How do you select the best and must-try Birmingham restaurants from the 629 listed on TripAdvisor? Look no further; I’ve sampled many and can help you make educated choices about the delicious eats in this quintessential southern city. Here are the ones I love and what is really tasty about each.
Foreword: Birmingham, Alabama, is known for its deep-rooted culture and southern hospitality. It’s no surprise that Birmingham’s food scene reflects its rich history, with a mix of traditional southern fare and modern culinary twists.
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Pies & Pints
Originated in Fayetteville, West Virginia, Pies & Pints continues to dazzle diners with creative pizza combinations, delicious appetizers, great beers on tap, and quality ingredients. The Pizza Skins make a terrific starter, with a base of roasted garlic mashed potatoes on the pizza crust, topped with cheddar cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, scallions, and sour cream.
My favorite pies are Grape & Gorgonzola (the most unique on the menu!) and the Cuban pork with caramelized onions, pulled pork, fresh pineapple, jalapeños, and feta. Pies & Pints gets props as they allow you to pick two specialty pizza recipes piled on one large, which they refer to as 1/2 and 1/2.
For an upcharge, they can substitute Daiya, a vegan cheese.
Touted as “the American South meets the Italian Countryside,” Bottega Restaurant offers a dark wood, sleek dining room experience or a more casual approach in the attached Café, complete with a wood-burning oven. Either choice is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, and the historic Beaux-Arts building is stunning.
Please note: A more casual cafe-style eatery, shown in orange below, is connected on the other side.
Three-time James Beard nominee and winner Chef Frank Stitt’s menu has only the finest ingredients. It is downright sexy, or maybe that’s just the feeling you get as you nibble on the house-made focaccia bread served with infused olive oil. Yum!
My favorite dish at Bottega is the Tortellini salad with sweet peas, delectable mozzarella, asparagus, mint, and sherry vinaigrette. It is a beautiful, filling, flavorful, and highly innovative dish. You must save room for the strawberry semifreddo (graham cookie and pistachios) or an affogato.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
No list of Birmingham’s must-try restaurants is complete without mentioning Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This Nashville-based restaurant has made a name for itself in Birmingham’s food scene with its signature hot chicken that comes in various heat levels.
But don’t worry if you’re not into spicy food – they also offer mild chicken options. Other menu items include sides like pimento mac & cheese and banana pudding.
Half Shell Oyster House
A handful of chain restaurants deserve as much hype as their locally-owned establishments based on their food quality, preparation, and restaurant culture. Half Shell Oyster House is one of the best. You will always find a fantastic Cajun or Creole dish here, and the restaurant is usually high-energy.
Enjoy a fabulous brunch with Bananas Foster French toast or Shrimp & Grit Benedict. For lunch or dinner, peel-and-eat Royal Reds are a great starter. Almond Encrusted Chicken (with a roasted red bell pepper aioli) and the Shrimp Orleans (served with Gambino’s French bread!) are always tasty for your main course.
For your sides, the pork turnip greens and cheddar grits. Half Shell does them perfectly!
Automatic Seafood and Oyster
If you’re looking for fresh seafood, Automatic Seafood and Oysters is the place to be. From their oyster selection to their Gulf shrimp, each dish is expertly prepared and bursting with flavor. Try the famous crispy fried fish collars or Murder Point oysters, my favorite dish on the menu. Of course, whetting your appetite with the smoked fish dip is the way to go.
Automatic Seafood and Oyster’s interior design, with its “ode to Americana” theme and stunning onyx tiled bar, is in the Lakeview neighborhood of Birmingham. Chef Adam Evans, also a co-owner, won the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: South.
Come for brunch and choose from a variety of yummy delights such as sliders, a seafood scramble, or the decadent mango banana French toast. Finish off your experience with a pleasing cinnamon sugar doughnut.
Melt is a hip, modern eatery specializing in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Their menu features a variety of unique grilled cheese options, such as the Mac Melt, which includes mac & cheese in a grilled cheese, and the Ragin Cajun with grilled chicken, coleslaw, and Monterey & habanero jack cheeses.
Sandwiches come with chips, beer-battered fries, or a cucumber, tomato, & feta salad.
Melt also has a mouth-watering selection of hand-spun milkshakes and cocktails to pair with your meal. And for goodness’ sake, try the honey-baked goat cheese starter with strawberries, pecans, green onions, and honey.
Birmingham has two Melt locations: Hoover and Lane Parke.
