When we first started this blog there was not much online about food in Birmingham. That has changed as well as our interest. The two food items that were the inspiration for this blog – Sammy’s Sandwich Shop’s Burger and the Blackened Chicken Sandwich at Otey’s are still there and just as good as the day we started.
Thanks for all the email and feedback over the years! Eat Local.
Ok – I am breaking the rules. After 12 months of seeking gluten free foods things are taking shape. It is very apparent when a restaurant makes the shift to cater to gluten free shoppers. As of today there are two chain restaurants (I know, I hate chains) which are VERY GF friendly, Chipotle and Flip Burger. We made a third trip to Flip Burger today and I decided they deserve a post. We actually headed to Chuy’s but when presented with their GF options we all decided to go back to Flip. Having eaten several burgers in lettuce wraps its not a great experience. That’s why Flip has won our hearts. They offer a good GF bun. Combine that with their potatoes fried in beef tallow and I am coming back again soon. Since the beef tallow is not used for any of the battered items it is GF as well. Enjoy!
The love of my life figured out she has been suffering from a reaction to gluten for at least 15 years. She stopped eating gluten around May 25th of this year and within 4 days skin problems disappeared. Needless to say I have been mostly gluten free since then and my “best” lunches have been changing. We still eat good but mostly home cooked food. I miss the crust at Slice and the buns from Sammy’s burger and Saw’s shrimp sandwich. However – both are good without the bun and believe it or not Slice has a gluten free crust. I applaud their effort however the crust is a big part of their pizza. I am pondering a gluten free lunch blog so stay posted. (Protein Plate at Zoe’s, Smoked Chicken at Miss Myra’s, Lime Steak at Urban Cookhouse)
Hit the almost new Saw’s Juke Joint in the old Open Door spot off Euclid today. It’s Soul Kitchen menu with lots of room and wait staff. Don’t forget your wallet and feel free to come around happy hour- full bar. The food is just like the Kitchen which means it is made with love. It will be a challenge to see if they can maintain the quality with this much volume. I will be happy to visit regularly to check.
One of my all time favorite things to eat in the world is fried shrimp. But, I find it rare to get good fried shrimp north of I-10 so I usually just take a pass, especially in Birmingham. And please don’t put a shrimp po-boy on your menu without understanding the elements of a shrimp po-boy. I digress.
One of my recent favorite places to eat has been Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale. I am continuously amazed at 3 things, the cost, the line and the food. It’s crazy expensive, folks line up from 11am till 2pm and everything I have eaten there is crafted with passion. The unexpected treats at Saw’s Soul Kitchen are the seafood options. Grouper, oyster and shrimp are regulars on the menu and I have even see a softshell crab BLT when in season.
I found my self driving back downtown today just for a shrimp sandwich, I knew it was time to write her up. I think if they had called it a po-boy, and not had Gambio’s bread, I would have turned away. This little treat is on a bun that is there just so they can call it a sandwich. Otherwise it’s a pile of perfectly seasoned shrimp (south of I-10 seasoned), lettuce, tomato, pickles and a mayo/tarter type dressing that brings it all together. As far as sides go – have your pick they are all good.
Bring your patience, your wallet and someone with you that loves good food. This is a place to enjoy food.
What is comfort? I’m not sure. But I do know comfort food and Sol’s is the place to go. I have been a fan of Sol’s since it opened but I have not been able to post a lunch recommendation. The trouble has been I keep ordering something different. My goal on this blog is to recommend a lunch that you will crave. One that will call you back again and again.
This menu is full of great options so it has taken me some time to develop one specific craving. I can eat healthy, the salads and blackened fish are high on the healthy list. There are also some tasty sandwiches - Patty Melt, Mexicali, Cuban and I even had something called a Manhattan which was great. They have top of the line staples like the Super Sol (cheeseburger) and a Philly that will make you smile. It is just too much. I wonder how they can do so many things well.
A few warnings – Sometimes the line is long, which is a good sign. Additionally, If you are with a group your food comes out as soon as it is ready. If some of you order a meat and three it will be there fast. If others order something more complex they will get to watch you eat. This can be awkward for everyone.
Now for the food – hands down – its the daily meat and veggies. If fresh homemade veggies are something you enjoy Sol’s is a home run. If you visit enough you will soon get to know the little lady in the kitchen, Nadia. She gets up at the crack of dawn every day and pours her love into the daily specials. It is not often today when you find someone who cares so much about quality. It’s good to know she is teaching her boys how to make food with pride. Leading by example!
