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ol_ironstomach

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Any must-visit suggestions while I'm in the Birmingham area next week? Already got my Dreamland fix in last time. Which one of Frank Stitt's places would you go to first? I'll also be doing some scenic backroad wandering during the day - and keeping an eye open for the tell-tale signs of a promising bbq pit - but specific 'que recommendations are also welcome.

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Any must-visit suggestions while I'm in the Birmingham area next week? Already got my Dreamland fix in last time. Which one of Frank Stitt's places would you go to first? I'll also be doing some scenic backroad wandering during the day - and keeping an eye open for the tell-tale signs of a promising bbq pit - but specific 'que recommendations are also welcome.

ONLY the Dreamland in Tuscaloosa; also Archibald's in Tuscaloosa for sliced Q. In Birmingham Johnny Ray's for pulled pork and incredible cream pies. http://www.johnnyrays.com/ The Valley avenue location is their "home" location. Frank Stitt's Highland Bar and Grill is excellent and the restaurant which started his reputation; it is also the restaurant that his Beard nominations are based on. Hot and Hot Fish Club could also be a consideration along with John's Restaurant which is a local tradition. I would go to Hghlands first.

About Archibald's: http://www.friedbrainsandwich.com/2007/07/...chibalds_b.html

Photo of Archibald's: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/...a.jsp?id=m-4181

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ONLY the Dreamland in Tuscaloosa; also Archibald's in Tuscaloosa for sliced Q. In Birmingham Johnny Ray's for pulled pork and incredible cream pies. http://www.johnnyrays.com/ The Valley avenue location is their "home" location. Frank Stitt's Highland Bar and Grill is excellent and the restaurant which started his reputation; it is also the restaurant that his Beard nominations are based on. Hot and Hot Fish Club could also be a consideration along with John's Restaurant which is a local tradition. I would go to Hghlands first.

About Archibald's: http://www.friedbrainsandwich.com/2007/07/...chibalds_b.html

Photo of Archibald's: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/...a.jsp?id=m-4181

My mother's people were working-class Alabamans, and I remember one day when I was around 13 (so, 1965 or 1966) riding in a big old gas tank-trailer truck with my uncle Tommy, from the Talladega jobber where he worked, to the refinery in Birmingham. He made that trip twice a day, three days a week; the other days he took a smaller truck from the jobber to various gas stations around Talladega County, topping up their tanks. I-20 wasn't complete back then; there were gaps where you were on old US 78, and it was hard work horsing that big thing around the two lane portions of that old pot-holed highway.

We had lunch, after we filled the tanker at the refinery, on the way back, in a not very fancy looking joint, in a sort of industrial strip, in the northern part of Birmingham. To this day it stands out in my mind, partly because it was probably the first dedicated BBQ restaurant I'd ever eaten in, if you can believe that. (There wasn't really any BBQ in my home town, Warrenton, nor as far as I know, any noteworthy Q in Northern VA in the late 50's and early-to-mid 60s, at least nowhere my folks took us to. And--BBQ was something my Alabama relatives made themselves, for themselves. Uncle Bob, from a brick pit, with the trunk lid off a '50 Ford, mounted on a hinge fixed on to the front of the chimney, over the grate, to hold the smoke in and sort of channel it to the rear-mounted chimney; Uncle Fred, in a smoker styled from a discarded Frigidaire, of a sufficiently aged vintage where the corners were rounded, instead of square. The firebox was where the vegetable crisper had once been.)

Last time I was in Alabama, I mentioned that I couldn't remember the name of that BBQ place or even where it was exactly, just knew it was on US 78 or not far off it, and near the refinery, on the way back to Talladega. Three people piped up, "Oh that's the Golden Rule in Irondale, Tommy did love that place."

Turns out there's about a gazillion Golden Rules now, and chain BBQ is something I shy away from, but the store I'm talking about dates back to 1891 and was the first one in the chain. Interweb criticism places the Golden Rule Q far below, say, Don Gibson's, or the Tuscaloosa Dreamland, or Johnny Ray's....but I'd sure like to check it out, now that I've had a few tons of restaurant BBQ to give me a little background on the subject. Even if it was disappointing, it wouldn't be a disappointment, if that makes any sense.

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In Birmingham Johnny Ray's for pulled pork and incredible cream pies. http://www.johnnyrays.com/ The Valley avenue location is their "home" location.

Thanks for the recc, Joe. Dropped in on my way back to the hotel from the Southern Museum of Flight. The sign was covered up as the Valley Ave location has dropped their franchise agreement and changed the name to "Baby Ray's", but otherwise it's the same food. They had just lost half of the power to the building and were preparing to close the doors, but let me order a pulled pork sandwich and a slice of excellent pie.

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You can't expect a monster amount of pork for a sub-$5 "large" sandwich, but they pull the pork into large chunks with a nice chew. Decent tenderness, but wouldn't hurt if it had more smoke flavor. Great sauce though...nice tangyness, not too sweet nor too thick, and piping hot. I asked for it on the side.

