From James Beard Award-winning, white-tablecloth restaurants to taco trucks worthy of NPR stories by renowned food writer John T. Edge, Birmingham boasts one of the Southeast’s most lauded food scenes. Rated #1 on Zagat’s list of “America’s Next Hot Food Cities,” the Magic City has a thriving culinary presence. Its masters are raising a crop of impressive talent who are now spreading their epicurean wings and the result is a major boom in fantastic new eateries. We’re looking back through the past year of hot new restaurants to make sure we’ve tried them all. From a hot dog haven and a meatball market to a gas-station taco oasis and an Avondale speakeasy, we’ve got 16 — yes, 16! — new Birmingham restaurants. Take note of your personal must-try eateries and mark your foodie calendar. New epicurean adventures await!
17 New Restaurants in Birmingham
728 29th St. S., Birmingham, AL 35233 • (205) 578-6090
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Birmingham native Mary Susan Cashio left her Alabama home for the Big Apple to study stones at the Gemological Institute of America. But she found herself enamored with the rich epicurean landscape of New York, which in turn made her yearn for her family’s meatballs and classic sauce. She returned to Birmingham in the spring of 2015, not only with an appetite for home-cooking, but also with a thirst for a one-of-a-kind restaurant concept and a hankering for the perfect location. “Once the perfect space in Lakeview fell into my lap, I knew it was meant to be,” says Mary Susan, who says that the mix-and-match meatball-centric menu is what makes Cashio’s one of a kind.
“I am expecting Cashio’s Meatball Market to be most famous for my Grandma Angel’s classic beef meatballs with my mom’s classic sauce recipe. The pesto sauce isn’t ordered as much and is definitely a sauce that people should try,” says Mary Susan. The menu is like a culinary ode to meatballs — you pick your favorite meatball and build your dinner plate, sliders, sub or panini from there, choosing sauces, cheeses, veggies and sides. Classic Italian confections are the stars of the simple dessert menu, with cannoli and creme brulée, but as Mary Susan admits, the star of the show is the tiramisu. Most surprisingly, Mary Susan’s favorite thing about the meatball mecca is the bathrooms. “The women’s restroom features a graffiti mural with caricatures of Amy Winehouse, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin, Madonna and Tina Turner,” she says. “The men’s restroom features a graffiti mural with caricatures of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Morrissey, Prince and Stevie Wonder.”
73 Church St., Mountain Brook, AL 35213 • (205) 637-3007
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This new take-out restaurant is a breath of fresh air to busy parents, students and professionals — and those who are crossing through Crestline are the lucky recipients of DINNER. owner and chef Carey Thomasson’s increasingly popular, creative-yet-simple dinners. “I just love good food. I love simple food prepared well,” says Carey. “That’s kind of my thing. I’m not really into big, heavy sauces. I mean, I love to go out to fancy restaurants but that’s not realistic eating. I want people to be able to have really healthy, simple, good food that’s made fresh every day.”
As a personal chef, Carey had her first client at the age of 15 and it became the constant in her life, even as she pursued acting in New York and Los Angeles. She’s been dreaming up this personal-chef-meets-to-go-dinner eatery all along.
Try the popular lemon chicken or grilled flank steak with some of her fabulous sides. Creek’s Carrots are a perennial fave — cooked carrots tossed in a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, cumin, paprika, fresh parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Carey’s eatery is even inspiring locals to host dinner parties and DINNER. has a booming catering business. Carey, who understands the dinnertime struggle, says, “When you get home from your day and you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal. And going out to a restaurant every night gets boring. I always said if we just had this shop, it would be so much easier because I — and others — wouldn’t have to cook dinner every night. It’s just an absolute dream come true!”
401 19th St. S., Suite #100, Birmingham, AL 35233 • (205) 868-3999
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In an unassuming brick development amid the busy downtown UAB campus, this humble, brand-spanking-new eatery is a culinary gem. Serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine — such as beef and chicken shawarma, falafel, perfectly creamy hummus, smokey baba ganoush, tangy yogurt salad, pickles, red cabbage salad, tabouli and soft, warm pita — it will have you craving seconds. The owner greets each guests with samples of juicy bites of shawarma, engaging you in friendly discussion and helping you navigate the menu as you create your perfect little slice of Middle Eastern cuisine — and the mixtures are endless, so it’s a personally tailored experience each time! Locals are starting to frequent this fabulous little eatery. Clearly, it’s a crowd-pleasing, high-quality joint that has only enriched Birmingham’s food scene.
