Restaurant Showcase

December 2010

Chelsea’s Cafe

16688 Highway 280

205-678-9222

By Elizabeth Reid

Chelsea’s Cafe opened in the former Uncle Monk’s location across from the Chelsea Fire Department in September. Specializing in barbeque and sides, Chelsea’s Cafe is hoping to become the talk of the town.

This family-owned facility boasts a staff that comes to the table with years of restaurant experience. Although best known for barbeque, Chelsea’s Cafe also has an outrageous assortment of sandwiches. Flame-broiled steaks, wings and fish are a few of their other specialties. The restaurant has a full bar for those who enjoy a five o’clock social drink.

A homemade dessert considered the house specialty is their “just how your grandma made it” banana pudding. Specials include a pulled pork sandwich, a bag of chips, and a canned soft drink for $4.99 and they offer a meat and three vegetables for $8.99. On Sunday kids eat free.

Catering is available as well as hosting private parties and carry out. “I want a nice family environment where everyone can come out and have a good meal and a good time,” said owner “Big” Sean Dixon.  He opened the location in Chelsea with space to accommodate plenty of guests and hopes that people will no longer think they have to drive up Highway 280 for a great meal.

“This is exactly what Chelsea needs,” customer Vickie Reid said. “A fun, family café that serves the best barbeque in town.”

Chelsea’s Cafe hours are Monday through Thursday 11 am to 11 pm, Friday 11am to 2 am, Saturday 11 am to 1 am, and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Breakfast is served from 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Their buffet is open on Monday through Friday and on Sunday. Friday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight, there will be karaoke with Ken.

“Big” Sean calls Chelsea’s Café the “The Pride of Chelsea” and proudly proclaims, “we all love our mamas, but Chelsea’s Cafe might be the one to give her a run for the money when it comes to good ol’ southern cooking.”

For more information, contact 205-678-9222 or go to their website, www.prideofchelsea.com.

November 2010

Village Tavern

101 Summit Boulevard

970-1640

By Lauren Nix

With locations in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Arizona, Alabama’s only Village Tavern location is at The Summit, and as their slogan states, “Village Tavern celebrates classic American food.”

The restaurant offers full brunch, lunch and dinner menus all having a wide selection of premium meats and ingredients to choose from.

General Manager Jake Schuler says the freshness of the food at Village Tavern distinguishes the restaurant from others in Birmingham.

“We cut our own steaks, we get fresh seafood everyday and we cut our own pizza dough daily, so everything that you get is going to be fresh,” Schuler said.

Each menu contains a large selection of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts.  In addition to the traditional menu items, Village Tavern also offers gluten-free menus.

Wood-fire grills and ovens are used, and a premium selection of aged meats is offered.  The restaurant also boasts an impressive wine list to complement menu items, which earned them the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in 2007.

Whenever a guest chooses to eat at the restaurant they can expect to see a variety of seafood, chicken and beef options in appetizers, entrees, salads, pastas and pizzas.

Village Tavern’s brunch menu offers a wide variety of lunch and breakfast selections for whichever meal you are in the mood for.

Breakfast items include benedicts, omelettes, Belgian waffles and French toast. Also on the menu are the Tavern brunch specials that put a spin on traditional breakfast items with Southwestern elements and Southern favorites, like shrimp and grits.

Lunch at Village Tavern also provides guests with more then enough options to choose from.  Appetizers range from bacon-wrapped scallops to spinach tortilla dip, and soup and salad combinations as well as large salads are delicious entrée possibilities.

Lunch entrees, wood oven pizzas, whole-wheat flatbreads, burgers and sandwiches are available to provide something for everyone.

Village Tavern’s dinner menu has, like the brunch and lunch menus, multiple appetizers and salads to choose from.  Unlike the other menus, however, the dinner menu offers larger selections of fresh market fish, steakhouse steaks and prime rib.

A delicious steak entrée is the Steak Oscar which is an eight ounce filet served with fresh asparagus, jumbo lump crabmeat and house-made Bearnaise.

The Tavern specialties section of the menu contains a variety of entrees including pan-seared scallops, marinated flank steak and grilled rainbow trout.

Like the other menus, the dinner menu contains abundant pasta, chicken, sandwich and burger options.

Each menu contains delicious house-made desserts including key lime pie, apple cobbler and banana crepes.

Village Tavern has a full bar with small plates available for those who don’t want a full entrée.

On Wednesday nights the restaurant has “Wine and Dine Wednesdays” where all of the restaurant’s 60 glasses of wine are offered at half price and live music is performed by Jeff Tyler at the bar area.

