2012 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, Al 35203
info@h2realestate.com
205.583.5007

Resident Portal: Existing Client? login here.

205.583.5007

Category: Bham Eats

Weeknight Breakfast at Carrigan’s Downtown

breakfast at Carrigan's

breakfast at Carrigan's

We’ve all hit that point midway through a particularly grueling workweek that demands more than your average comfort. The kind of week that demands breakfast food. Luckily, the good folks at Carrigan’s Public House launched a solution this fall: a “breakfast for supper” special each Wednesday evening.

Carrigan’s has marketed the meal as a reward for making it through your Wednesday. And at $10 for the breakfast dish plus mimosa, it definitely is. It’s also a genius antidote to any hump day blues. As the great Ron Swanson said, “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.”

This is no ordinary diner menu, though. It’s a single dish, and it may or may not be announced ahead of time. Past examples have included sausage and egg in a waffle sandwich, goat cheese-topped eggs in a basket nestled against curls of prosciutto, and a bagel and lox served with the prettiest poached eggs. All in keeping with the downtown loft district’s gastropub vibe.

One of our favorite things about the neighborhood is its rotating roster of specialty brunch availability–Saturdays at El Barrio and Feast & Forest, select Saturdays at Yo Mama’s, and Sundays at Trattoria Centrale–but Wednesday evening is a whole new ballgame. We frankly wouldn’t complain if every day was some sort of brunch day, but we’re perfectly happy to celebrate incremental wins.  

True brunch may be a meal reserved for leisurely weekends, but fancy breakfast food need not wait that long. The Carrigan’s solution seems both fancy and spartan, going out with a hint of staying in. All in keeping with the mixed use dynamic of downtown loft living.

We can’t promise a solution to all your hump day problems, but breakfast at Carrigan’s is a fine start. Or at least a merciful end. Here’s to hump day!

 

 

Boutique Food on the Downtown Revelator Coffee Menu

downtown Revelator Coffee menu

downtown Revelator Coffee menu

You’d be forgiven for not knowing the downtown Revelator Coffee menu includes food. It’s not online after all, and there are only passing references to it on social media. It’s worth paying attention, though, because there are some easy treasures here.

Focused on basic staples–avocado, hummus, boiled eggs, and fresh veggies–the lunch menu is a fancy version of what you might pack yourself or throw together at home. But with this presentation and price point (around eight dollars, with add-ons from one dollar to one-fifty), why would you?

The presentation is gorgeous but not overdone, as though the space’s architecture has been translated into food. The PM bowl reminds us of bibimbap: an artful arrangement of bite-size color and texture begging to be eaten. There’s creamy hummus, lightly-dressed arugula, and sticks of raw veggies for a lunch that feels positively virtuous in its healthiness but will still fill you up.

The avocado toast is another popular option (they were out of it by the time we swung by for a late lunch). Asher Lutz, son of local style blogger Lindsey Lutz of Life Lutzurious, reportedly loves the avocado toast here. And this is a kid with a favorite Bottega dish, so he clearly knows what’s what.

Food here is slightly less secretive than the coffee cocktail–food options are at least printed–but there’s no permanent online presence. The menu seems designed as an additional offering for an established crowd rather than a real marketing draw. And that strategy makes sense with Revelator’s boutique feel.

It’s as though they cleverly foresaw the move toward actual boutiques downtown and established themselves early in the game. Revelator’s been on the vanguard of this end of the loft district, after all. The Lyric wasn’t yet operating when it opened here, nor had the Pizitz Building or Thomas Jefferson Tower redevelopments begun. So it seems like no accident that they’ve added more complex offerings as this area has become one to linger in.

So, whether you’re looking for a non-sad working lunch or an easy, open-ended chat, it’s worth putting Revelator on your list.

 

Understated Arts at Woodlawn Cycle Cafe Brunch

woodlawn cycle cafe brunch

woodlawn cycle cafe brunch

Our love of brunch is well-documented, but as a meal, sometimes it’s frankly too time-limited. If nothing says weekend quite like brunch, why do most restaurants serve it only one day per week? Clearly simpatico, Woodlawn Cycle Cafe brunch is an all-weekend affair.

We can’t say what exactly they’ll offer when you go. That’s the beauty of a rotating menu, after all. But there will likely always be some variation on the toastie and salad combo, in keeping with their understated arts. On a visit in early November, we fell hard for a fried egg, cheese, and bacon version built around a sweet potato biscuit and topped with pepper jelly.

The biscuit was tender beyond measure and flaky only where it needed to be. Basically, it’s a biscuit sandwich you’ll want to eat with a knife and fork. And we say that for informational purposes only, not as a complaint. A hit of heat from the pepper jelly offset any added sweetness from the biscuit or any heaviness from bacon and cheese. It was a nearly perfect breakfast bite.

