The Magic City has a long history of population booms and industry revivals. But these days, what’s turning heads is a burgeoning foodie scene that perfectly complements the city’s growing adventure-seeking population. This southern hub is full of hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems, from coffee joints where you can fuel up for the day to feel-good food tailored to any type of adventure. Here, we picked some of the best Birmingham restaurants beloved by adventure-minded locals. Bon appetit!
Best Place for a Java-Filled Fuel Up: Seeds Coffee
Heading to Red Mountain for some hiking? A great spot to jump-start your day is at this hyper-local shop in Mountain Brook, at the foot of the mountain. A hands-down favorite among Birmingham locals, Seeds Coffee was started by a group of coffee aficionados who started roasting coffee beans with a Whirly Pop popcorn maker. Since opening in 2013, Seeds has sprouted into a hub for java-craving locals and adventurers, with three types of brewing methods, highly flavorful coffees, and lovingly made latte art, especially the signature Seeds dragon. In addition, the folks at Seeds are adventurers, too, traveling the world not only in the search of the best product, but also thefairest relationship with farmers and their communities.
Best Place for a Date With a Fellow Outdoor Lover: Real & Rosemary
Forget the fussy dishes and the fancy trappings: Described by owners as an extension of their own home kitchens, this homey Mountain Brook restaurant is the perfect spot to savor Southern favorites in a low-key setting. The atmosphere is casual and the food is feel-good: Recipes are inspired by beloved Southern favorites, including fried green tomatoes, plates of braised beef, and herb-laden garden vegetables. Real & Rosemary’s sandwiches are always a good bet, too, from the beloved (BLT) to the creative (beet, fig, and goat cheese). Another bonus? No preservatives, MSG, dyes, or other additives in any of the thoughtfully curated dishes.
Best Spot for a Post-Adventure Pint: Avondale Brewing
A pharmacy, a saloon, and a brothel once all called Avondale Brewing’s taproom home, but since 2011, local beer has claimed the historic building. Sixteen rotating taps—give or take based upon what the master brewers have been cooking up, as well as what locals have been drinking—will tempt any beer lover’s palate, while the taproom and patio draw local businesspeople and adventurers alike. The brewery bases its malt and barley infusions’ names off historic (and oftentimes,hilarious) bits of Avondale history, including Miss Fancy, an elephant at the local zoo during Prohibition who was a fan herself of drinking. And while dogs are welcome to hang on the vast patio underneath the twinkling lights, it’s water, not mash, that’s being served to the pups today.
Best Post-Adventure Spot for Gut-Busting Grub: El Barrio
There’s hungry, and then there’s hungry—you know, the kind where you’ve worked up an appetite hiking, paddling, or running so voracious during it feels like your stomach is on the verge of digesting itself. When that kind of hunger kicks in, Mexican food always seems to deliver: piles of chips and salsa to take the edge off, hearty main dishes, and, of course, a well-deserved margarita or craft beer to round things out. El Barrio, located on downtown’s emerging 2nd Avenue North, checks off all those boxes and then some. Kick things off with the delicious guacamole, served with crispy warm tortillas, before moving on to the aptly named Big Dishes, which include standard favorites like enchiladas and Southern touches here and there (like the grilled chorizo meatloaf). Hearty tacos are a winner, too, but whatever you choose, you won’t walk out of here hungry. (One heads-up: The restaurant is closed on Sunday, so weekend warriors should plan a Saturday visit instead.)
Best Spots for a Sunset Picnic: Red Mountain Park & Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
Food just tastes better when it’s enjoyed in the outdoors, so grab a picnic lunch from your favorite spot in town (or a to-go order from any spot on this list) and head to either of these two parks for sublime sunset hikes. Red Mountain Park and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve are both full of trails with spectacular views of the city, along with adventures like biking, ziplining, and even treehouses, which offer a delightful dose of childhood nostalgia. Ruffner Mountain’s hours permit a view of the sunset all year long, with hours extending until dusk; the Overlook Trail offers a spectacular view at a small price: the trail is less than half a mile long and only moderately challenging, making it an excellent option for exploring on when your time is limited. Red Mountain Park, with its famed Grace’s Gap overlook trail, is equally spectacular but best visited when the sun sets well before 7 pm, as preserve officials strictly enforce this as their closing hour.
Best Late Night Eats: Hotbox
It’s not uncommon that a post-hike drink turns into several, and before you know it, you’re hungry again. However, decent food past 10 pm can be hard to find, even in bigger cities. That’s where Hotbox, located on 5th Ave South, comes in: This tiny spot in a converted Airstream trailer can satisfy any big late-night craving. Small and intimate—and, more importantly, open late (until 11 pm on weeknights and 1 am on weekends)—Hotbox is a permanently stationed food truck located in Parkside’s courtyard that serves up a constantly rotating menu of globally influenced, locally sourced food, from pot stickers made with Gulf shrimp to lemongrass fried chicken to the Hotbox burger, a signature mainstay item on the rotating menu. Keep the party going with libations from Parkside’s indoor bar.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.