Spring Street, renamed Forty-First following the annexation to Birmingham in 1907, was the center of the new city. It extended from First Avenue, North, to the park, a distance of about five blocks. The surveyors made it wide to provide for the heavy traffic that they foresaw when Avondale grew to be a city of importance and Avondale Park should be developed into a popular pleasure and recreational place.
Avondale’s 41st Street commercial center maintains a comfortably rustic vibe that sets it apart from other Birmingham food scenes. It forgoes the fine dining peaks of Five Points South or the high design urbanity of the Loft District to forge its own foodie destiny, despite the popular Brooklyn comparisons. If Five Points’ drink identity alternates between a draft beer and a well-aerated Bordeaux, and the Loft District is a craft cocktail, then Avondale is the beer cocktail ⏤ self-assuredly casual and quirky and no less irresistible for it.
There’s an old-school, almost-kitsch food atmosphere in Avondale, a place where nostalgic references and comfort food can be taken to a deliberate excess. (Think Post Office Pies’ Swine Pie or Melt’s Mac Melt.) But there’s a sincerity to the food choices that’s hard to resist, a grounding in just-plain-good food and drink we always love. Rowe’s Service Station, for instance, describes its meals as “belligerently simple,” offering the no-frills comfort of a meat-and-three without the cafeteria line.
Our other favorite part about Avondale is that many of its offerings aren’t designed to be stand-alone options. Instead, it’s a kind of brick-and-mortar food truck park crossed with a modern main street. Its different specialty food and drink items are best mixed together, often when settling in at 41st Street or Avondale Brewing. (To help plan your Avondale experience, we’ve identified the most iconic food and drink options along 41st Street below this post.)
But it turns out we’re not the first to notice its main street feel. The Birmingham News raved about 41st Street in 1925 as the symbol not just of Avondale but of its progress. And, indeed, 41st Street’s emergence as a foodie mecca has transformed the neighborhood in recent years. So we’ll close out with the paper’s words, since many of them hold true today:
If every town has its ‘Main Street,’ few have any thoroughfare which has dominated its life and business as has Spring Street, Avondale, for more than a quarter of a century. It is what Twentieth Street is to Greater Birmingham, and then some. …It is really a remarkable street and its opening⏤paved its length⏤on Labor Day was significant in that at last Avondale was casting aside its swaddling clothes and putting on grown-up togs. The town was merging into city ways, and from now on keep your eye on it, for it’s going forward by leaps and bounds.
41st Street’s Most Iconic Choices:
41st Street Pub & Aircraft Sales: Moscow Mule
The Abbey: Coffee, Bagel with Bacon Jam
Avondale Brewing: Miss Fancy’s Tripel or Vanillaphant Porter
Avondale Grill: Tamales (Friday and Saturday only)
Melt: Mac Melt, Bham Bloody Mary
Post Office Pies: Swine Pie, Arnold Palmer or Pachyderm Pale Wheat
Rowe’s Service Station: Chicken Paillard, Eggs Vulcan, Fried Snickers, Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary
Satellite: Rocket Booster
Saw’s Soul Kitchen: Pork & Greens