Welcome to Bhamdining.com! (Site currently on hiatus)

We offer news, reviews, and listings of locally owned restaurants in Birmingham, Ala. Our focus is on the local places, rather than chains. Some site use tips:

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Soup and Tamales at Kool Korner

We recently had a chance to slip over to Vestavia for lunch and check out a couple of new menu items at Kool Korner, the Cuban sandwich shop.

Over the summer, owner Ildefonso Ramirez added Cuban tamales and black bean soup to the menu.

The tamales are made with freshly ground sweet corn and roasted pork and seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaves and red and yellow peppers and then wrapped in corn husks. We found ours to be much moister and more tender than most -- almost like a spoonbread, with the little bits of pork and vegetables mixed throughout the masa rather than the masa being rolled around a central core of filling. It was very tasty.

The black bean soup had a great homemade taste, with the soup part being more "brothy" than the thicker versions we've had elsewhere.

He's also added guava and cream cheese pastelitos, Cuban pastries made with the tropical fruit guava, but after the sandwiches, tamales and soup, we had no room to try them. (The Classic Cuban is one of Garden & Gun magazine's "100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die.") They looked good, though.

Ramirez, who's 87, opened the Vestavia shop after he retired and closed the original Kool Korner Sandwiches, a favorite in Atlanta for years. Read more about Kool Korner in this blog post from the Birmingham News' Bob Carlton from June.

Kool Korner is located at the Publix Shopping Center in Vestavia at 790 Montgomery Highway. www.koolkornersandwiches.com.

Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 09:46AM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in , | Comments1 Comment

Middle Eastern Food Festival

The 29th annual Middle Eastern Food Festival is this weekend, Oct. 7-9, at the Saint George Milkite Greek Catholic Church.

The festival features Middle Eastern favorites such as kibbee, rolled grape leaves, baked chicken, spinach pie, falafel and more, as well as Middle Eastern groceries and religious books for sale.

Enjoy live music from 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, along with Arabic dancing. Church tours available.

Lunch: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. with drive through service available 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner: 4-9 p.m. with drive through service available 4-7 p.m. (205) 915-8051. http://www.saintgeorgeonline.org

Posted on Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 02:12PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge | CommentsPost a Comment

Monday Dinners

Veranda on Highland is now open for dinner on Mondays.One question we get fairly frequently is, what local restaurants are open for dinner on Monday nights? The answer is, not many if you're trying to avoid chains. But recently we've seen a couple of restaurants add Monday night to their schedules.

The most recent addition is Veranda on Highland. A few weeks ago, this New Orleans-inspired restaurant on Southside started opening for dinner on Mondays. So they're now open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:30-10, as well as for a live jazz Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Veranda also has started offering a half-price bottle of wine on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with the purchase of two dinner entrees, and $15 bottles of Cristalino Cava Sparkline Wine for Sunday Brunch (with complimentary orange juice for mimosas.)

Daniel George restaurant in Mountain Brook also started opening for Monday dinners earlier this year, starting at 5:30 (bar opens at 4:30.) They also started opening for lunch on weekdays, and recently started taking online reservations through OpenTable.

A few other choices for Monday-night dining include Satterfield's in Cahaba Heights, La Dolce Vita in Hoover (which recently expanded and started opening for lunch), Fire in Mountain Brook (under new ownership earlier this year), Bellini's in the Inverness/Meadowbrook/280 area, Bottega Restaurant on Southside, Jinsei in Homewood, and Thai Emerald in the Greystone area off 280. Fleming's steak house in the Summit is a chain but is quite good.

Posted on Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 01:12PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | CommentsPost a Comment

Best Burger?

I had dinner last night with a colleague who's trying to work his way through the 15 "best burgers" identified by Birmingham magazine recently. 

He said he went a bit off the menu and came up with what he thinks is the perfect burger at Rogue Tavern, with fried onions, jalapenos and provolone cheese. Flip Burger Boutique was good, too, he said, although for his taste smoked gouda was perhaps overwhelmed the meat a bit. Velma's and Billy's, he thought, were overrated.