Add in some bright sunlight in a whitewashed space plus one of our all-time favorite lattes, and getting out of bed on the weekend starts to look appealing. The crowd ebbs and flows, so don’t be alarmed if it seems busy when you arrive. It’ll settle out and leave plenty of room for a leisurely meal.

But what would brunch be without a bit of walking around afterward? A handful of small shops in the same block–Open Shop Woodlawn, Public Office, and Club Duquette–offer post-meal options. Their related aesthetic and unique product lines make brunch at Woodlawn Cycle Cafe not just a meal but an event. And if your Saturday doesn’t come together the way you’d planned, you can always try again Sunday. That’s the beauty of Woodlawn’s brunch weekend.

 

Check back Wednesday and Saturday for posts on Open Shop and Public Office, so you can plan your weekend in Woodlawn.

 

Saucy Fun at Cashio’s Meatball Market in Lakeview

cashio's meatball market in lakeview

cashio's meatball market in lakeview

From the outside, Cashio’s Meatball Market in Lakeview looks quaint. Historic, even, as though it could belong to owner Mary Susan Cashio’s grandmother, who inspired the recipes, according to AL.com. But this is no grandma restaurant. Cashio’s combines small neighborhood charm with modern restaurant polish to create a thoroughly fun new option.

Taking a page from fast-casual dining, Cashio’s has built its entire menu on the meatball. Pretty literally, in fact. The menus aren’t simply a list of available options; they’re the canvas for your own meatball masterpiece. And the restaurant website’s food photography is sure to get you inspired.

Pick your meatball meat–or the veggie option–and build from that, adding sauce and then a side. Mark your choices on the menu as you calculate your perfect bite. If by chance you can’t choose, there’s even a meatball flight. The man at a neighboring table seemed pleased with that decision, reporting that he even loved the veggie meatball.

For the ultimate comfort bite, you’ll probably want either the classic beef or the Italian sausage meatball and the spicy marinara over pasta. The sauce is chunky enough to stand up to a meatball and adds a subtle kick. The marsala sauce is also worth a try. We’d pair it with the risotto, which had a great texture–a hint of creaminess without losing the rice grain.

Cashio’s genius is really in the buildable approach, where you can hold onto part of a favorite meal but branch out with different pairings. And it’s just plain fun.

The bold interiors by Appleseed Workshop are a pleasure to sit in–the statement banquettes are incredibly comfy–and the staff is friendly. It’s the kind of atmosphere where you could easily be a regular. And with the location walkable to housing in Lakeview and Highland Park, that’s a distinct possibility.

Melt in Avondale: Basics, but Better

melt in avondale

melt in avondale

There are few things more basic than a grilled cheese and a cup of tomato soup. So basic, perhaps, that they’re often overlooked. But not at Melt in Avondale. The grilled cheese headquarters will remind you why you’ve always loved them and make you come back for more.

We’ve talked before about Avondale being a nostalgic kind of neighborhood, and Melt is certainly in that vein. But there’s a danger in nostalgia. Things we’ve carried around for decades in our subconscious are hard to live up to. And even if our mammas always burned the grilled cheese in an unseasoned cast iron skillet, well, they did it with love. That’s an ingredient that’s hard to beat.

The folks at Melt won’t love you like your mamma, but they’ll sure make you love their grilled cheese. They’ll also let you watch football at the table, which was always a sore spot growing up. (Pro-tip: warn the host which game you’re watching, since there’s one TV that doesn’t get the SEC network.)

Ironically, the key to the Melt grilled cheese isn’t the cheese at all. The cheese, in fact, does its job of being of rich but not overwhelming. At Melt, the toast is boss, the Texas toast. It crisps well on the outside but melts away on the interior. It is the perfect frame for cheese, the perfect vehicle for your culinary delight.

It’s also emblematic of the Avondale food scene, where subtle shifts make old favorites into foodie phenomena. The crust at Post Office Pies. Sweet Tea fried chicken at Saw’s. The “blue collar” spin on a Big Mac at Fancy’s on Fifth (a member of the Melt family, naturally). Big kid versions of childhood favorites, all of them.

And Melt has plenty of those kinds of favorites–an updated take on your favorite fast foods. Among them is the buffalo chicken, which we also love. But for all the menu’s delights, the basics are its real home runs. The things you well might have prepped at home but likely never will again. Your toast will never compare.

Even in dessert Melt steals the show, adding the perfect hint of salt to the nutella and honey charms of the Banana Stand. It’s all home-inspired comfort with a style  all its own. Like the neighborhood, Melt is a nostalgic charm that’s not stuck in the past.

Avondale Comfort Food Goes Mexican at Taco Morro Loco

taco morro loco in avondale

taco morro loco in avondale

There are things you don’t realize are missing, until they’re not. A Mexican restaurant in Avondale, for instance. After all, what suggests food that’s satisfying on the palette, easy on the wallet, and enjoyed in a casual setting quite like your favorite Mexican joint? Welcome to the brick-and-mortar version of Taco Morro Loco.

