listing of restaurants can be found at
the Visitors and Convention Bureau site here.
The Birmingham area is
home to 2 James Beard Award winning chefs and a James Beard Award winning
Frank Stitt is a fixture in Birmingham restaurant culture was the 2001 Best Chef in the Southeast and has been a perennial nominee most every year since in the national Outstanding Restaurant & Chef category for his flagship Highlands Bar and Grill. (Which, it so happens won the best restaurant award in 2018!) Right next door and known for its cheeseburger is Chez FonFon. Located nearby are Bottega and the more casual Bottega Café. All of these are located in the Southside of Downtown Birmingham and are just a short taxi/Uber/Lyft ride away. Reservations are recommended for Highlands and the Bottega restaurant. FonFon and the Café do not take reservations.
Chris Hastings brought the next James Beard chef’s aware to the “Ham” in 2012 as Best Chef in the South. His Birmingham standard, the Hot and Hot Fish Club is also located in the Southside area. He recently opened Ovenbird, which is located at Pepper Place in another section of the Southside of Downtown. Pepper Place is also an interesting place to visit for dining and entertainment options.
In 2010, The Bright Star became the first area restaurant to win a James Beard accolade in the American Classics category. Founded in Bessemer, Alabama in 1907, Bill and Pete Koikos bought the restaurant in 1923 and it has remained in the family ever since. In fact, when you arrive at the restaurant you will most likely be seated by one of Bill’s sons. You can order off the full, regular menu or if you are dining at lunch – enjoy one of the lunch specials. These change daily and are in the tradition of the Southern “meat & 3 plate.” See the You Ain’t From Around Here? section for a definition. Not only has this restaurant been a favorite for a who's who of area politicians and sports figures, many of our club members listed it as a must visit. If you can get to lunch try the snapper throats (no, that's not a typo - snapper throats are that meaty part of the fish below the jaw) or lamb. And absolutely don’t leave without a piece of pie. Peanut Butter is one member’s favorite.
Looking for something else?
Here are a few suggestions and ideas from club members and others on places to check out. Some are organized by location, some by cuisine. And course, feel free to check out the Tourism Guide or just google around.
Southside (of Birmingham) – Downtown Birmingham is on a grid of numbered streets and avenues divided by Morris Avenue (where the old train tracks once ran). One side is North, the other South. The Southside does start to sprawl a bit and as the area that went up the mountain under Vulcan, was where homes were also built. There are 3 primary restaurant/entertainment areas that are in the area.
5 Points South (intersection of 20th Street South and 11th Avenue South) – This the area where you will find many of the aforementioned award winning restaurants but there is plenty else to choose from in this area. It is a short car ride and well worth it to get up for breakfast at the Original House of Pancakes. While it is a chain, locations are few and far between. Check out the menu on their main site – originalpancakehouse.com. For lunch or dinner, Surin West is a local favorite. There are other versions of the Surin franchise around town, but this is the original location when they first came to the area. And again, lots of other options within a few blocks of this area.
Lakeview District (7th Avenue South, from about 25th to 29th Street South and including between 7th and 8th (University) Avenue. The area has its own Facebook page at facebook.com/LakeviewBirmingham. Visit Hop City Beer and Wine for one of the most amazing selections of beer and wine around. Yes you can make purchases to take back to your room. You can also partake of a local brewery at TrimTab Brewing Company. Plenty of restaurants and other nighlife in tavondalebrewingcompany.comhe area too.
Avondale (primarily on 41st Street South between 5th and 1st Avenue South) – This is the latest area to experience an amazing revival in the heart of Birmingham. It is home to Avondale Brewing and Cahaba Brewing Company and quite a few great places to eat, including Saw’s Soul Kitchen, Post Office Pies and many others – BUT how you can pass up the opportunity to grab a bite from an Airstream trailer?! Visit the HotBox for some great bites between brews!
Avondale also features several other establishments for live entertainment. Check out the schedule for bands at Saturn and maybe catch a show while hanging out.
A few more food ideas – cuz you ain’t full yet right?
Niki’s West – Just a short car ride from the hotel, this local tradition is near the state farmers market and takes advantage of access to local/fresh produce for its menu. You can be seated and order off the regular menu, but to get the full Southern experience, you should travel down the cafeteria line and pick out your meal. Niki’s is a model ‘meat & 3’ establishment with a menu that changes daily for the steam table. Highly recommend visiting the website ahead of time so you have some idea of what you may want.
A couple of tips – decide quickly or you will end up with a vegetable plate, or nothing but a salad, roll and piece of pie. The sign says No Cell Phones in the line. They mean it.
Charlie says get the fried pork chop!
Irondale Cafe – AKA The Whistle Stop Cafe. This restaurant IS the place featured in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and yes you can get those here. It is also a cafeteria style meat & 3 with traditional Southern Fare. They are open for lunch only, Sunday through Friday.