“I don’t think that you’re going to find as fresh of food, with as much variety in a great atmosphere in other places in Birmingham,” Schuler said.

For more information visit http://www.villagetavern.com or call them at 970-1640.

October 2010

Chop Suey Inn


Chop Suey Inn

5511 Hwy 280

995-4007

By Lauren Nix

Chop Suey Inn has opened their second location on Highway 280.

The Chinese restaurant first began in Homewood in the 1970’s, and owner Wei Cong Lao decided to open another location in Greystone Park.

Located in the midst of many professional businesses, Lao says the majority of his customers have been employees on lunch break, and he hopes to attract new customers who may not realize the restaurant is there.

“A lot of people come because they are loyal customers.  That’s the main business we have right now,” Lao said.  “We’re hoping to get new customers in.”

Chop Suey Inn on Highway 280 has been open over a month now and the restaurant offers dine in, take- out and delivery options.

Lao says the Homewood location is very popular, which was a major factor in his decision to open the second location.

“The Homewood one is real busy,” said Lao.

The owner says he believes the success of Chop Suey Inn has come because of the quality of food they serve.

The restaurant’s most popular dishes are fried rice, egg rolls and chow mein, says Lao.

Chop Suey Inn serves their reduced price lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, including weekends.

The restaurant also offers dinners for multiple parties which include a choice of egg drop or wonton soup, steamed rice, egg rolls and entrees.

The dinner for two is $13.95 and includes soup, steamed rice, egg rolls, beef vegetables, chicken chow mein and egg foo young.

The dinner for three is $21.95 and includes soup, steamed rice, egg rolls, shrimp with lobster sauce, sweet and sour pork and moo goo gai pan.

The dinner for four is $28.95 and includes soup, steamed rice, egg rolls, pepper steak, sweet and sour shrimp, moo goo gai pan and chicken fried rice.

Chop Suey Inn also offers a variety of chicken, beef, pork and seafood entrees as well as a large selection of appetizers including 20 fried or steamed dumplings for only $6.95.

Lao says he hopes people become more aware of the restaurant, even though it may not be visible from the road.

“People drive down this hill so fast, and it’s kind of hard to get in because there’s no light,” Lao said.

Chop Suey Inn offers quality food and great service and is an asset to the 280 area.

To order take out or have your meal delivered, call the restaurant at 995-4007.  They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

September 2010

Olivia’s Restaurant and Lounge

5299 Valleydale Road

995-0500

By Kathryn Acree

Beverly Russell, owner of Olivia’s Restaurant and Lounge in the Inverness area, wanted her third restaurant to give the traditional “meat and three” meal an overhaul. “I didn’t want the look of a steam table set-up like a cafeteria,” says Russell. “I wanted it to be more upscale than that.”

Olivia’s Restaurant and Lounge opened July 23rd in the former Indigo Joes location, and Russell has put her touch on the redesigned eatery. “When I first saw this space, I knew it was too big for what I wanted to accomplish,” explains Russell. “I loved the location and it’s close to my home in Brook Highland, so I made it work.”

A wall was put up, reducing it to a more manageable size for Russell, but leaving the large kitchen. “That kitchen is what I wanted,” Russell explains with a smile.

“That kitchen” is busy Monday through Saturday preparing sandwiches and salads, as well as Russell’s extensive menu of meats and vegetables. “My idea of this place is based on traditional Sunday dinners,” says Russell. “My mom made Sunday dinner the best meal of our week and some of the recipes are hers, while others are recipes I’ve developed through the years.”

Russell’s previous restaurants were on Morris Avenue downtown and most recently near Brookwood Village. After 22 years in the business, she was proud to name this restaurant after her daughter Olivia, also named for Russell’s mother.

Born and raised in Montevallo, Russell gives her mother’s touch to some of her favorites. “I serve my turnip greens with a slice of tomato and onion,” explains Russell. “Customers tell me they remember their mother doing the same thing.”

Olivia’s best selling menu items are the weekday lunch specials. Favorites include country-fried steak, pot roast and pork chops. The pork chops are listed as baked, but can be grilled upon request. Menu specials rotate each day, but always include a choice from four meats and six vegetables. At night, a special of the day remains available in addition to heartier entrees including a New York strip steak and fried or grilled tilapia.

Russell offers a hamburger selection as well for those looking for this classic with fries. “My hamburgers are all handmade with a combination of ground beef and ground chuck,” says Russell. “They have been a big seller because they are so juicy, plus I have a secret recipe!”