Some of the other burgers on the list he's looking forward to trying are the mini-Kobe burgers at Jinsei, the burgers at Dram Whiskey Bar and Chez FonFon, and an old-fashioned soda fountain burger at Green Valley Drugs.

For a chain, I personally think Five Guys has pretty darn good burgers. And apparently a lot of folks agree with me, because when it came to the Birmingham's Best as voted by Birmingham Magazine readers (http://bhammag.com/bhammag/sept_best_of_bham.aspx), it won Best Burgers (and best fries!). Runners-up were Flip Burger and Hamburger Heaven.

Interestingly, one that did not make the list is Harry's Place, which won the Birmingham News' "Best Burger Around" contest a number of years ago. I think that's likely due to a combination of Harry's perhaps going a big downhill (they've added a lot to their menu and I think it's diluted the attention paid to the burgers), and a lot of new burger options that weren't even around at that time, such as Jinsei, Rogue, Dram and Flip.

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 10:55AM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | Comments2 Comments

Birmingham Restaurant Week

We have been remiss in our duties to let Birmingham restaurant lovers know about an important event! But it's not too late to participate in the first-ever Birmingham Restaurant Week. This is a fantastic way to try some new restaurants without putting a big hole in your wallet.

Although they could do a better job of describing the concept on their website the deal is, participating restaurants offer a special menu for a fixed price of $10.10, $20.10 or $30.10. 

For instance, at Bottega Cafe, for $10.10 you can get a small pizza and salad, with Jack Daniels chocolate gelato and cookies for dessert. For $20.10, you can go to Sol y Luna and get an appetizer of guacamole and chips, a second course of tomatillo lobster soft tacos (my favorite), and enjoy sugar and cinnamon churros for dessert. For $30.10, you could go to Veranda on Highland and have house-made Boudin balls or a salad with roasted butternut squash for an appetizer, for a second course choose betweesn seared gulf shrimp or Colorado lamb shank, and for dessert have fig and white chocolate bread pudding. 

Go to their website at http://bhamrestaurantweek.com and click on the links on the left to see what restaurants are serving what.

Read more in Bob Carlton's blog, and check out the Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/bhamrestweek.

Posted on Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 02:38PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | CommentsPost a Comment

Firebirds plans wine dinner with Sequoia Grove

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is hosting a wine tasting dinner Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at their Birmingham location at Patton Creek shopping center. The dinner will feature the wines of Sequoia Grove, a boutique family-owned winery, named after one of the last remaining groves in Napa Valley.

The event will start with a champagne reception and will proceed through four courses, each matched with a Sequoia Grove wine:

Trio Las Tostadas - seared Ahi Tuna, Shrimp Ceviche and Tenderloin Carpaccio, with Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2008 

Granny Smith apple salad with candied bacon, gorgonzola cheese, frisee and piquillo vinaigrette, served with Sequoia Grove Sauvignon Blanc 2009 

Braised Kobe Beef Short Ribs with crisp red potatoes and spinach au gratin with red wine demi glacé, accompanied by Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2006/2007 

Flourless Chocolate cake served with raspberries in port wine syrup, with Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2005 

Cost is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Sequoia Grove is partnering with Firebirds and the Sequoia Parks Foundation (SPF) to preserve and protect these majestic trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. For every bottle sold of the 2007 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, Firebirds will donate 10 percent of all proceeds to SPF to ensure that future generations can enjoy one of America’s greatest natural icons. 

Posted on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 12:07PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in , | CommentsPost a Comment

Mmm, Gorgonzola

Ever since the very first time we went to GianMarco's, and nearly every time since, I have looked longingly at the Tortellini alla Panna con Gorgonzola on the menu: cheese filled tortellini simmered with gorgonzola dolce, cream and grana padano. It sounded incredibly decadent, and incredibly rich -- so rich that I thought it really would be too much to eat as a whole course.

