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CONTACT: Dilcy Windham Hilley
                        Vice President Marketing/Communications                      

                        800-458-8085 or


Braises, Beignets and James Beard


Birmingham, AL---If there’s one particular activity that’s favored over any other for visitors to Birmingham, it likely is dining. Excellent chef-owned restaurants are plentiful around the area, from high-end dining in the posh suburb of Mountain Brook to one of the South’s longest steam tables at Nikki’s West. Few cities can claim a better cluster of top-notch dining rooms than in downtown Birmingham, where they are all practically within walking distance of each other. Here are just a few:

          Highlands Bar & Grill – Probably the best known dining establishment in the state---if not the Southeast---Highlands sets the standard for many of the best restaurants in the region. To know Highlands, you first must know about owner and Chef Frank Stitt, III. Stitt’s love of cooking with fresh southern ingredients comes from his rural raising in Cullman, Alabama. An avid traveler, Stitt’s trips through the French countryside in Provence and Burgundy led him to the unusual blending of Southern favorites with French sauces and braises, creating elegant balance with superb flavor. Even in this tony establishment, diners will find stone-ground grits and country ham on the menu. Most recently, Highlands was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for the “2009 Most Outstanding Restaurant.”   Stitt received the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast” in 2001 and was nominated again in 2008 for “Outstanding Chef.” Sample EntreeGrilled Venison with Muscadines, Grilled Grits and Bourbon 

          Chez Fonfon – This casual French Bistro, just next door to Highlands, is also owned by Chef Stitt. The bustling café focuses on provincial food and wine. The country pâté and moules are musts for those wanting a true taste of French dining. Just off the rustic patio, patrons so inclined can play a game of boules. Sample La Petite Cuisine: Country Pâté with Pork, Ham, Foie Gras and Pistachios

          Bottega Café – The third in Stitt’s trio of restaurants, Bottega is a casual trattoria just about four blocks from Highlands and Chez Fonfon. The seasonal menu at Bottega includes fresh gulf seafood, naturally-raised meats and fresh organic vegetables. The café’s wood-fired oven turns out perfect pizzas and flatbreads and gives roasts and braises a fine hickory seasoning. Bottega’s patio is one of the most popular places in town to dine. Sample Entree: Roast Pork Loin with Polenta, Tomato Chutney Aioli and Venetian Spinach

          Hot & Hot Fish Club – Though the notoriety may not be as great as Highlands, the food is. Chef Chris Hastings specializes in and excels at memorable dining. Diners along the sweeping limestone chef’s counter have front row seats to the energetic, detailed preparation of the cuisine. Located in the intimate setting of a historic Southside building, Hot & Hot also adheres to the philosophy of using fresh ingredients from local providers. Sample Appetizer: Heirloom Cauliflower Gratin with Local Chestnuts, Bread Crumbs and Truffle Oil

           Café DupontPart of the charm of this café is its setting in an 1870s renovated store in the heart of downtown. The dining room’s exposed brick, high ceilings and original floors reflect the building’s history. Chef/Owner Chris Dupont, like others, relies on locally grown produce for preparing top quality cuisine. Signature Dishes: Fried Oysters & Okra with Cayenne Butter Sauce, Seared Sea Scallops with Goat Cheese Soufflé, and Classic Beignets with Homegrown Strawberry Preserves.

          BettolaLocated in the historic Martin Biscuit Building, Bettola is a casual upscale restaurant with an array of foods reflecting the Campania region of Italy. Their signature Neapolitan pizzas are prepared in an authentic brick oven from Naples. House-made pastas, roasts and sautés also are on the menu. Sample Signature Pizza: Salame Cotto, Ham, Sausage, Pancetta and Black Olives

          John’s City DinerThis downtown landmark attracts a crowd of patrons from surrounding offices for the noon meal. While the restaurant maintains much of its historic charm, a new menu reflects the growing sophistication of a food savvy community. Menu choices range from traditional Southern cooking to Asian-inspired dishes. Recommended menu items: Home-style Meatloaf, Not-Your-Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese, Fire-roasted Corn Grits, John’s Slaw

          OceanSea scallops, halibut, grouper, tuna, salmon, sushi, lobster, fresh oysters on the half shell---all the very best and freshest of seafood is what Ocean offers diners at this casually sophisticated establishment. The restaurant is particularly well known for its extensive selection of fresh oysters and for its unusually good sushi. Sample Sushi Selection: Spicy Hawaiian Tuna, Red Pepper, Sambal, Cucumber, Macadamia Nut, Toasted Coconut

          26 (Twenty-Six) – Next door to Ocean is its sassy little sister, 26. With an industrial chic décor, this bustling bistro is fronted by garage doors that roll up to open the entire face of the restaurant. 26 is another favorite with the young business crowd at lunch and also is a popular spot for a late night dining. Sample Dinner Entrée: Wood-oven Seared Grouper, Jalapeno White Cheddar Grit Cake, Corn Maque Choux, Sautéed Spinach, Tasso Ham Roasted Garlic Cream

These dining rooms are just a handful of the many excellent restaurants in the downtown area. Check the corner nearest you; you’ll likely find another….




Vickie Ashford
phone: 205-458-8000
                   Dilcy Windham Hilley
                   Vice President Marketing/Communications
                   Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau
                   800-458-8086 or