If you’d visited the old Indigo Joes, you’ll be impressed with the upscale touch of Olivia’s. Gone are all the televisions and sports logos. A classic, tasteful bar runs the length of the back wall of the dining room now completely redesigned in subtle, earth tones.

Although the sports aura is gone, Olivia’s can still pull in an evening crowd. A bar special is available everyday and Russell believes they make a great martini. “We’ll always have something on the board,” explains Russell. “Recently we had a $3.00 martini night and that was a hit.”

Plans include a live band appearing twice a month to make better use of the outdoor seating. The first band scheduled to appear is “To the Max,” a jazz band Russell thinks her customers will really enjoy.

Russell also caters special events and Olivia’s can host private get-togethers such as birthdays and rehearsal dinners.  Olivia’s Restaurant and Lounge open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10  p.m.

July 2010

Maki Fresh & Yogurt Mountain

a great combination

Maki Fresh

Maki Fresh

970-3242

www.makifresh.com


yogurt mountain

Yogurt Mountain

970-7778

www.yogurtmountain.com

Cahaba Village Plaza

As I sat down at Maki Fresh, Dan, the publisher, looked at me and nicely said, “Just the facts. Less fluff; more facts.” With that in mind, I must tell you that the Seared Ahi Tuna brown rice Maki bowl was absolutely exquisite.

When he first suggested, less fluff, I was sitting and eating my Edamame. I thought to myself, “I can do this; it should be relatively easy to get to the facts at a Japanese Grill; how special can a dinner here really be?” So, I pondered over the Edamame and started writing my piece in my head. I was going to express that the Edamame was fresh and crisp and a wonderful beginning to a meal.

Shortly after, an art piece was placed in front of me. I had never seen anything like it. I suddenly was presented with a brown rice bowl decorated with an array of colors. The greens and yellows and reds distracted me from the fact that this was my dinner. The rice was covered with golden raisins, cucumbers, sliced avocados, and slices of Tuna. The taste was as magnificent as the appearance. I couldn’t believe that this masterpiece was less than $10.

Maki Fresh also offers a variety of sushi rolls. This evening Dan chose the Crunch Crunch and the Spicy Tuna. The sushi rolls were great. But to be honest, I know that from him and from past visits. This time, I didn’t eat any of his sushi because I had no desire to share my Maki bowl.

Now for facts… As we were sitting and eating dinner, I couldn’t help but stare at some of the selections that were being delivered around us. The table behind us had a cup filled with something fried. We stopped the waiter because we just had to know what they were eating. They had ordered fried green beans. The waiter explained that they weren’t on the menu, but they could be prepared upon request. The girl to the left of us had ordered a Maki salmon sandwich that looked like it would be a definite must on a future visit.

After our dinner, we walked across the parking lot to visit Yogurt Mountain. In Yogurt Mountain, the right side of the wall is filled with a row of various frozen yogurt flavors. The left wall is filled with all of the toppings: candies, cereals, syrups, nuts, fruits, granola…If you can imagine it, they probably have it.

So, here’s how it works, you choose your yogurt flavor or flavors, fill your cup with as much as you would like and then circle around to the toppings. Choose your pleasure; you can make it sinfully decadent or as low fat as possible; make it big or make it small… just know that you weigh and pay at the end.

Dan chose sinful with an assortment of chocolate candies and chocolate syrups topping his vanilla yogurt. It tasted wonderful. I chose to explore the rich array of yogurt flavors and avoid the toppings all together. In my cup, I made little hills of different yogurts and carefully spread them in the cup with precision and purpose. I tried the blueberry, pomegranate, green apple, cheesecake, and banana pudding.

Overall, a great night at Cahaba Village Plaza!

Oops! Do you think Dan will think that I missed the boat and don’t understand about facts? Well, here are some facts for the reader. Maki Fresh was opened by John Cassimus, who is the head of the Zoe Kitchen chain and the chic sushi restaurant, Jinsei. The restaurant opened in October 2008 and serves sushi, salads, rice bowls, and mini sandwiches. And, Yogurt Mountain… Yogurt Mountain is a franchise, but we are glad that it finally made it to Birmingham!

July 2010

Pizza Express

pizza express

5479 Highway 280

Arbor Place Shopping Center

637-7997

www.pizzaexpressal.com

The 280 corridor’s newest pizza and pasta restaurant looks like it may be a national chain moving into a booming area. However, looks can be deceiving.