Big Bad Breakfast
Big Bad Breakfast is not your average breakfast joint, nor is it just for breakfast. However, If you’re a breakfast lover, Big Bad Breakfast should be on your list of must-visit restaurants.
BBB is an icon created by James Beard award-winning chef John Currence. The menu includes classic southern breakfast dishes like biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, and chicken and waffles.
If you’ve never tried tomato gravy, a Southern staple, you can do it here. OMG, it is sweet and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. I order the two biscuit plate; one tomato gravy and one sausage gravy—the best of both worlds.
Jim ‘n Nick’s
Regarding barbecue, Jim ‘n Nick’s is the place to be. Located in the heart of Birmingham, this local favorite is known for its slow-smoked meats and tasty sides. Their Carolina style pork platter is a must-try, and you can’t go wrong with their baked beans and mac and cheese. Or, you can go for the Mr. Jim’s combo plate to pick an additional one or two meats. The smoked turkey is righteous!
The staff is always friendly and ready to recommend their favorite menu items.
Jim ‘n Nick’s has all your favorite things about being in the South, like smoked wings, deviled eggs, brisket chili, and banana pudding. I haven’t seen or tried anything I didn’t love, starting with the cheese biscuits resembling mini muffins.
Run, don’t walk, to Helen Restaurant, a welcoming contemporary grill in downtown Birmingham. The warm angel biscuits with whipped cane syrup butter and sea salt will warm your heart and soul. Helen has an indoor grill and hardwood coals for recreating Chef Rob McDaniel’s favorite food memories from his grandmother’s house.
The open kitchen is where beautiful dishes like the prime meats and seafood creations pair with seasonal vegetables and interesting side items, like celery & blue cheese slaw.
If you’re looking for a casual spot with a fun atmosphere, Mugshots is the place to be. Their menu features classic pub fare, think nachos, Buffalo Jacks wangs, and queso dip. But what sets this eatery apart is its signature burgers which are over-the-top, stacked burgers that are a sight to behold.
The “Gamble” burger is a local favorite, with chili, house-made Rotel, sour cream, japs, and lettuce. Close contenders are the Southern Burger (pimento cheese, bacon, and fried pickles) and Da’ Big Kahuna (grilled pineapple, teriyaki, and bacon).
Not feeling a burger? No worries. Mugshots also has signature salads, pasta dishes, 100% Nathan’s all-beef hotdogs, and blackened Mahi Mahi. Come for happy hour for $3 snacks and 1/2 priced domestic drafts, well drinks, and wine.
Fife’s has been a staple in Birmingham’s food scene for over 65 years, serving up classic southern soul food dishes like fried chicken, collard greens, and mac and cheese. Consider it “your grandma’s southern cooking.” Before you go, know this is a simple restaurant; there are no bells and whistles here, only dependable food that is done right.
Fried green tomatoes at Fife’s are a must-try, with a crispy coating and topped with house-made remoulade. They also offer daily specials that rotate each day of the week, so there’s always something new to try. It has been a few years since I was at Fife’s, but I remember it being incredibly delicious.
If you’re in the mood for something more upscale, Pappadeaux has you covered. This restaurant serves fresh seafood dishes like gumbo, fried catfish, and jambalaya.
A standout item is the Lobster Bisque, a creamy soup filled with chunks of lobster meat. With a cozy atmosphere and excellent service, Pappadeaux is a great option for a special occasion or date night.
The Bright Star
Drive a bit to Alabama’s oldest restaurant, The Bright Star, a staple of Birmingham since 1907, and for a good reason. The restaurant has a timeless charm, with its vintage decor and Memory Lane photos lining the walls. There is also a lovely hand-painted mural wall at the entrance of the restaurant you won’t want to miss.
The menu celebrates classic Southern cuisine, with temping items like fried boneless chicken breast, breaded veal parmesan, jumbo stuffed shrimp, and famous seafood gumbo.
My top picks were the baked stuffed mushrooms with a tangy dipping sauce and the Greek-style beef tenderloin. That steak was freaking nom, as are the homemade salad dressings. Try the garlic cheese on your side salad.
You can sample three best sellers with the Sampler Platter, which combines Greek-style snapper, chicken, and beef tenderloin.
Birmingham Restaurants Packs a Powerful Punch
Birmingham, Alabama, presents a wide range of restaurants, from casual spots to upscale eateries. Our list of must-try restaurants includes some of the best Birmingham offers, with unique dishes and friendly service that keep locals coming back for more.
Whether you’re a local or just passing through, add some (or all) of these restaurants to your list and experience the flavors of Birmingham for yourself.