Birmingham’s latest batch of bars is upping the city’s cool factor with each cocktail poured and beer cracked. These basement bars and speakeasy-style haunts don’t need loud, fancy signage to attract a crowd. Like being let in on a good secret, they’re the kind of places you only want to share with your closest friends. If you’re looking for a good time off the grid, then check out one of these three spots. Just make sure to get directions beforehand.
430 41st St S Suite B, Birmingham, AL 35222
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday and Monday, closed
Glitz and glamour meet macabre and mystery at The Marble Ring in Avondale. Named for one of Zelda Fitzgerald’s most eccentric sayings — “I hope you die in the marble ring” (believed to be said in reference to the State Capital’s rotunda in Montgomery) — this speakeasy-style lounge invites visitors to take a step back into the roaring ’20s.
“It’s an intimate setting,” says Marble Ring bar manager Jose Camacho. “If you’re here, you’re here to hang out with whoever you came with.”
To enter The Marble Ring, you’ll first need to take the staircase to Hot Diggity Dogs. Once upstairs, look for the blue phone booth labeled “Police Phone Call Box.” No need to whisper a password, though. Someone will let you know if there’s enough room for you and your guests in The Marble Ring.
Inside The Marble Ring, opulence abounds with a handsome chandelier above the bar and cozy nooks sprinkled throughout. If you need a libation (or want a hotdog from next door), all you have to do is pull the chord at the table and a server, dressed to the nines in period attire, will make sure you get what you need.
“We try to hit every palate,” Jose says of the bar’s revolving menu of craft cocktails. “Savory, sweet, dry, spirit-forward — we have something for everyone.”
In addition to the cozy spaces and elegant bar, The Marble Ring also offers a posh patio where patrons can mingle — and also get a great view of Birmingham below. Zelda’s Lounge general manager Michelle Willard says that it has only been open for a few months but has already seen its share of rowdy nights.
“We still want to keep that chill, relaxed environment, but this allows us to serve more people, and there’s also standing room,” Michelle says of the lounge, which keeps in theme with the rest of The Marble Ring with its glitzy decor and bedazzled accents.
If it’s your first time in The Marble Ring, Jose recommends coming with a few close friends and settling in for a night of good conversation and perhaps letting loose a little — just like Zelda would have. “And definitely try the Old Fashioned,” he adds. “It’s been said to be one of the best in town.”
4411 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222 • (205) 774-6667
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Nostalgia comes in a can at this basement bar. Located below Sheppard’s Pet Supply in the Avondale Mills shopping center, Mom’s channels every ’80s kid’s childhood. Wood paneling, pinball machines, mismatched sofas and a fridge that stays stocked with beer are just a few of the highlights at Mom’s.
“The idea [for the bar] came from the memory of hanging out in your parents’ basement,” says Patrick Nelson, who co-owns the bar alongside locals Rae Baker, Wes Frazer and Dan Drinkard. “It was just something everyone could identify with and relate to.”
Because the bar was inspired by a simpler time, the foursome decided to go for a casual vibe with the bar’s decor and menu. Only serving beer and wine from the can, Mom’s makes us all long for the days of cutting up in the basement with friends — letting the hours effortlessly slip by.
The no-frills, no-fuss atmosphere of Mom’s makes it the perfect place to go when you’re bone-tired after a long day at the office or for when you just need to throw back a cold one and play a game of pool. The emails and to-do lists can (and should) take a backseat when you’re at Mom’s.
“It was just an easier time,” Rae says of the bar’s inspiration. “Everyone was less busy, and technology wasn’t a thing yet.”
Instead of complicated appetizers that feature three kinds of dipping sauces, Mom’s serves up trays of pizza rolls, taquitos, cheese balls and PB&Js for folks looking for a happy hour that harkens back to the good old days. “It spun out of what you would eat in your mom’s basement,” Rae says of the bar’s happy hour specials, which are fondly called ‘after school snacks.’ Taquito Tuesday and PBRs on Monday and Friday are just a few of the specials that have been a hit. Each snack, Patrick says, is paired with a beer. “You can start and end your weekend with a cheap snack and beer after work,” he says.
If it’s your first time to the basement bar, make sure to bring your favorite framed picture of your mom. They’ll hang it on the wall, along with the umpteen other portraits of locals’ moms.
2015 1st Ave N #1e, Birmingham, AL 35203 • (205) 502-7600
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Just around the corner from Birmingham’s recently booming Morris Avenue is Pilcrow, a hip underground bar that exudes style. Giving a nod to the building’s printing press history, Pilcrow signifies a new beginning, owner Joe Phelps says.
“It’s a new paragraph. Everything in here is melting past, present and future,” Joe says, motioning to the original concrete flooring and exposed brick that give the century-old space both charm and class. With a cozy bench lining the wall and several small tables dotting the space, Pilcrow adds to Birmingham’s growing bar scene with its distinct vibe and curated cocktail menu. Most of the drinks feature tequila — or its smoky cousin, mezcal. “I don’t call us a tequila bar, but we have a definite focus on agave spirits,” Joe says.
Similar to the space’s sleek aesthetic, all the drinks at Pilcrow come thoughtfully made (and Instagram-ready). When he envisioned what the bar would look like and how the cocktails would be made, Joe says he wanted it to have distinct flavor — and introduce patrons to ingredients they perhaps had never tried. “There are a lot of bars popping up [in Birmingham], but all of them have their own unique thing,” Joe adds.
A part of Orchestra Partners’ vision for Morris Avenue, Pilcrow joins several nearby restaurants and shops that have recently blossomed in the area. As for the bar’s location, Joe says it’s discreet, but it’s not a speakeasy — no password is needed. “Come check us out,” he says. “We’re the safest place to be during a storm.”
Photos taken by Sarah Cook unless otherwise noted.
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