Niki's also has great fried green tomatoes as does Green Acres. Ask Honey if you want to visit Green Acres, it is her favorite for FGTs.
As was already covered in the You Ain’t From Around Here? section, this is a noun not a verb here and is most traditionally pork.
There are plenty of places to find it, but here are the ones we felt worth mentioning.
Bob Sykes – Located south of town in Bessemer. The pulled pork really can’t be beat, or the sauce (except for the next place). A must stop whenever for Honey’s family when they get back in town.
Dreamland – Originally founded off Jug Factory Road in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, franchising has brought this tradition to many locations across the state. However, for many of us nothing will ever beat the original off the beaten path in Tuscaloosa. While the new places offer menus with side dishes and other meats, the original location keeps it simple with slabs, half slabs, rib sandwiches and Sunbeam bread. Yes, the bread is pulled out of the package in sight, put on a paper plate and set on the table with a bowl of sauce for dipping. And a rib sandwich is 4 ribs and some bread. The best is that the servers at this location walk up, look at the table and assess how many slabs you need. Oh and this sauce is amazing!
Saw’s – 3 locations around Birmingham, their pulled pork is excellent. They also offer some other unique dishes, especially at their Crestline location, Saw’s Juke Joint. The Juke Joint also often has live entertainment later in the week. And we already told you about the Soul Kitchen in the Avondale writeup.
Jim N’ Nicks – another local favorite that has sprung up franchises in many places, you can even get a fix on the way out of town at the airport. Actually, the cheese muffins may be the stars, but their pulled pork is solid – especially on the Kitchen Sink Nachos or the Pig in the Garden Salad with the house Greek dressing.
Blue Moon – Like your sauce a bit sweeter and stickier, this is the place for you.
Johnny Ray’s – Good BBQ, probably even better known for their pies.
Golden Rule – Another local standard.
Yes, seafood. I know some people say if you can’t see the water you shouldn’t eat it, but the water isn’t so far it can’t be brought in fresh.
Shrimp Basket – the original location is found in Gulf Shores, AL, just 2 blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. But we sure are glad they decided to grow across the South and bring some locations to the Birmingham area. All the locations keep the casual, beachy atmosphere and the food is simple, but awesome. The 3 in Birmingham are equally close to the hotel and only a short car ride away – Irondale, Homewood and Gardendale
Wintzell’s Oyster House – Founded in Mobile, yet another great place to enjoy good food in a comfortable atmosphere. The walls are covered with sayings that are often as wise as they are humorous. Each location has a board over the bar of the current record holders for eating oysters on the half shell – male and female. If you break the record, yours are free. Not in the mood for raw oysters, try the baked ones – topped with yummy things like bacon bits, cheese and jalapenos. Or try a refreshing West Indies Salad for something cool in the summer. Find them in Fultondale, just north of downtown Birmingham.
The Fish Market – founded by the Sarris' family and still operated by George Sarris, this local standard brings together fresh seafood and the tradition of Greek restauranteurs in Birmingham for a wonderful meal. Other members of the family also operate similar establishments south of town and you can check them out at fishmarketrestaurant.com.
We have already mentioned a few places as we have taken you around the hot spots of the city, but a couple that lie maybe in between this place or that or may be a bit off the beaten paths listed here. We enjoy our live music here, just ask Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks.
Iron City – Check out their website to see what fun may be on the calendar while you are in town. Perhaps we all get lucky and they have their popular Neon Electric 80s Night and we can relive our youth! They do also have a grill where you can dine for lunch or dinner. Located in the Southside area.
The Nick – Yes, when you see the building you will wonder how it still stands. Locals theorize it is held up by all the staples bands have used to put their posters up outside. One big magnet could be its demise. An absolute legend in its own right, many a band has played here on the way up – and back down. Relive your college days and check out the calendar to see if you might can catch a hot new local act or someone bigger passing through. In the Southside area
The Blue Monkey – Birmingham’s
oldest martini bar located in the 5 Points South area.
Workplay – Of course this is a great place to catch a live act, it was founded by Alan Hunter, one of the original MTV VJs, and his brother Hugh. Yup, another great music history connection in the ‘Ham. Can’t promise Alan still hangs around but check out the calendar to see if anything interesting is going on. Also in the Southside area.
Zydeco – One more great live music venue close by, Zydeco books both local and national acts and although name may imply a certain style of music – there are no limits to what you can see here. 5 Points South area.
Gip’s Place – Located in Bessemer and billed as Alabama’s last juke joint, hang out with Mr. Henry Gipson as he hosts he own backyard blues party on a regular basis. Check out their Facebook page for more info – or just ask around. Everyone has at least heard of Gip’s even if we haven’t all been there.