My recommendation – meatloaf – with the incredible tangy red sauce. You have to order potatoes because they were up early that morning cleaning, boiling and smashing them just for you. The other two options are variable – lima beans or field peas are good options. One day I ordered early peas, not knowing they were army peas, and now I get them every time they are on the menu. They are fresh and light, yumm.
All of the veggies are light and tasty – they are made by hand with fresh locally sourced produce picked out by Nadia. She cares about her food and you can taste it.
If you can’t get there on a meatloaf day – try the hamburger steak its my second favorite. Third, the Cuban. Don’t be afraid to try a special, they have all been good. There are really lots of great options. Enjoy!
I love the Urban Cookhouse – In the past, have complained about the parking and sometimes the wait in line. Maybe they read my blog because they have added a second location and its bigger with unlimited parking! When you take something great and improve everything it gets real close to perfect. I have several favorites on the menu. Today I had the Urban Cowboy – one of the more masculine items on the menu. Lime marinated steak, sauteed peppers and onions with pepper-jack cheese. Its not spicy but it is tasty. I usually get the broccoli salad, its good, fresh and healthy. If you don’t care about healthy go with the hot cheddar pasta.
I have decided one of the best things about Urban Cookhouse is the portion size. It’s perfect for lunch. You leave there refreshed ready for the afternoon, not too full to work.
Pizza has always been a treat for the kids when we go out somewhere nice. It’s a great birthday item at Chucky Cheese or a treat at Jim Davenports as you get up to speed on the latest body art. But this is a lunch web site can one eat pizza for lunch? Yes, by the slice. Just opened in Lakeview (downtown by St Vincents) is a very nice pizza shop called Slice.
Slice was made for beer and pizza. It’s so simple yet elegant, The pizza oven is a work of art and it produces the best stone baked crust I have ever had. They have 10 local beers on tap and a long list of bottled beer. The current menu has 16 pizzas. I would not call them gourmet pizzas although they have gourmet toppings. These are just good pizzas made to look and taste like pizza.
I suggest bringing a friend and sharing two. Plan to take the left over home for lunch. Yep, left over pizza. I can not think of a better lunch. If that is not your speed they are open for lunch and serve pizza by the slice.
My current favorite is the Very Veggie. It’s not leading by much, the crust is a big factor in the goodness so all the pizzas have that going for them. This veggie pizza has 3 types of peppers and one is jalapeno! It’s a spicy veggie pizza and I love it!
The place is run by three brothers who have lots of pizza and food experience. You can tell they care about their product. Every visit we get quizzed for our thoughts on the food. Last Thursday night they had a little outdoor entertainment, it was nice and relaxing. I can not wait to go back again.
Most people who know me, understand when I say “I am going to Sammy’s”, that I am going for a cheeseburger. It’s the best cheeseburger anywhere. I know, lots of places have good cheeseburgers and some people do very creative things with cheeseburgers, but to me a cheeseburger doesn’t need anything weird – bun, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato a little onion and maybe some peppers and bacon.
Sammy’s Sandwich Shop in Woodlawn (4921 Messer Airport Hwy Birmingham, AL 35212) is hands down my favorite place for a cheeseburger. In fact, I don’t ever try cheeseburgers anymore; I just go back to Sammy’s. This hidden treasure of a diner is near the airport in Birmingham, AL. You get off 59/20 at the airport exit and go away from the airport on Messer Airport Highway. Go thru the second light and look for a little old shopping center on the left. There is a small Dr Pepper sign that says Sammy’s Sandwich Shop. They open early for breakfast but close around 3:30pm and they are closed Saturday and Sunday. In other words – Weekday lunch spot.
The guy at the griddle is Johnny and the hostess is his wife Susan. They also have a son there helping with the big lunch crowds. You can sit at Johnny’s counter or enjoy a midcentury booth. The power company guys will be devouring the daily special but don’t be tempted to order anything but what you came in for, the large cheeseburger, all the way.
If you watch Johnny you will see him fashion each patty from a tub of beef he keeps in the fridge next to the griddle. He applies a special sauce and spices as it cooks and he also keeps some bacon, onion and peppers diced and ready to griddle up as a topping. They use a large soft Merita bun and fresh, local and organic lettuce and tomato. I usually count the napkins I use and seldom can I keep it under a dozen. It’s the best tasting juiciest burger in the world. I promise you will come back. You will be tempted to try a beef rider but remember why you came to Sammy’s and order another cheeseburger.