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DINING DOWNTOWN IN BIRMINGHAM Braises, Beignets and James Beard

CONTACT:  Vickie Ashford
                    Director of Travel Media
                    800-458-8085 or

Braises, Beignets and James Beard

Birmingham, Ala. ----- 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 to the long steam table at Niki’s West.  Of particular interest is the cluster of top-notch dining rooms in downtown Birmingham, where they are all practically within walking distance of one another.  Here are just a few:
            Highlands Bar & Grill – Probably the best-known dining establishment in the state, Highlands sets the standard for many of the best restaurants in the country.  To know Highlands, you must first know about owner and chef, Frank Stitt.  Stitt’s love of cooking with fresh Southern ingredients comes from his rural raising in Cullman, Alabama.  An avid traveler, Stitt studied French culinary styles which led him to the blending of Southern favorites with French sauces and braises.  Even in this tony establishment, diners will find stone-ground grits and country ham on the menu.  Highlands has been nominated repeatedly by the James Beard Foundation for the country’s “Most Outstanding Restaurant.”  Through the years, Chef Stitt has been nominated for and received other awards from the prestigious foundation.  Sample entrée: Grilled Venison with Muscadines, Grilled Grits and Bourbon
            Chez Fonfon – This casual French bistro, just next door to Highlands, is also owned by Frank Stitt.  The bustling café serves classic, hearty French fare with an exceptional selection of wines.  Sample selections:  Steak Tartare, Moules et Frites, Trout with Brown Butter, Escargots and Homemade Charcuterie 
            Bottega Café – The third in Stitt’s trio of restaurants, Bottega is a casual trattoria about four blocks from Highlands and Chez Fonfon.  The seasonal menu includes fresh gulf seafood, naturally-raised meats and fresh organic vegetables.  Adjoining the café is Bottega Dining Room for upscale evening dinners.  Sample dinner entrée:  Scallops with sweet potatoes, leeks, pancetta and brown butter
            Hot and Hot Fish Club – Chef Chris Hastings specializes in and excels at memorable dining.  Guests 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 an historic Southside building, Hot and Hot adheres to the philosophy of using fresh ingredients from local providers.  Sample appetizer: Duck Confit Beignets
            Café Dupont – Part 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 and Okra with Cayenne Butter Sauce and Buttermilk-Fried Joyce Farms Chicken Breast with Truffled Cream Potatoes, Lemon Beurre Blanc and Grilled Yellow Squash
            Bettola – Located 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. Sample pizza: House Sausage, Local Spinach, Fontina, Pecorino, Mascarpone and Local Farm Egg
            Ocean – Sea Scallops, halibut, grouper, tuna, salmon, fresh oysters on the half shell---all the very best and freshest 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 good sushi.  Sample Sushi Selection: Spicy Hawaiian Tuna with Red Pepper, Sriracha, Cucumber and Toasted Coconut
            Five Point Public House Oyster Bar – Next door to Ocean is its sassy little sister.  With an industrial chic décor, this bustling bistro, with roll-up doors for breezy service, is a favorite with the young business crowd at lunch.  It’s also a cozy spot for after-meeting drinks.  Sample Small Plate: Pork Kimchi Spring Rolls and Panko Fried Green Tomato Shrimp Salad.
            El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar – Set among restaurants and taverns on lively 2nd Avenue North, El Barrio’s menu is inspired by multi-regional Mexican cuisine, urban design and locally-sourced ingredients.  Saturday brunch is a big deal at El Barrio.  Arrive early.  Sample Brunch Fare: The Cuban Madam with Smoked Ham, Roasted Pork, Pickles, Jalapenos, Swiss Cheese, Fried Eggs and Tomatillo Sauce
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