430 41st St. S., Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 777-3662
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Named for Miss Fancy the elephant — 1920s Avondale Zoo’s main attraction and Avondale’s de facto mascot — this unassuming eatery is everything you love about your favorite burger bar and local oyster dive taken to the next level with creative, decadent burgers; ocean-fresh oysters; simple salads with complex flavors and mouthwatering appetizers. At the crossroads of Fifth Avenue South and 41st Street South at the entrance of uber-hip Avondale, Fancy’s on 5th is a crowd-pleasing joint where you can grab a beer and some oysters and people-watch from the patio.
“Nothing is fancy about this place except the name,” says co-owner Paget Pizitz, who was inspired by the casual burger and oyster eateries she loved while living in New York. “In all seriousness, we want Fancy’s to be the kind of restaurant that attracts all walks of life. This is one of the reasons we love Avondale so much. On any given day, you see one of every kind of person walking around. It is a city within itself and a very loving and strong community.”
430 41st St. S., Suite B, Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 202-2363
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to close.; Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight
This hot dog joint was originally the “cover” business for The Marble Ring, Avondale’s speakeasy upstairs from Fancy’s on 5th. But unlike true fronts, this one is dishing out tasty hot dogs! And Birmingham has a rich history with hot dogs, don’t you know? “The rich hot dog history was established by Birmingham’s huge and wonderful Greek community,” says Tom Bagby, chef at Hot Diggity Dogs. “You need to talk to the old guys to get the true history. All I can say is that I’m fortunate enough to have grown up around it and to have been influenced by it. Ask anyone in town; they all have their spots they grew up going to. Mine was Sam’s Super Samwiches in Homewood — a special dog, add mayo.” These days Chef Tom creates his own super-creative twists on the traditional dog using global flavors. Tom’s loves the Sayonara Dog — with surimi salad, pickled ginger and seaweed relish — for its big, expressive flavors.
Owner Paget Pizitz claims she can’t pick a favorite hot “diggity” dog. “That’s like asking me to pick my favorite pet! OK, I do have a favorite pet,” says Paget. “So let’s assume it’s a perfect world and my jeans aren’t already way too tight: I am going pork skin nachos all day and night, anytime they are around. I want them near my face.” Tom just wants people to have fun in his hot dog joint. “I love doing this,” he says. “I put my heart into it. You gotta put the work in, you know?”
632 Montgomery Hwy., Vestavia Hills, AL 35216 • (205) 582-7686
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“The design-your-own pizza and salad concept has become increasingly popular and people appreciate the value and speed of service, which makes the concept equally popular for both lunch and dinner,” says Bill McPherson, president of IronStone PizzaWorks. “We spent more than a year with consultants from California, Washington and North Carolina developing the restaurant. We used some of the best chefs to assist in creating our signature recipes and top talent to help us design the atmosphere we envisioned.” Customers are made to feel at home, not only through the sleek, high-ceiling interiors and spacious seating arrangement, but also through the delicious custom wood-fired pizzas, personalized salads, wine and beer selection and great service. “Our employees are very excited to be part of something new and to be on the ground floor of what’s to come. We plan to support local schools and charities by hosting fundraising nights,” says Bill. “We are located among a number of great establishments in the Vestavia Hills City Center near the movie theater. It’s the perfect spot for a casual night out.”
49 Church St., Mountain Brook, AL 35213 • (205) 739-2232
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Miss Dots came to be a restaurant because of a beautiful, beloved lady named ‘Miss Dot’ who makes unforgettable fried chicken,” says Abbie McCary, brand manager of Miss Dots. This Crestline eatery is most famous for its fried chicken, which you can get as classic bone-in-style, crispy bite-sized or on a tasty sandwich. “Our four signature sauces are what really drive home the flavors of our chicken,” says Abbie. “Although ‘Southern fried chicken’ doesn’t really scream the word ‘healthy,’ we actually do have a ton of healthy options, including our flat-top roasted chicken made with herbs literally grown in our backyards.” The only thing that rivals Miss Dots’ golden, savory, finger-licking fried chicken is the friendly atmosphere. “We love being in Crestline, in such a warm, family-centered environment. We love knowing the people that we see each day as friends — and not just customers,” says Abbie. “You would think our servers have a reference book of peoples names and faces, the way that they remember everyone!”
808 Green Springs Hwy., Suite #140, Homewood, AL 35209 • (205) 942-5000
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
With locations in Hoover and Tuscaloosa, Mr. Chen’s newest eatery is located inside Hometown Supermarket on Green Springs Highway, a sprawling international grocery store that’s a wonder to behold. Whole roasted duck hangs in warming lights along one side of the restaurant, announcing that you’ve arrived at a truly authentic Chinese eatery. With an array of bubble teas and an encyclopedic menu of dishes — from spicy and exotic whole fish in black bean sauce, braised beef shanks or eggplant with pork basil in hot pot to more familiar dishes like chicken fried rice, mu shu pork or egg roll — Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking will open your mind and your palate to the exciting flavors of a truly dynamic cuisine.