But last week we went to GianMarco's with some friends who are in the restaurant biz and like us love to share so everyone can try more dishes, and I finally got my chance to have the tortellini. It was just as decadent and rich and delicious as I had imagined. And, as I had suspected, there would have been no way I could have eaten even half of it without being miserable.

So if you're like me and can't handle large portions of really rich food, I highly recommend you take a few friends and order one up to share. Or, if you're one of those people who eats big plates of Alfredo sauce regularly, go for it. The Tortellini alla Panna con Gorgonzola is wonderful.

(Check out GianMarco's menu here.) 

Posted on Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 10:03AM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | CommentsPost a Comment

Upcoming events

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Richard Leigh will perform at Veranda on Highland on Friday, Sept. 10. Leigh will be performing and discussing selections from his many songwriting hits, including the No. 1 songs “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and “I’ll Get Over You,” at a private concert and special three-course dinner. $75 per person. Reservations are required. 

At Blackberry Farm in Tennessee: Hot and Hot's Chris Hastings will be cooking Gulf Coast Cuisine at this Tennessee resort known for its gourmet food Sept. 12-15. Will feature cooking demonstrations by Chef Hastings and wines from David Arthur Vineyards. On Tuesday, September 14, Chef Hastings and David Arthur will present a Grand Finale Dinner in The Barn. 

Cahaba River Fry-Down: Sept. 25. Enjoy a fish-fry competition plus live music, boat and rubber duck races, fly-fishing lessons, water games, local vendors and more at this family fundraiser to benefit the Cahaba River Society. Trussville Springs.

Hops Wednesdays. Pleasure is All Wine in Pelham is adding a new weekly beer event starting Sept. 1. Join them each Wednesday between 5 and 7 p.m. for bar specials on select beers. They offer more than 100 high-gravity beers, with tasting notes posted. They're priced by the bottle. Look for a beer tasting event on the third Thursday of each month.

Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 03:22PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Power of the Press (and Social Media)

After a blog post from a frustrated food truck owner highlighted problems he was having with Birmingham city officials about operating his SpoonFed Grill truck downtown sparked a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts and a follow-up by the Birmingham News' Bob Carlton, apparently the uproar did some good.

As Carlton reported recently in his follow up, the president of Operation New Birmingham admitted he goofed, has apologized to owner Jason Parkman and offered ONB's support to help him return downtown.

However, Parkman is still faced by the problem that the city doesn't actually have a permit system available for food trucks. In the meantime, Carlton reports, the SpoonFed Grill truck will continue to operate in a private parking area near the Social Security Administration building and will look for other private parking places.

Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 10:24PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | CommentsPost a Comment

More highlights from Birmingham's Best Eats

We're nearing the end of the month-long "Birmingham's Best Eats" series of short blog posts by Birmingham foodie writers organized by Wade Kwon over at WadeonBirmingham.com. A few recent highlights:

Tailgating the Magic City Way: "With college football season starting‚ it’s time to tailgate. Whether you’re headed to the Plains, tailgating in T-Town, cooking out in town or just gathering around the HD in your living room, serve a little Birmingham to your guests."

The beginner's guide to Birmingham-area Asian grocery stores: "The Birmingham grocery-scape has become increasingly dotted with Asian, Latin and other ethnic markets. Foreign by nature for many of us, they can seem especially intimidating if you’re accustomed to today’s massive chain supermarkets, where products are mostly familiar and layouts are homogeneously streamlined to move you from buggies to produce to meat."

Nabeel's Cafe in Homewood offers fine authentic Greek fare: "Nabeel’s Café constantly bustles with happy patrons for a reason: The food is authentic, fresh and lip-smackingly delicious."

Max's Delicatessen: Anatomy of a Reuben: "Taking inspiration from the great delis of Detroit and New York, Max’s Delicatessen at the Colonnade features more than 40 sandwiches. But the standout on the menu is the Reuben ($8.99)."

Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 01:11PM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in , , | Comments1 Comment