The Pizitz Food Hall is an epicurean Elysium, a culinary Camelot, where adventurous gastronomes can awaken their senses, taking their taste buds to new worlds — from Ethiopia, Nepal, Japan, Vietnam and corners of Europe to Hawaii, Mexico and our own “purple mountain majesties.”
The vendors are composed of longtime Birmingham chefs and restaurateurs, as well as some folks who are new to the Magic City food scene. It will come as no surprise to the average Birminghamian that our city is filled with plucky epicures ready to dive into a plate full of intriguing new flavors. But, it did surprise some of the new food hall vendors. “I like Birmingham. I like the people; they like all the food, and that — I am surprised!” says a flummoxed yet delighted Amanshwa Takele, owner of the Ethiopian eatery, Ghion Cultural Hall. “I opened this business almost four weeks ago, and a lot of people have come here three or four times! That is why I am happy,” Amanshwa adds with a smile.
“We all look out for each other and help in whatever ways we can. It’s really a one-of-a-kind situation,” says Executive Chef and Owner of Ono Poke, Vinh Tran. “Oh, I am friends with everybody here,” he says, adding, “There are so many cultural flavors here that people are willing to try. It brings families together, different types of people, like people that work downtown — all kinds of people. The Pizitz Food Hall is great.”
So, let’s take a tour of this fabulous conglomerate of culinary creatives!
The Eateries of Pizitz Food Hall
Inspired by his grandmother’s traditional Israeli recipes, Eli Markshtien whips up delicious shawarma, falafel, kebabs, shakshuka, salads and more, using only the highest quality ingredients like grass-fed beef, organic chicken and naturally grown produce from Owl’s Hollow Farm. And the authenticity is astounding: The hummus is creamy and addictive, the warm pita is made in house, and the dishes are often served with tahini and S’rug, Israeli spicy sauce. And don’t miss their fresh salad sides, including classic Israeli salad, tabouli, red cabbage salad, Moroccan carrot salad, red beet salad, roasted peppers salad and baba ghanoush. Veggie lovers and Israeli cuisine aficionados, go to town!
Owner and executive chef Monty Todd creates exiquiste recipes resulting in carefully-curated soups with Southern soul. Each soup is made from scratch and are prepared daily in small batches to ensure the highest quality. Spoon & Ladle offers a rotating selection of seven soups daily, but some of our favorites include Chicken Fiesta, White Chili Chicken, and Loaded Baked Potato.
Don’t deny yourself the unique experience of traditional Ethiopian dining. “Everybody eats together, family-style — wife, husband, kids, friends,” says Amanshwa Takele, owner of Ghion Cultural Hall, his second location with the original, eight-year-old eatery based in Atlanta. “You can share and try all the flavors. And you eat with the hands because it is more tasty. It is more of an experience.” There are four main options at Ghion: Chicken, veggie, lamb or beef — served with salad, a side of spicy sauce and “teff” flatbread. Made from grass seed, this spongy flatbread is not only perfect for sopping up the flavors and sauces of each protein and veggie dish, but it is also organic, gluten-free and easy to digest.
“Mostly I push the people to try lamb — either lamb tibs (or pieces), spicy tender lamb stew or mild curry lamb stew,” says the Addis Ababa native who moved to the United States 18 years ago. “And the veggie plate — that’s the best. If it’s your first time to come here, I push people to try that. But the Ghion Special is the most popular. It comes with veggie, lamb, beef, chicken — everything is included. Everybody likes that one.” Don’t miss this gem of cultural richness. Stop by on a Friday or Saturday night to witness a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony on the open-air patio, along with some live Ethiopian music!
JuicedUp Essentials, a Pizitz tenant that started as a food truck, brings a healthy, delicious option to Birminghamians. Their antioxidant rich and protein packed acaí and pitaya bowls are both tasty and hearty. Not looking for a full meal? Try one of their delectable smoothies. JuicedUp also offers an assortment of cold-pressed juices, smoothie popsicles and coffee. One of our favorites is the Bora Bora bowl, a pitaya based bowl topped with pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, coconut flakes, granola, bee pollen and honey. If you’re looking for a nutritious meal at Pizitz, look no further than JuicedUp Essentials.
Birmingham chef Abhishek Sainju, better known as “Abhi,” garnered a cult following with his traveling catering kitchen, Everest Sushi. Birmingham foodies began following the sushi guru, and soon the talented chef was helping to launch Bamboo on 2nd. These days, Abhi is back at it with his first brick-and-mortar ventures: Pizitz Food Hall’s MO:MO:, followed closely by ABHI at The Summit.