Pizza Express is the brainchild of 280 residents, , Wes and Betsy Emmons, a  husband and wife team. Wes has a background in politics as well as pizza. “Working your way up in the business of politics, you basically work for peanuts,” Wes said. “I worked for a few of the major chains during that time to pay the bills. I was a manager and learned the ins and outs of opening restaurants.”

Betsy, is also a part time professor at Samford in Communication Arts. Her passion for helping others is apparent in the way she treats her customers. On a recent visit, she waited on us even though it was a seat yourself type of restaurant. She also seemed to be multi-tasking and doing about five other jobs at the same time. Such are the duties of opening a new restaurant in a mom and pop arrangement.

Wes said  he has been baking pizzas in a brick oven at home for years. He has been perfecting his recipes, tweaking them to get them just right for his new enterprise. He invested in a special oven at the restaurant that allows him to get the crust just right, light and crisp.

thats a big pizza!

Wes pointed out that they hand toss their dough and make it fresh in the store every day.

Pizza Express’ New York Style pizzas fall in three different categories. They have the classic pizzas which include such standards as  double pepperoni, double cheese. The modern classics include the barbecue chicken pizza and the  Hawaiian. We chose the Hawaiian on a recent visit. The ham and cool pineapple combination was just perfect on a scorching summer day.     The gourmet pizzas include selections such as an arugula pizza and a white margherita. All of the pizzas are made with Wes’s tried and tested recipes.

Of course they also offer a “build your own” selection with a diverse array of toppings to choose from. This will insure that the customers can always find their favorite option.

Pizza Express offers several appetizers. They include bruschetta, fried mushrooms, and wings among others.

There are five pasta selections available in either a half or a full order. These include Lasagna and Fettuccine Alfredo.

There are several salad offerings which can be served as a meal or as a side. Pizza Express has a kid’s menu with small portions and prices for the little ones. For the adults they also serve wine by the glass and beer.

Pizza Express delivers to Inverness, Greystone, Highland Lakes, some Hwy. 119 & Valleydale areas, and west points of Chelsea. Of course they also take pick up orders.

Pizza Express is open every day for lunch and dinner service.  Their hours are:  M-Th 11-10 p.m., Fri & Sat 11-11 p.m., Sun 12-8 p.m.

We welcome the 280 corridor’s newest family owned pizza and Italian restaurant. Here’s wishing them a long and successful stay on the 280 corridor.

Pizza Express is in the Arbor Place Shopping Center in the Greystone/Highland Lakes area on Highway 280. They  are near Hanna’s Garden Shop and across the street from Lee Branch Shopping Center.

June 2010

Baha Burger

Baha Burger at The Colonade

3439 Colonnade Parkway

Colonial Shoppes of The Colonnade

969-7998

So you’re in the mood for a burger but you’ve vowed to make healthier choices. How about a short drive to the Colonnade for Baha Burger’s  version of the hamburger which is both healthy and delicious. Your meat choices are pretty extensive;  the standard beef version or lighter versions in  chicken,  turkey, pork, lamb, salmon or even veggie.

Located between Pablo’s Restaurante Cantina and Taziki’s Greek Fare, Baha Burger enjoys a great lunch crowd from the nearby office buildings along with the enjoyment of dinner and weekend dining outside which is shared with the surrounding restaurants.  “We think our menu has something to satisfy everyone,” says assistant manager Michael Byers. “Our burgers give most anyone plenty to eat or we have our “baby burger” on our kids menu for someone looking for a smaller portion.”

They even offer the option of “B.Y.O.B” (aka Build your own Burger.) This allows customers to pick between  seven meats,  10 cheeses, 10 spreads, nine toppings, and three different types of buns!  No matter what you are craving, Baha Burger will have it. The possibilities are endless when it comes to burgers this summer!

A Baha burger ready to eat

How about a delicious alternative to the french fry? Try Baha Burger’s sweet potato fries, maybe mixed in with some fried okra. Their sweet potato fries outsell regular fries 2 to 1.  Looking  for a lighter side item?  They have salads and fresh cut cantaloupe every day.

Hottest seller on the menu? “Most definitely our turkey burger,” says Byers. “We make it as a special topped with peach chutney, blue cheese and a spring greens mix on an onion kaiser roll. It’s hard to resist.”

Other tantalizing burgers to try are the Salmon Burger and the Baha Lamb Burger. The salmon burger is a must for anyone who loves seafood, with herbed salmon croquette and remoulade this burger will leave you breathless.  The Baha Lamp Burger is a great choice for anyone who loves Greek food, it’s made with red peppers and Taziki sauce and you will fall in love after one bite.

