All eyes are on the food scene in Birmingham, Alabama, as it continues to attract culinary talents from all over the United States, including Food and Wine magazine, which transferred its headquarters from Manhattan last summer. What are the best places to get a taste of what's happening? We turned to our pal Akhtar Nawab to find out. The chef and entrepreneur, who began his career at Gramercy Tavern and Craft, recently expanded his NYC empire (Alta Calidad restaurant in Brooklyn, multiple Choza Taqueria outposts, and the gourmet food delivery service Indie Fresh) south to the new Pizitz food hall in Downtown Birmingham.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – When my business partner and I were approached about adding our fast-casual concept, Choza Taqueria, to The Pizitz, a new food hall under construction in Downtown Birmingham, I was excited. I instantly felt comfortable in Birmingham, as it reminds me so much of my home town, Louisville, Kentucky. Birmingham has a bustling food scene, and to research the market, we had to eat extensively around town. (Yes: a fun part of my job.) When we were offered a restaurant space next door to to the food hall, it all came together. Birmingham did not have a lot in the way of fresh pasta, but with my background at Gramercy Tavern and Craft, I had a solid foundation in Mediterranean cooking. Which is how we opened the Italian restaurant Fero. Establishing a restaurant in Birmingham is very personal; it's almost one-on-one with every new customer. It’s thrilling to be part of a community that's on the verge of a dynamic culinary growth spurt. From coffee and biscuits to BBQ and beer, these are the local spots that I keep returning to.
Railroad Park Foundation, 1600 1st Ave. South; +1-205-521-9933
A great way to start off the morning is to head to Railroad Park for a run. It helps to clear my head and get ready for the day before it gets blistering hot.
Good People Brewing Company
114 14th St. South; +1-205-286-2337
I love to relax with friends over an occasional beer. Good People is my go-to for their malty pale ale. (I love malty beers.)
4133 White Oak Drive
During my first trip to Birmingham, a local friend took us to a small out-of-the-way place called Alabama Biscuit. I had no idea what to expect or order, as everything sounded great. I tried Mississippi Cheese Toast with sorghum, aged cheddar, and sea salt — and it blew my mind. Later, after I got to know the owners, I learned about the high-quality butter and sprouted flours they buy to create their biscuits. Excellent.
730 1st Ave. North
I love the bright and open atmosphere, not to mention their flat-out great coffee. I order the almond milk latte for my morning jolt.
Post Office Pies
209 41st Street South; +1-205-599-9900
I have a soft spot for Post Office Pies. Chef John Hall is fellow alum from Gramercy Tavern in NYC. But, all bias aside, this place exudes quality. If you’re in the area, it’s a must.
1427 14th Ave., South; +1-205-933-2133
A definitive BBQ joint in Alabama. The ribs are meaty and firm, with just the right amount of chew. The locals say, "ain't nothing like 'em nowhere,” and I would have to agree.
The Pizitz Food Hall, 1821 2nd Ave. North, Suite 176; +1-205-582-9250
Yes, it’s my restaurant, so I’m totally biased. But we recently debuted our new bar menu, and I am compelled to recommend the Alabama white BBQ duck wings. They are one of my favorites.
The Market at Pepper Place
2829 2nd Ave. South; +1-205-490-3176
We do much of our shopping for Fero at this greenmarket for the huge bounty of awesome produce that’s available every week. I’m still thinking about a recent batch of cherries and squash, the best I have ever had in the US!
Mud Mama Designs
2829 2nd Ave. South, inside Pepper Place Market; +1-205-447-5374
As a chef, most of my recommendations are food-heavy, but I have to share this spot because they have amazing ceramics. They offer a lot, but I’m particularly fond of their beautiful plates.
McWane Science Center
200 19th St. North; +1-205-714-8300
For anyone with kids, this is a great family adventure. I can’t wait to bring my daughter Ela.