Did you know that March 1st is National Dadgum That’s Good Day? It’s an unofficial holiday that should bring joy to just about everyone, inspired by a series of cookbooks by John McLemore.
For the record, we’re not talking about John B. McLemore, the Alabama clock restorer and maze maker who starred on the famous “S-Town” podcast. The author of the cookbook is from Georgia and the founder of a company that makes grills, smokers, deep fryers, pizza ovens, and other cooking products.
But we strayed. The biggest point here, which makes us want to throw confetti, is that National Dadgum That’s Good Day is meant to celebrate great cooking, especially great Southern cooking. The people of Birmingham can certainly back that up.
Also, we are happy to use any excuse to point out the foods that are loved in the Magic City. Here are five enduring favorites.
As far as we’re concerned, barbecue is Alabama’s state food. People love to eat it, talk about it, promote their favorite barbecue joints, and discuss the best meats, sauces, and seasonings. Pulled pork or ribs? Mild or spicy? Grilled or smoked? And how about those tasty side dishes? Birmingham has an abundance of barbecue restaurants, many of them top-notch.
Birmingham Bucket List: Carlile’s Barbecue, Demetri’s BBQ, Dreamland Bar-B-Que, Full Moon Bar-BQ, Golden Rule Bar-BQ, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-BQ, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, Saw’s BBQ and their offshoots.
Try this: Pork N’ Greens at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, 215 41st St. South in Avondale. This dish may be unconventional, but it’s a whole lot of deliciousness. The model is vegetables on grits, topped with pulled pork, red sauce and onion rings, $13.50.
READ MORE: The story behind one of the most alabama dishes in history
Tasty, sloppy, abundant. And for some of us, sublime. There’s something very satisfying about devouring a great burger, whether it’s served plain or garnished with a ton of toppings. This picnic staple is served year-round. Hurrah! – and both meat eaters and vegans can find stomach-filling burgers in Birmingham.
Birmingham Bucket List: Chez Fonfon, Five, Jack Brown’s Burger & Beer Joint, Otey’s Tavern, Sammy’s Sandwich Shop, Slutty Vegan, Shake Shack, Yo Mama’s.
Try this: Hamburger Fonfon at Chez Fonfon, 2007 11th Ave. South in Five Points South. Universally considered the best burger in Birmingham, topped with Comte cheese, grilled red onion and pickles, with spotless fries on the side, $18.
READ MORE: Here is the most famous burger in Alabama
The recipe sounds so easy: dough and toppings. But there is an art to making fabulous pizza, and several restaurants in Birmingham have mastered it. We love the creativity of the local pizza makers, who know exactly how to balance ingredients and flavors. Many pizzerias also offer the option to make your own cake, which makes picky eaters happy.
Birmingham Bucket List: Davenport’s Pizza Palace, De Vinci’s Pizza, GM Pizzeria, Post Office Pies, Slice Pizza & Brew, Slim’s Pizzeria, Tortugas Homemade Pizza, Trattoria ZaZa.
Try this: Pizza Margherita at Post Office Pies, 209 41st St South in Avondale. (There’s also a Mountain Brook location.) Fresh ingredients and a delicate balance of flavors make this a must have dish. It’s made with pomodoro sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese; $15 for 9-inch cake, $20 for 12-inch cake.
READ MORE: Alabama’s Best Pizza: 5 Things to Know About Post Office Pies
Granted, your mom (or grandma) makes the best cookies in the world. We hope she agrees that crave-worthy cookies can be made outside of a family kitchen. And do you know where you can find them? in Birmingham.
Birmingham Bucket List: Alabama Biscuit Co., Another Broken Egg, Big Bad Breakfast, Biscuit Love, Edgar’s Bakery, Fife’s Restaurant, Flying Biscuit Cafe, Helen.
Try this: Warm Angel Biscuits in Helen, 2013 Second Ave. North. They’re a standout entree at the restaurant founded by chef Rob McDaniel: light, airy, and delicious. Biscuits are served four to an order, with whipped cane syrup butter and sea salt, $10.
READ MORE: The Story Behind These Angelic Alabama Cookies
MEAT AND THREE
Take a tray; stuff it. No need to tell the folks of Birmingham how to operate a steak and three restaurant, a hearty Southern tradition that allows diners to choose from a seasonal selection of meats, vegetables and other sides. Most restaurants offer cafeteria-style food, with a rotating menu that includes breads (including cornbread) and desserts. Lemon tart, anyone?
Birmingham Bucket List: Ashley Mac’s Kitchen, The Bright Star, Eagle’s Restaurant, Irondale Cafe, Johnny’s Restaurant, Lloyd’s Restaurant, Niki’s West Steak & Seafood Restaurant, Ted’s Restaurant.
Try this: My God, how to choose? We can recommend almost everything in the line of the cafeteria at Niki’s West, 233 Finley Ave. West in Birmingham. The popular restaurant serves seven to eight entrees daily, including fried pork chops, Greek chicken, and lemon-pepper catfish, plus more than 20 sides, including fried okra, collard greens, and mac and cheese. (Macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable here, and we wholeheartedly approve.) Prices vary depending on what and how much you order. But a meal here isn’t likely to break the bank.
READ MORE: Niki’s West: The Story Behind a Classic Alabama Restaurant