Don’t forget to save room for desert! Customers have the choice to choose between a homemade Key Lime Pie or an Ice Cream Cup! The perfect way to end a delicious meal and as their slogan says, “Relax. Enjoy. Escape.”

Baha Burger offers the convenience of ordering at the counter with all the benefits of table service. The management frequently makes the rounds to ensure each order is precise.  They offer daily specials and a beer and wine menu.“Our regular customers have come to know the daily specials almost better than we do,” explains Byers. “If we make a change, we’re sure to hear about it!”

To promote the “resort” feel, Baha Burger’s TV screens run footage of surfing in the summer months and snowboarding during the winter.  Call ahead service is available for takeout items and they will cater on large orders.

Restaurant hours are Monday- Thursday 11 am – 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am- 9 pm, and Sunday 11 am- 3 pm.

May 2010

TownHouse Tea Shoppe

TownHouse Tea Shoppe

23 Olmsted Street

Mt Laurel, Alabama 35242

(205) 529-0081

info@TheTownHouseatMtLaurel.com

www.thetownhouseatmtlaurel.com

Looking for a place to take tea… with your man? Welcome to TownHouse Tea Shoppe in Mt Laurel. The creators of one of the 280 corridor’s newest restaurants want you to do just that. Co-owners Darlene Self and Rebekah Mills set out to create “a place where men are comfortable too.”

“What about the portions?” he might ask. “We also wanted to create a place where anyone can come and get really great food, with a great presentation, but also with very adequate portions,” adds Darlene. “We eat with our eyes first.” So, don’t be surprised when the meal before you looks as presentable as any five-star dining establishment, but this time, you’ll leave full and satisfied!
All is home-made. Everything coming out of the kitchen is made from scratch. There are no uppity chefs preparing your meals – just two women with a passion for food and hospitality, creating mouth-watering meals you won’t soon forget.
Each day of the week features a special entrée such as Pot Roast, Cranberry Chicken, Shepherd’s Pie or Salmon Croquetes. In addition, there are daily soups served such as Tomato Provence, and French Onion. Delectable salads and delicious sandwiches are served everyday. I tried Hannah’s Famous Chicken-Bacon-Ranch salad (pictured here) – THE BEST chicken salad I’ve ever tasted. I WISH I could get the recipe!

TownHouse Tea Shoppe

The tea shoppe seats up to 40, but for special events, they will open up the upper room and spill over into the street to accommodate up to 50-60. So definitely take a look at The TownHouse Tea Shoppe for your next bridal shower, luncheon, rehearsal dinner, corporate banquet, etc. The upper room is complete with small kitchen, living room, billiards room, restroom – basically, it’s like renting a small house for the evening. For more details go to http://www.thetownhouseatmtlaurel.com.
Now let’s talk about tea! Perhaps the whole reason Darlene and Rebekah opened this shoppe was to create a place where people “set aside time to have an enjoyable experience.” You’ll find excellent tea selections as well as the ultimate in fair trade and gourmet coffee choices. So come, slow down, and enjoy the soothing benefits of a cup of tea, the tranquil atmosphere and the best in southern hospitality. Darlene and Rebekah would love nothing more than to serve you next!

April 2010

Bella ~ Cucina

fruit tray Bella~Cucina

The Village at Lee Branch

Suite 103

(205) 995-1770

www.BellaLeeBranch.com

It was back in December of 2007 when we last interviewed Pat Sheeler, owner of Bella Cucina in Lee Branch. She’s seen a lot of businesses come and go around her, but her restaurant has stood the test of time, and could easily be named an anchor establishment for the area.

If you’ve yet to dine at Bella Cucina, you’ve yet to savor the flavor of one of Birmingham’s finest kitchens. For out of it come some of the tastiest dishes in town.

After 30 years in the banking business and a family tree full of restaurant owners and chefs, Pat knew exactly what she wanted to do before she retired, and she’s having fun doing it! One day you’ll see her at the register working the numbers. Another day she’s on the phone placing the week’s food order. Sometimes you’ll see her in the kitchen, and quite often she’s out among the tables serving and visiting her guests. She’s watched as clients walk in pregnant, and later walk in hand-in-hand with their toddlers. She knows a ton of her diners by name, and her business thrives on repeats and referrals. “We have clients who drive from Sylacauga, Trussville and Pelham just to eat here,” says Pat.

All of everything is made right in the kitchen from scratch! Soups? From scratch. Cakes? Scratch. Pat says the only thing they don’t do is bake their own bread.