1922 29th Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35209 • (205) 820-7100
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Jennifer Mims, chef and owner of Real & Rosemary, grew up going to farmers markets in her hometown of Clanton, AL, before it was the trendy outing it is today. Her mother taught her to cook with olive oil and clean fruits and vegetables — and that philosophy of using few ingredients really has been a constant in her life. But once she became a busy mom of two — short on time to provide her own family with the nutrient-rich fare she on which she was raised — she knew she was onto something. And her dream of a casual, no-frills eatery where professionals and families alike could sit down to eat a real, healthy meal was born.
At Real & Rosemary in Homewood, the familiar flavors of fresh ingredients are highlighted with simple herbs. Popular Southern vegetables are rediscovered, such as the fig and collard salad with pickled apples, walnuts, figs, fresh collard greens and a mustard vinaigrette. Lunch favorites include the grilled chicken salad with pine nuts, chickpeas and feta on mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette; the BLT with hickory-smoked bacon, lettuce, fried green tomatoes and chipotle mayo; and the spice-rubbed chicken, which people like to pair with the seasonal succotash. Stop by after work to grab a family-style meal for four from the “Feasting Thyme” menu or book Real & Rosemary for catering. “Something has really resonated with the public about having real food. Being able to make someone’s life easier is really rewarding,” says Jennifer. “It’s really exciting to see people come for the first time but I love seeing people come back for the second time because I know they have found something they like.”
1701 First Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233 • (205) 518-0779
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We love the view out the big windows. All day long, we get to see the rhythms of the park and how it is changing Birmingham for the better,” says Kirk Summers, co-owner of Red Cat Coffee House’s new location across from Railroad Park. “We’ve heard Railroad Park called the ‘living room of Birmingham.’ We like being the dining room right across from the entrance of that living room because it allows us to interact with a true cross-section of the population of the city.” And it’s an inviting and airy space, perfect for studying, chatting with friends or simply chilling out after a stroll through the park. For breakfast, enjoy the ever-popular McEwen & Sons’ organic grits with cheese, an omelet, a breakfast sandwich or pastries, among other choices. For lunch, grab a panini, wrap, salad or their to-die-for house-made Greek spanakopita.
“Our drinks run the gamut from purist to indulgent,” says Kirk. “At the Railroad Park location, we offer what we call an ‘Elite Grade’ coffee, which is some hard-to-get, rare and expensive coffee. Right now, for example, we are offering a wild-grown Ethiopian coffee from the Michiti Coop.” Or try a classic affogato, two espresso shots poured over vanilla ice cream — it’s the breakfast of champions!
3719 Third Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 986-8898
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“It’s not ribs or burgers. It’s something different and I think people like that,” says Saigon Noodle House Chef and CEO Mike Hoang. “You see people come back the second time and that’s exciting — but then you see them come back three or four times a week and … ” Mike pauses with a soft, humble smile. He says that people seem to be drawn to the aromatic South Vietnamese soup, or pho, which is the hands-down favorite, as well as the ever-popular spring rolls. Saigon Noodle House spring rolls are hand-rolled to order with either shrimp, charbroiled pork, shrimp & pork, chicken or tofu, then filled with noodles, lettuce, cucumber and chive sprig, wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut sauce.
This Avondale spot, located in the old Bottletree building, is Saigon Noodle House’s second location, with the original hidden along the busy Highway 280 corridor, a spot that has a loyal following of pho-loving foodies of its own. Mike says this location has definitely brought in new customers who keep coming back to branch out from the pho and try classic Vietnamese sandwiches, or banh mi, as well as noodle and rice plates and other quintessential Vietnamese dishes. Don’t miss this treasure!
2808 Seventh Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233 • (205) 578-6080
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight; kitchen closes at 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends
On the ground floor of the 29 Seven apartment and retail building on Seventh Avenue South, Sky Castle Gastro Lounge is an homage to the Sky Castle DJ Booth that sat in the very same spot at Ed Salem’s Diner in the ’50s. Walk into the modern joint and it’s like a futuristic diner meets mod lounge meets forward-thinking sports bar. The Gastro Lounge serves seasonally driven, next-level pub fare creatively infused with popular global flavors and, alternately, classic international dishes with a Southern spin, such as the Korean barbecue fried wings accompanied by Alabama white barbecue sauce with serrano peppers, cilantro and gochujang. “It’s a Southern progressive style with global influences. Some ingredients are a little out there but we introduce them in creative ways, executed with classic French and Italian cooking techniques,” says Executive Chef Haller Magee, who comes from 10 years as executive chef at Satterfield’s. “There is definitely something for everyone.”