In true Avondale style, Taco Morro Loco offers more foodie versions of Mexican classics. It’s a place you can still get a burrito with rice and beans–south of the border comfort food, in our book–but with more-interesting-than-average fillings.

The real standouts are their tacos, though. The tortillas are generously stuffed, and the meat-y flavors are spot on. The al pastor includes pineapple chunks for a nice play on savory and sweet.

We’re also a little in love with their sauces, which make all the difference between food we expect and food we get excited about. Chips and salsa are a given, after all, but Taco Morro Loco’s salsa has some real, smoky heat. Bad news for folks who don’t like spicy food; good news for anyone tired of pureed pico de gallo.

The guacamole’s another standard done really, really well. It tastes incredibly fresh, with big cilantro and onion flavors coming through to enhance the creamy avocado base. 

The taco and burrito sauce was a fascinating vinaigrette, with the sour kick of tamarind and we’re not sure what else. We just know that we’d like it by the bottle.

Taco Morro Loco’s location–bordering a gas station–shouldn’t be good real estate. But it works. It builds on the former Avondale Grill’s draw for Mexican specialties, adding actual dining space from the adjacent former laundry. And it has some parking.

There’s cute outdoor seating during nice weather, and TVs inside let you keep up with seasonal sports while you eat. A tiled bar top ties in Mexican style with the restaurant’s take on Avondale communal seating.

Perhaps most importantly, Taco Morro Loco is one of the few neighborhood places you can go at peak time on a Friday night without facing a long wait. You could just as easily pick up tacos for a brewery visit or headed home to your own place in Avondale.

Still looking for that place? Check our Avondale listings.

Artful Balance at Saigon Noodle House

saigon noodle house avondale

saigon noodle house avondale

There’s plenty to say about the food at Avondale’s Saigon Noodle House. But if there’s a single symbol  of the restaurant, it’s a mural.

Taking up an entire rear wall, it’s Saigon Noodle House’s defining artwork. In more ways than one.

It features a bubble tea stall and a cart called “Saigon Noodle House” surrounded by iconic Birmingham structures. AL.com describes the cart’s presence in this “mash-up of the old and the new,” that the restaurant’s Vietnamese heritage remains in the foreground.

We say it’s also a declaration of intent: that Saigon Noodle House will make its mark on the Birmingham scene. And it should, blending Vietnamese flavors with the slim menu and high style of Birmingham’s urban food scene. It is a grand balance, indeed.

As in so many Avondale hot spots–Saw’s, for instance, and Post Office Pies–pork is a standout at Saigon Noodle House. It’s tender but not moist, which sounds odd but highlights the marinade flavor. There are also plenty of plays on texture: the crunch of fresh cucumbers, the brittle crispness of fried wrappers, the crackle of crunchy French bread.

Cocktails are a new addition to Saigon Noodle House offerings, AL.com noted. A delightful one, in our opinion. We’re fans of the Tet-a-Tet, with its sweet citrus profile plans and charming umbrella topper. There have also been Jack and Coke slushies. Both appeal to the kid at heart who enjoys a grown-up libation. The drinks are “playful,” which is exactly how AL.com described that mural.

It’s also how we think of the Avondale scene.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in Birmingham, Avondale tends to be a family-friendly evening out. It’s charming and creative and fun. And the fast casual setup at Saigon Noodle House is no exception. The right blend of style and substance, both neighborhood and restaurant are a delight.

 

Back and Better: Birmingham Restaurant Week 2016

Birmingham Restaurant Week
Birmingham Restaurant Week
Image via Birmingham Restaurant Week

 

We love a good Birmingham Restaurant Week, and this year’s is set to be better than ever. There will be the usual delights of prix fixe menus that showcase our city’s culinary range, including additions over the past year. But a new BRW event highlights our own meal obsession. (It’s true, we even tagged it). That’s right. This year there will be brunch.

On Saturday, August 20, BRW is offering a grand brunch sampling. Participants include local institutions like Rojo and Silvertron, along with the newer Harvest and Ovenbird.

And if food and drink — including Royal Cup Nitro Coffee and a Mimosa bar — weren’t enough, the BRW team has put together a true event: live music and foodie shopping opportunities are included in the ticket price. All this magic will take place in Woodlawn’s Social Venture space, which only proves our own Matt Neal’s point that Woodlawn is a neighborhood to watch.

There’s also a very worthy beneficiary of your brunch ticket dollars in the Urban Food Project. The REV Birmingham program coordinates area farmers and underserved urban markets to bring fresh produce where it’s needed and boost local food production, according to its website.

Don’t stop with brunch, though. Dive into all of Restaurant Week’s amazing foodie options. Tempting new menus and long-time favorites always battle for the finite space in our calendars and stomachs.