Perhaps another steady draw is the nutritional value of the food. “We just think twice about anything we add to our recipes and our menu,” says Pat. “We don’t serve a lot of beef. Nothing’s deep-fried. And not a lot is grilled.” It’s healthy, but not frou-frou, so a lot of businessmen frequent the place when they’ve made the decision to eat better. They even figured out a way to make a hot Monte Cristo sandwich tasty, plentiful and healthy!

Did you know Bella Cucina is open for breakfast! Yes! Every Friday and Saturday morning between 7:00am and 11:00am.

During lunchtime you can order from their standard menu which is chock full of soups, sandwiches, salad and fruit plate options, and desserts, or you can choose from their special “Warm Specials” menu which is tweaked and updated every two weeks. For example, Chicken Cordon Blue – chicken breast stuffed with Procuitto Ham, Swiss Cheese and Spinach with a White Wine Cream Sauce with Wild Rice and Broccoli.

At dinnertime, again, you can order from the standard menu (which can help accommodate a large family’s budget), or you can order off their special “Evening Entrees” menu. For example, Sauteed Red Snapper Filet w/ a Crawfish and Julie Sauce, Potatoes Grain and Vegetable of the Day? Wine and Beer are served throughout the day.

Pat says a large part of their business is private and corporate catering – both in-house and delivered. So consider Bella-Cucina for you next bridal shower, bridal tea, baby shower, office luncheon, etc. “We’ve been catering for a lot of drug reps! The doctors they serve have eaten here, know we serve hearty, health-conscious meals, and they request us!” adds Pat.

Pat rewards her frequent diners by paying $8.95 towards their 11th meal! Be sure to ask for a “Frequent Diner Card” and become one of Bella’s regulars! She offers both indoor and outdoor seating. “The outdoor seating is a favorite in the warmer months,” says Pat. They can seat 54 outside and everyone gets to enjoy the nearby waterfall while they dine. Inside is open, airy, clean and refreshing.

It’s easy to see why this restaurant has become an established, local favorite!

March 2010

Tortugas Café

Tortugas Café

3000 Meadowlake Dr. Ste 113
Tue-Sat 11am – 9 pm
Sun 11- 4
Facility available Sun. & Mon. for private parties or meetings.

www.tortugascafe280.com

Tortugas Café is now in its 5th year of operation. It’s tucked away in the shopping center just behind Perrin’s & Son on Highway 280, so if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it. But once you find it, just “come on in and take a seat wherever you’d like.”

Perhaps the most unpretentious little pizza joint in the area, owner Dawn Gagliano and her staff will greet you with a friendly smile, and see to it that your dining experience is personal, comfortable, delicious and relaxed.

In four short years of service, the list of awards earned for their authentic Chicago style pizza is extensive: voted winner of the Birmingham News Primo Pizza Contest; Voted Birmingham’s Best Pizza by CityScene; voted Best Pizza in the South by Turner South’s “Blue Ribbon Show”; and voted Top 100 Places to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.

On our recent dining experience, we decided to invite a guest—a teenager. Who knows pizza better than a teenager? And guess, what—Tortugas got two thumbs up. She had never had a true, deep dish, Chicago- style pizza, and she was extremely excited about the experience when we left.

We started our night with the sampler appetizer, which included chicken fingers, mozzarella cheese sticks, and chicken wings. In addition, we ordered the garlic cheese bread, which had tons of cheese and was excellent. I was very pleased with the appetizer choices. After an afternoon of shopping, they made for a wonderful beginning to a great meal.

For our main course, we had the deep dish carne pizza. I loved how the sauce covered the top and the cheese was baked in the middle. All of the meat toppings were great. The pizza had sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, and pepperoni. Two pieces each, and we were all full.

If you haven’t been by lately, now’s the time to go. The menu has recently been revised, and although it is still centered around their claim to fame, you can now enjoy a custom designed calzone, or an order of lasagna. They now offer a wider selection of salads including the new Caesar Salad or Turtle Salad, and you can start the evening with one of five new delicious appetizers like
Fried Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Cheese Garlic Bread, Buffalo Style Chicken Wings, Café Sausage or a little bit of each on the Sampler Platter. The also offer one (and ONLY one) sandwich ~ “The Tuga” ~ “the only sandwich worthy of making the menu cut.” For $6.95 you can get a 6” Hogie Roll piled high with salami, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, topped with a mozzarella/cheddar cheese combination, plus lettuce, tomato, 1000 island dressing and their homemade vinaigrette, then toasted to perfection. Try finding that at your local sub shop! Keep in mind their pizza dough and sauce are made fresh everyday in the Tortugas kitchen.

Hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm. Sunday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Closed on Mondays. Be sure to visit their website at tortugascafe280.com to check out their catering menu as well.


February 2010

Flip burger boutique

Flip Burger

220 Summit Blvd:

Suite 140

205.968.2000


Close your eyes and picture a restaurant that specializes in burgers. Did you think about that old 1950’s style burger joint with waitresses in roller skates? Did you think about standing in line at a counter and receiving a number? What did you picture? Well, erase whatever came to your mind because this is not your average burger restaurant. Flip has come to town. As we sat at the bar eating dinner, my friend jokingly said, “Flip burger… you could call this hip burger,” To this I responded, “You may think that you are in L.A. or New York, but surprise, you are in Birmingham, Alabama.”  His next response, “I think I just saw Jon Gosselin in the corner, and did you hear that Lindsay Lohan was here last night.” Our jokes and our laughter is the best way to describe the high-class atmosphere of Flip.

The decorative concept is chic, suave, and fun; the booths are “flipped,” the tables down the middle aisle are connected as if a New York style seating, and the bar is great for eating or drinking and conviviality. We sat at the bar to avoid a wait, but the service at the bar was great, and because of the restaurant’s design, sitting at the bar did not take away from the overall experience.

Who would imagine that I would be able to write about a burger restaurant? When we first entered, I really didn’t plan on writing a review. Because what would one possibly say about a burger restaurant? Well, the ambiance and the food proved me wrong.

We started with the wedge and fried pickles. The dressing on the wedge had an ingredient that I still cannot place, but I loved it, and the fried pickles—well, I am a southern girl, so we appreciate fried anything. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato fries, and my friend ordered the ossobucco burger with onion rings. Well, we ended up sharing everything. The burgers were wonderful and we weren’t quite sure who had done a better job at ordering.

The ossobucco burger had a tenderness about it that is hard to describe in words. The menu described the burger as being decorated with gremolata mayo, braised ketchup, and crispy fried onions. Well, I am still not sure gremolata mayo or braised ketchup are, but I do know that I kept begging for another bite.

The sweet potato fries were long and thick, lightly tempura fried, and topped with a chocolate salt. They came with a dipping sauce and they, alone, are worth returning for. I can honestly say that this will not be my only visit to Flip. The onion rings are vodka battered and come with a beer honey mustard dip. Upon reflection, though the bacon cheeseburger was great, it was a “safe” order on my part. It didn’t have any wild combinations, but it was still unique in its own rite.

As far as dessert, the milkshakes are something special. We had both a smores milkshake and a krispy kreme milkshake, each of which I still yearn for as I type out this article. They are exactly what they promise to be. The krispy kreme milkshake seems like they dissolved multiple krispy kreme doughnuts, mixed them with whipping cream and came out with a smooth milkshake that has all of the taste of a krispy kreme doughnut with all of the consistency of a milkshake. And the smores milkshake tasted exactly like a camping trip with a blender. The rich chocolate and the generous supply of marshmallows were to die for.

My promise for next time is to get wild and try something outside of the box. They have a southern burger, which is described as a chicken fried beef patty, house-made pimento cheese, b & b pickles, and sausage gravy. The steak tartare burger is hanger steak, garlic, chilli, capers, Worcestershire, pickled onion, frisee salad, smoked mayo, and sousvide egg yolk. Those are just the beginning of a list of ten types of beef burgers. But, that’s not all; they have eight flip burgers that contain no beef. These include choices such as, wild turkey burger, crab burger, sausage burger, and many others.

280 living proudly welcomes flip burger to the summit, and some of us look forward to many visits to this new establishment.

January 2010

Johnny Ray’s                                   

The Colonnade

3431 Colonnade Pkwy

968-8005

Living on the 280 corridor, we are lucky to have a plethora of great restaurants. When going through a mental checklist of where to go for lunch or dinner, it is easy to forget about the tried and true—the restaurants that have served us well for years. Johnny Ray’s at the Colonnade is an example of one of these great restaurants.

Johnny Ray’s originated in Birmingham in the 1950’s and had its original location in Roebuck. Over the years, the family opened satellite locations around the city. The family blessed the 280 corridor with a location at the Colonnade in 1990. After the family sold the location, there was a brief closing, but the doors to the Colonnade re-opened in April 2009 under new owner Shaunte Creel.

