Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Some of the best locally owned Birmingham Restaurants!

Birmingham Alabama has earned quite a reputation in the past decade not only for its amazing food but the incredible choices available to diners.  Just about any style of food that you could possibly want is generously represented here.  Here are my top 10.

Of course, I can't possibly write about Birmingham food without mentioning Pepper Place!  Located in historic Avondale, this area is full of great restaurants, coffee shops, antique shops and one of the best farmer's markets in the state!  


One of the restaurants in Pepper place is Bettola's.  James Lewis, who was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 11 best new chefs in America in 2011, began serving his oven-fired pizzas and house-made pastas at this Italian trattoria in the Pepper Place complex a decade ago. Lewis is always coming up with new and creative takes on traditional Italian dishes, but our favorite remains the classic Margherita pizza, with San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. On a nice fall or spring night, we highly recommend that you dine out under the stars on their roomy patio.

Address: 2901 Second Ave. South, Suite 150, Birmingham
Phone: 205-731-6499


The original Bogue's in Highland Park has been replaced with a Walgreen's.  However, Bogue's bought and renovated an historic fire station next door and now that Bogue's is larger,, even more folks can enjoy the incredible food at this historic Birmingham restaurant!  Pat and Mildred Bogue opened their namesake diner in downtown Birmingham in 1938 and eight years later moved to the Highland Park area, where it became a neighborhood breakfast institution for decades. While the location may have changed, Bogue’s remains an old reliable for omelets, pancakes and its famous sweet rolls, as well as daily lunch specials that include turkey and dressing, country-fried steak and baked spaghetti.
Address: 3028 Clairmont Ave. South, Birmingham
Phone: 205-254-9780

Monday, May 1, 2017

Where do you take out of town visitors?

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer and people are beginning to crawl out of their houses and head out looking for fun things to do, places to see and places to take out of town visitors.  So here are a few of my favorites.

Hungry?  You really should try The Garage.  Located at 2304 10th Terrace South
Birmingham, AL 35204, this place has tons of atmosphere and good food to boot.

Warning: Bring cash with you because The Garage accepts nothing else.  Also, if you're looking for a place that ON the beaten path....this isn't the place for you.  It's almost a badge of pride to know exactly how to get to this bar without getting lost and spending hours winding through the back streets of Southside.  But the hunt is well worth it. Their patio is eclectically cluttered with architectural artifacts and antiques while nearly completely covered in Wisteria.  The attitude is "Welcome, grab a seat!"  Not only is the ambiance supreme but the food is excellent too.  Toss in live music and you've got a great place to wile away a few hours.  But before you go, make sure to browse the antiques.  It's my favorite place to take out of towners because there's really nothing quite like it anywhere.

Reed Book Store at 2021 3rd Ave. North, Birmingham, AL 35203 is such a gem.  If you love books and/or antiques 1/100th as much as I do.....this store will blow your mind!  It's part bookstore part antique store but all mind blowing!  I can't go there unless I know I have at least 2 hours to spare.  As soon as you enter, you are nearly overwhelmed by all the goodies to look at and drool over.  Yes, it really is that great.

Jim Reed, the proprietor, has spent decades amassing a very impressive collection of rare and antique books.  He is also a popular inspirational columnist and gothic humorist who has authored several books of his own.  He has catalogued over 50,000 books, magazines and posters but estimates he has an additional 250,000 that he has not catalogued and are just waiting for someone to dig through them and find their dream book (or poster or magazine).

Birmingham has its very own Statue of Liberty.

The Birmingham Statue of Liberty is visible to motorists driving on the southern outskirts of Birmingham on the I-459 bypass.  Located in a commercial development called "Liberty Park" it sits right next door to the Boy Scouts of America local headquarters.

For over 30 years Ms. Liberty graced the top of the Liberty National Insurance Company building in downtown Birmingham.  Over two decades ago, she was lifted from her perch by crane, carefully restored and has since enjoyed her permanent home in the Liberty Park area of Birmingham.

According to the inscription on the plaque:
"A bronze replica, one-fifth the size of the Statue of Liberty, was commissioned by Frank Park Samford as the symbol for the company he founded, Liberty National Life Insurance Company. Created by sculptors Archer and Lee Lawrie, the statue was cast in Sommerville Haut Marine, France, in 1956 and was placed atop Liberty National's home office building in downtown Birmingham and then moved to its present location and dedicated on July 4, 1989."

Birmingham also has its super hero...well, actually it's a Goddess...but anyway.  Miss Electra has lightning bolts for hair and wears absolutely no clothes.  Her sculptor named her "Divinity of Light" in 1926 but Miss Electra was adopted by the locals and the name stuck.  She stands on tiptoe 20 stories above ground on the roof of the Alabama Power Building in downtown Birmingham.  Although she is 23 feet tall, she is the smallest of Birmingham's mythical giants trailing Statue of Liberty (36 feet tall) and The Vulcan (56 feet tall).