As much as we talk about the foodie culture of the downtown Loft District and Avondale, it’s worth noting that those areas aren’t Restaurant Week’s biggest participants. That honor goes to the Five Points South neighborhood, which includes the fine dining gem of Highlands and the paper napkin delicacies of Dreamland.

There’s a reason our culinary scene is earns so much press, and Birmingham Restaurant Week is the ultimate reminder.

 

Birmingham Restaurant Week runs Friday, August 12, through Sunday, August 21. Restaurant menus and event tickets are available on the BRW website.

Forest Park’s Growing Restaurant Scene

  
With its single-street layout and proximity to stately homes, Forest Park’s business district feels like a quieter, quirkier cousin to English Village. What the park has sometimes missed is an atmosphere for lingering, but restaurant changes announced this year signal a new neighborhood era. Building on the goofily fabulous momentum of the Tour de Loo, Forest Park is set to become a more social neighborhood any night of the week.

The shift began in February, when AL.com reported that Mac Russell, the culinary chops behind Shindigs would be opening “a fast-casual restaurant and bar that will also include a produce and meat market and a kitchen for his catering business.” So while we stand behind our ideas for small business occupants of the space, we’re really pleased to be wrong on the final result.

Russell’s business concept — named DMac’s after himself and his aspiring restaurateur grandfather, according to AL.com — doesn’t sound too far off from the V. Richard’s model. The difference, it seems, is a shift in focus: the AL.com description emphasizes restaurant and bar elements, while market goods appeared to be more of a bonus feature. It’s a sound business strategy, given that there will soon be two Publix options (Montclair and 20 Midtown) within a short drive.

Even more recently, AL.com reported a reworking of the Little Savannah menu. “For years, we’ve sort of had this theme, if you will, of fine dining or trying to be a little more upscale,” Cliff Holt, the restaurant’s chef and owner, told the site. “I really want to get back in touch with the neighborhood, to be more of a neighborhood bar and restaurant.”

Holt also mentioned adding a burger option to the menu, and the currently posted sample menu does include the BHMBurger, served with roasted jalapeno goat cheese and “truck-stop” fries. There also seems to be a greater emphasis on snacks and sides than some older menus. Little Savannah’s still not a budget option, but it now seems much more drinks-and-snacks friendly.

All told, the changes suggest Forest Park will have the culinary appeal of the loft district a few years ago — a combination of Birmingham institutions and fresh start-ups. It will have the genteel neighborhood feel of English Village but close proximity to Avondale’s lively 41st Street district. In other words, Forest Park is looking better and better.

Foodie Fridays at Downtown’s Trattoria Centrale

dinner at trattoria centrale

pasta at trattoria centrale

Friday Night dinners at Trattoria Centrale have been away so long, they almost felt lost to history. We were excited enough when new owners Bryan & Erica promised to bring them back. We were ecstatic when they actually did. Even better, the dinners are just as good as we remember.

Friday night dinners aren’t just a chance to unwind; they’re also a chance to be less utilitarian than a weekday lunch allows. Dessert, for instance, is rarely part of our lunch equation, and appetizers aren’t on the lunch menu. But both were superstars on the dinner menu. In fact, here’s our big recommendation for Friday night dinners: bring at least one friend, order multiple appetizers, split an entree and then a dessert. Or just a bowl of tiramisu for one. Your choice.

Trattoria’s appetizers hit a sweet spot between Southern and Italian influences that’s very hard to beat. The blt crustini featured sweet roasted tomatoes and thick bacon for a fancy take on a classic sandwich. The tomato salad with salty field peas, sweet peaches, and micro basil is a farmers market on a plate.

dinner at trattoria centrale

Without red sauce, the bacon/corn/tomato/basil pesto ricotta pizza felt fresh and light as a main dish. The garganelli entree had perfectly cooked pasta and shrimp, just enough cheese, bitterly tender eggplant and the occasional almond crunch. It was a dish that felt simple but packed in comforting flavors, which is basically the point of pasta.

If you’re at all a dessert person, though, everything else pales in comparison to the tiramisu. We were talked into it with raves about the homemade custard, and we’re so glad. This dish is all about thick, eggy custard with a dusting of bitter coffee and chocolate. Coffee soaked ladyfingers wait at the bottom like a Cracker Jack surprise. We won’t judge if you need to lick the bowl.

The tricky part about the loft district dining options is that some of our downtown favorites are weekday lunch only. But for many of us, spending quality time in them means evenings or weekends — exactly when they’re not open. We tend to think of the weekend brunch or the odd evening open as neighborhood open house time, and we’re glad to have it.

But as much as we love a good brunch, it can be hard to beat an evening streetscape and a well-earned meal at the end of the week. Welcome back Friday night dinners. We’re very glad to have you!