Often when we hear the words “new ownership” with respect to old-standing favorites, we are a bit weary of the results. Well, I am here to announce that the barbeque at the Colonnade is as great as you ever remember. As I dined, I found that the “new” owner is not “new” at all. Shaunte has been part of the Johnny Ray’s extended family for years; she began waiting tables at Johnny Ray’s over 20 years ago. It’s easy to tell that she learned a few things because my mouth is still watering for the baked beans with the shreds of barbeque marinated within them.

During my visit, I had a pork barbeque sandwich, chopped inside with extra sauce, baked beans, coleslaw and coconut cream pie. My friend had the 5 rib plate with the same fixin’s on the side.  The meal was nothing less than excellent. The sauce was rich with a hint of sweet; just the way I like it!  The baked beans, as already discussed, had a special something about them. I am not sure if it was the shreds of barbeque or a special ingredient, but I think that they are the best around. The coleslaw was creamy, which I prefer to a vinegar based slaw any day of the week.

And the pie, oh the pie, I am not sure that I can even describe the pie in words. I guess the best description is that my friend and I practically had a fork fight as we rushed each other for the next bite. I think that we were each terrified that the other might get one more taste; a lack of trust kept our pace at light speed because the pie was out of this world. I suggested that we also get a piece of “Honey’s Award Winning Pie” to go, but we had consumed enough calories for the night… But, oh the pie, save room for the pie.

The menu stretches far beyond ribs and barbeque sandwiches. You could also enjoy a barbeque potato. This is not your everyday baked potato—this potato includes, butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and the patron’s choice of barbeque pork, beef, or chicken, and the whole thing is topped off with Johnny Ray’s barbeque sauce. In addition, the menu has many barbeque pork and barbeque chicken combination, as well as good, old-fashioned burgers.

As far as the ambiance and the tone—it’s a barbeque restaurant. Get your hands dirty and enjoy yourself. And on your way out, don’t forget to grab a jar of their special barbeque sauce. I know that I won’t be able to produce the same tenderness in my ribs at home, but at least I will have a sauce that will put to shame anything that I could possibly make.

December 2009

Mudtown Eat & Drink
3144 Green Valley Road
Cahaba Heights
(205) 967-3300

www.mudtownalabama.com

All you have to do is pick up the menu and start reading about the history behind the restaurant name, and you immediately know you’ve entered a kick-back, leave your stuffiness at home kind of place! Story has it the place is named after dirt! Specifically, the swampy, muddy banks of the Cahaba River where the Creek Indians used to hang out. Just so happens, this area is due east of the restaurant, but I don’t reckon they’re in any danger of flooding any time soon.

The restaurant itself is a small little rustic hangout just off Green Valley Road in Cahaba Heights. Parking might be your biggest obstacle – satisfying your appetite won’t be a problem.

At first we sat at the bar which has “Cheers” written all over it. We watched as the bartender Mark greeted, mixed, served, answered the phone, started a tab, closed a tab, stacked the dishes, shined shoes (just kidding) – all in a syncopated beat, never missing a step, never breaking a glass, with a constant smile on his face! We shared an appetizer called “Sweet Potato Blue” Chips and Dip – Chef Obie’s unique blue cheese & bacon cheese dip served with hot freshly sliced homemade sweet potato chips. Very good way to start the evening’s festivities!

Next, we took a small table by the window. I ordered the Grilled Reuben Sandwich “toasted rye bread piled high with some of the best corned beef you’ve ever had. Topped with sautéed onions, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Reuben sauce” for $8.99. Truly one of the best in town! My date ordered one of their signature dishes, the Charleston Shrimp & Grits described in the menu as “a Southern classic from the poorhouse to the penthouse! Tons of flavor here, from the garlic cheese grits to the Andouille sausage, shrimp, and vegetables,” all for $16.99.

Besides those delicious choices, you can also choose from an array of salads, burgers, sandwiches, chicken, seafood & pasta, steak & chops, and/or daily specials. Children are welcome and can choose from 3 kid classics – grilled cheese, chicken fingers or cheeseburger.

Whenever they can, Mudtown buys its produce nearby in support of local farmers. Not too long ago, they rolled out a new menu to showcase some of their new favorites including the WORLD FAMOUS Fried Green Tomatoes – “Fresh from Murphree’s Produce stand, these six crispy fried southern delicacies are topped with our corn relish along side savory white sauce.”

Overall, our dining experience was exactly what we were looking for. Mudtown has been voted best kept secret in Birmingham, and we can see why. The folks of Cahaba Heights have well embraced this little establishment, but shhhh, don’t tell them, the word is about to get out!

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