Taboon Noon O Kabob
1550-P Montgomery Hwy., Hoover, AL 35216 • (205) 979-1717
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you are in the market for authentic Persian cuisine, head to the brand-spanking-new Taboon Noon O Kabob in Hoover. This unassuming hole in the wall is more than meets the eye. Everything is made in house, including the koubideh, a Persian delicacy of mostly minced chicken or beef mixed with a touch of fat, chopped aromatic onions and parsley and other spices. Plates are served with gorgeous white and yellow basmati rice, sumac onion, grilled tomato and a fresh-from-the-oven Persian bread. But for those unaccustomed to this exotic fare, the out-of-this-world hummus might put things into perspective. With its ultra-creamy texture and dreamy mix of nutty yet citrus accents, Taboon Noon O Kabob’s hummus will have you waxing poetic to friends — or simply crying tears of joy into your koubideh!
327 Summit Blvd., Birmingham, AL 35243 • (205) 977-7792
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Taco Mama owner, Will Haver, has been around the food industry his entire career. “I love restaurants. I wanted to create something unique and fun with people I love to work with,” says Will. Taco Mama opened its fifth location at The Summit where the popular eatery offers its two-sided “Our Way” and “Your Way” menu. “Guests love making their own combinations for tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas and burrito bowls with our slow-roasted meats and our fresh veggies and toppings,” says Will. “As far as drinks, our hand-shaken margaritas are delicious.” And he’s quick to mention the newest menu item, the ahi tuna tacos, which feature ahi tuna rubbed with chipotle seasoning, seared rare and served in an authentic corn tortilla shell on a bed of Sriracha slaw, topped with house-made chipotle ranch. Will also highly recommends the melt-in-your-mouth Barbacoa, or slow-roasted braised beef and, unexpectedly, he touts their mac ‘n’ cheese. “Most people don’t think about mac ‘n’ cheese in a taqueria but we have one of the best in the city,” he says.
Will is very proud of his catering team, saying they put heart and soul into their work making it easy and effortless for the hosts — and at an affordable price, to boot! “We put a lot of thought into your experience. We live it and love it every day,” says Will. “We feel honored that people give us the opportunity to support the community and show people a good time. We don’t take it lightly that people grace our doors and have made us the local staple we are today.”
417 41st St. S., Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 203-4849
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Although this taco truck opened its first brick-and-mortar location in January — attached to the Jet-Pep gas station across from Avondale Park — it kind of flew under the radar, seeming to appear overnight or whenever you happened to notice it as you drove by. It’s understandably easy to overlook the gas-station eatery — its exterior is black and it is somewhat tucked away — but walk in and you’ll be greeted by bright, vivacious colors awash in natural light. And once you taste the red tamales with pork and green tamales with chicken served with a lovely drizzle of crema and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, you’ll forevermore take notice of this charming, authentic Mexican restaurant. Tacos are served in the traditional style: in a corn tortilla with a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped onions and cilantro, a lime and radishes, along with a hot sauce that will knock your socks off. Taco Morro Loco doesn’t shy away from spicy sauces, for those who are hungry for the heat! And did we mention the prices are delicious, too?!
430 41st St. S., Suite. B, Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 202-2252
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight
“It’s a sophisticated hideaway where you can grab a snack, have fresh handmade cocktails, talk to the person next to you, listen to good music or sit on the patio and see the lights of Avondale,” says Paget Pizitz, co-owner of The Marble Ring, Avondale’s new speakeasy. Hidden in plain sight above Fancy’s on 5th and camouflaged by its “cover” business, Hot Diggity Dogs, the after-hours retreat lies in wait for you and your friends to enjoy a cocktail and a bite overlooking Avondale. Paget visited Chicago and New York and delighted in the speakeasy-style secret bars of those cities, so she decided to bring the fun concept to Birmingham — and thus The Marble Ring was born.
The interiors, from the walls and the mirrors to the art and the music, are glamorous and elegant with an air of intrigue — all in honor of the Roaring ’20s. Even the cocktails are an ode to the Gatsby-esque allure of the jazz age. “Stephen Bradford wrote our cocktail program,” says Paget. “To say that he is talented would be an understatement. All of the cocktails revolve around F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and their wild and decadent life.” And if you’re hungry for a bite, Hot Diggity Dogs next door serves up some of the finest tater tots in town. “Chef Tom Bagby puts an addictive chemical in those tater tots,” says Paget. “I don’t know what it is but it can’t be street legal. They are so delicious.”
Make your reservations or hop in your car and head to 2016’s new restaurants that you might not have tried. And make sure to tell them StyleBlueprint sent you!