MO:MO: is a fast-food, street-style eatery serving local ingredients with Asian spices. “I thought it was a brilliant idea for Birmingham,” says Abhi. The most popular dish and the eatery’s namesake are the momos — steamed Nepalese dumplings with turkey, veggies and Alabama tomato vinaigrette. These homemade pockets of pillowy goodness with slurp-worthy savory broth came to prominence in the Magic City food scene at Bamboo on 2nd, and they were so memorable that they deserved their own little corner of the world. The streamlined menu also includes Banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich of either pork belly, lemongrass chicken, grilled shrimp or seasonal veggies, served on a crusty baguette with cilantro, pickled carrots, pate, jalapeño, cucumbers and spicy mayo. Abhi tells us to be on the lookout for a variety of healthy rice bowls!
No matter how hot or cold the weather is outside, it’s always ‘tea’ time at Piper & Leaf. The talented team at Piper & Leaf sources the best, most fresh ingredients from local farms and gardens. This family-owned company that started selling their products at a farmer’s market has quickly become a beloved brand throughout the South. You can find them brewing up some delicious tea at markets, events, and now, at Pizitz.
“My passion is food, and I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant,” says Vinh Tran, proud owner of Ono Poké, his first restaurant. Vinh was inspired by a Hawaiian snack he enjoyed during his childhood in Hawaii. “Poké means chunks of fish cut into cubes. It is marinated with ginger, sesame oil, sesame seeds and other of my secret ingredients,” says the self-taught chef. “It is very healthy and very tasty, and we can customize the bowl, so that it is either a salad, a rice bowl and you can have all of these fresh toppings. And on top of that, we created sauces so that you can have it spicy, sweet, creamy — and it is just very refreshing.” The bowls are customizable and there are some set flavor combos, but the most popular combo usually includes a base of half rice (white or brown) and half mixed greens with Ahi tuna poké, cucumber, jalapeño, edamame, tobiko and crispy onions with samurai sauce and spicy aioli.
“The Pizitz Food Hall is great. It’s a very ‘foodie’ atmosphere, so it attracts people that are going to try new and different things,” says Vinh, who relishes being a part of the food hall, but is perhaps even more blown away by the public reaction to his eatery. “My favorite thing is seeing how people actually like poké so much! We are the first poké place in Birmingham and, I think, in the whole state of Alabama. And we have had a really strong customer return and positive feedback. That makes me happy that people actually like poké and like our food.”
No trip to Pizitz is complete without a tasty treat (or two). Edolyn’s Pies are handcrafted from a family recipe passed down through three generations and are just as delicious as they sound. While they are always releasing new flavors to fit the changing seasons, their three staple recipes, sweet potato, lemon chess and pecan, are always available for purchase.
Belgium meets the American South in this eatery. Owners Dan and Audrey Roberts combine traditional Belgian, whole wheat or cornbread waffles with savory Southern-style meats to make the classic chicken & waffles, as well as some off-the-beaten-path options, like pulled pork & waffles or shrimp & grits waffles. For a sweet twist on the corn dog, try the waffle dog, a 100% beef dog encased in a waffle or the Conecuh sausage on a stick! Grab a side of waffle fries, sweet potato waffle fries, cole slaw, collard greens or cabbage to round out your Belgian-Southern feast! And don’t miss these waffle wizards for breakfast!
The food hall recently became home to The Alabama Biscuit Co.’s second location, where they serve up their signature creative biscuit sandwiches, like the fried bologna biscuit with oven-crisped mortadella, house whole-grain mustard and house-pickled veggies; or try the goat cheese, pecan and honey biscuit with roasted pecans, Belle Chèvre goat cheese and local honey drizzle.
If you’re on the hunt for some delicous hand-rolled sushi, a tasty c’om rish dish or a traditional spring roll, look no further than the new Pho and Bibmipap concept at the Pizitiz. With their orginial location in Five Points South, the owners of Pho Pho Vietnamese & Sushi Bar wanted to bring their beloved dishes to the heart of downtown Birmingham so that’s exactly what they did! We suggest trying the Shrimp Tempura Udon or the Sunset sushi roll.
And last but not least, The Standard will offer a classic American staples. “It’s my take on the classic Birmingham hamburger and hot dog shop,” says chef Matt Ralph. “We’re not trying to reinvent the hamburger; we’re just using house-ground beef and quality ingredients to make a tasty burger, along with a couple of traditional Birmingham hot dog offerings and a few sandwiches to round out the straightforward, quality-driven menu.” If you’re in the mood for a tasty burger or hot dog, The Standard is your spot at Pizitz.
Head downtown to explore this food lover’s fantasyland!