Joe Minter's Yard is not really a business but it is an experience that everyone should have.  Mr. Minter's Yard is located at 912 Nassau Street near Shadow Lawn Memorial Park in the Woodland Park neighborhood.

Joe Minter is a retired construction worker and self proclaimed "outside artist".  He has transformed his yard and the vacant lot next door into an outside African American museum.  While his is not a formal museum, he is always happy to take folks on a tour.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Another Installment of "Did you know"

Did you know that the first speech given in the south by a sitting President occurred in Birmingham?

When Birmingham Alabama was founded in 1871, it was a model city.  It boasted railroads, blast furnaces and steel mills.  There wasn't a more bustling industrial giant in the south at that time.  So it was no wonder when in 1921, President Harding decided to give a speech in the south that he chose to do so in Birmingham, Alabama. The remarkable part of this story is the fact that this was the first speech given in the South by a sitting president in which he called for racial equality.

The city threw a huge birthday party which lasted two days on its 50th anniversary in October 1921. President Harding arrived at the Birmingham Terminal Station at 8:45 A.M. aboard a special train from Washington.  A grand parade began at 10:00 A.M.  Sitting in the lead car President Harding greeted thousands of onlookers waving American flags.  His motorcade eventually traveled to the Tutwiler Hotel where the hotel's balcony served as the reviewing stand for the President and his party as the parade traveled past.  The parade included Civil War veterans, groups of industrial workers and National Guardsmen.  It seemed that the whole city had turned out for the Presidential visit.

Harding’s official address to the city was delivered in Woodrow Wilson Park in mid-morning to a large crowd. He planned to use this speech as his first public show of support for the Republican National Committee and their plan to reorganize in the South.

President Harding spoke of the great migrations of black laborers to the North during World War I and the meritorious service given by black soldiers during the war.  He then spoke of political equality as a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution: “Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.”  White listeners fell largely silent, the African American spectators cheered from their segregated section of the park.  In his call for “an end of prejudice” Harding went further than any president since Abraham Lincoln.
President Harding also participated in the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Masonic Temple and was given an honorary degree by Birmingham-Southern College in ceremonies conducted at the First Methodist Church.

The President observed a parade which included 67 women who selected by the different counties of Alabama to be their "Queen", and 1,000 members of the American Legion selected from every post in the state. Each Queen was provided a decorated car for their use in the parade.

(Jefferson County's Queen - Mary Elizabeth Caldwell)
To mark this historic event, commemorative coins were also made that same year. The coins were half-dollars issued in 1921 to honor the 100th Anniversary of Alabama Statehood, which occurred a few years earlier in 1919 but war time conditions had delayed the production of the coins until 1921. The coins were first placed on sale in Birmingham on Oct. 26,1921 in connection with Birmingham’s celebration and the first coin was presented to President Harding. 
Also, a special postage stamp was made that year in honor of Birmingham’s anniversary. It was the first postal commemoration of Birmingham.  Surviving copies are very rare.
The official start of this celebration began at noon on the 25th of October with the blare of bands and the blowing of whistles at every industrial plant in the district. The ceremonies started at Woodrow Wilson (Capitol) Park with a speech by Chairman Sydney J. Bowie.
President Harding arriving for festivities
The festivities began at noon and continued on into the night.  Highlights of the festivities included a fashion show by the Fashion-Industrial Exposition that took place in a long tent that extended the full length of West Twentieth Street. The Birmingham municipal band provided music. Henderson and his flying circus performed in the air over the middle of the city. His act ended with death defying stunts from an airplane while gripping the rope with his teeth.
In addition to the above activities, there was a children’s costume and baby parades on Friday with prizes awarded.  Baseball at Rickwood Field took place with a double-header. The first game was according to rules in 1871 and second according to rules in 1921.  Free bank concerts and orchestras continued throughout the event. Some orchestras came all the way from West Virginia to perform for the President.  
There was the Queen of the event contest, a Masquerade carnival, pageant at Avondale Park, and a Queen’s Ball at the Tutwiler hotel on Tuesday night.  These are just to name a few of the many events held.
While the President was in town, he also somehow made time to head the grand civic parade, attend a luncheon given by the Semi-Centennial committee at Tutwiler, attend the opening of Alabama division of American Cotton Association at Tutwiler, attend the Birmingham-Southern College inauguration of Dr. Guy Snavely where the President received degree of LL. D. Ceremonies were held in First Methodist at Sixth Avenue and Nineteenth Street, North.
As if his day wasn't already packed, the President also attended a reception in his honor at the Birmingham Country Club and witnessed mine demonstration at US bureau of mines station at West End. To round out his day, he took an auto ride through the city.

While I'm sure everyone involved needed a restful vacation after this week of constant festivities, overall, it was a very successful event.  Certainly never seen before or since.