The pie is worth a visit. They also do coconut cream, banana cream and a chocolate cream, but most of their staff were partial to the lemon cream icebox when asked about their favorite. The lemon layer has a very mild tartness, but it's also not too sweet. Good graham cracker crust, and an outstanding whipped cream layer that really makes it sing...sweet and fresh, but firm enough to hold good peaks. I bought a few more slices to go on my way out the door.

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Maybe not a "must-visit," but Bright Star in Bessemer for seafood with a Greek and Cajun twist, of all things. Went a couple of years ago and found it very comfortable.

http://www.birminghammenus.com/brightstar/

oh man--I have to second this! My paternal grandparents are from central Alabama (Perry County) and on trips with them back and forth to Birmingham (the Big City! Swimmin pools, movie stars!) we ALWAYS stopped at the Brightstar. My grandfather loved the place. This place is just so old-school, charming and authentic... I haven't been there in years but it holds a big spot in childhood memories

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I'm in Huntsville right now. We hit the Dreamland here just now for lunch - and while our "familiar with the original" guide reminisced greatly on the one in Tuscaloosa, it was still some damn fine chopped pork.

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Tim's Cajun Kitchen - evidently a chef from NOLA who returned to his hometown back in the early '90s. It'd been 20 years or so since our guide had been there, and the prices have (obviously) gone up...

Boudin and crawfish etouffe combo - $14.95 - great boudin. Not Cochon Butcher, but still damn fine boudin. Crawfish etoufee was tasty. Good spice to it. Didn't need to add the house made hot sauce to it for me, but hear it was good.

Green bean casserole - actually quite good.

Bread pudding - dense, spicy, rich, sweet - GET THIS.

LA 31 beers - ahhh.

The five of us were all stuffed and happy with our food. The bread pudding was one of the side dishes of the meal, though brought after, and we all destroyed ours despite already being stuffed.

It's off exit 16 of I-565. An old Pizza Hut. Helped my NOLA cravings something fierce tonight.

(Tonight: drinking a Good People Brewing Company IPA out of Birmingham. Not as good as the Sweetwater 420s I had earlier, but growing on me a bit. And in a can!)

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One last one: Ol' Heidelberg Cafe in Huntsville. Been around 40 years (since 1972!). (And yes, it's "Ol'", not "Old")

Just good old fashioned German/Austrian cuisine.

Had a very tasty sausage sampler for an appetizer (rauchwurst (sp?) and Polish sausages with sauerkraut), a cucumber salad, and a very good jaeger schnitzel with fried potatoes. And, of course, a couple 32 ounce Paulaner weisses.

A good change of pace!

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Just a note to say that Frank Stitt's Highlands Bar & Grill is still trucking along doing its thing very well. For those in DC: in a nutshell, think Palena, then say it with an Alabama accent and also think about grits. Very good high-end technique, very good use of fresh local ingredients. But even though it is the finest restaurant in Alabama, and even though the place is full of the most prosperous Alabamians wearing fancy clothes, the place manages to avoid being uptight. The staff, some of whom have been there for all thirty years of the restaurant's history, are very friendly and helpful. Menu is ever-changing (check the link for daily menu) with apps in the 12 to 15 range and main courses around the 30 range. And it is one of the few places I've been where a vegetarian is offered a "vegetable plate" (usually a cue to despair and a feeling of being an afterthought) that ends up being the envy of other diners.

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Just returned to sis in law house from hot and hot fish club, Chris Hastings James beard awarded Birmingham restaurant. Playfully asked about a tasting menu option when all of the choices looked to good to miss. Got a yes and was asked how many courses and did I have any specific dishes we'd like. Went with 6 and all chefs choice. And opted for wine pairings. Amuse was housemade brioche with bacon strawberry jam. 1st was gazpacho poured table side into a bowl containing yellow pepper sorbet, tomato sorbet and cucumber sorbet, and compressed balls of melon and cucumber. Stellar. 2nd was raw surf clam with tuna tartare hearts of palm avocado mousse jalapeí±o viniagrette which was paired amazingly with a Fino sherry. 3rd. Was stacked tomatoes with balsamic and olive oil, house ranch fresh corn and black eyed peas, fried okra and bacon. I'm sure I don't have to say how good that was. 4th was half a soft shell fried crisp with beam and carrot purée, fermented black garlic, whole bunch of spring veggies. For final savory we had duck breast and confit wth pickled ramps and green strawberries creamy grit cake some beets and ramp purée and buttery sunchokes. This was our only red wine pairing of night. For dessert they served us a rhubarb panama cotta with wild strawberries, some doughnuts with whisky gelato and pecans, and a cheesecake of sorts, I dunno maybe I was full. Desserts were just ok. Although they were paired with a cocchi americano which was white. And we had cappuccinos. With all that our bill was 220, for 2. Kinda blew my mind. And free valet and they even offered to make me and extra coffee for the road so I made the trip back to gadsden ok. Sorry I wasn't more in-depth on dishes it was getting kinda wordy.

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ONLY the Dreamland in Tuscaloosa; also Archibald's in Tuscaloosa for sliced Q. 

What do you call it when you have an Italian elephant with a dental problem?

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On ‎5‎/‎23‎/‎2014 at 1:56 AM, DonRocks said:

What do you call it when you have an Italian elephant with a dental problem?

Tuscaloosa

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