Magic City Musts

This is for Kristen, although you’re all welcome to read it. Andy posts some nice tidbits about Birmingham from time to time, too, so be sure to frequent his always-informative site.

First, look back through the archives for the posts about barbecue, and have fun trying all the various spots. Also, my “Southern Sine Qua Non” post contained many Birmingham gems, as well as other favorites in places such as Atlanta and Charleston. Here are some more Birmingham things, based on my 26 years living there, that I think are must-sees, must-tries, etc. These are in no particular order. I’ll not even make an attempt to categorize them.

Smith’s Variety – Mountain Brook Village. This is the place to go for stocking stuffers at Christmas, and fun stuff all year long.

Homewood Toy & Hobby – more fun stuff. And while you’re in Homewood . . .

Homewood Park – on Oxmoor. Another great park for kids is . . .

Wald Park – in Vestavia.

Highland Avenue – whether you’re driving, walking, skating, whatever. So many parks!

Independent Presbyterian Church.

Cathedral Church of the Advent.

All of Frank Stitt‘s Restaurants, including Highlands, Bottega, and Café Bottega.

The Silvertron – on Clairmont. You’ve got to try the Forest Park Pie.

Temple Emanu-El.

Temple Beth-El.

St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands.

The Alabama Theatre.

The McWane Center.

The Virginia Samford Theatre.

Alabama Symphony.

Birmingham Music Club.

Opera Birmingham.


Browdy’s – The fried chicken is not to be missed. Best cheese strudel on the planet.


Step Sing (hey, I’ve got to mention my alma mater).

Samford A Cappella Choir concerts (ditto).

Barons Games – if you can catch the one game a year they do at Rickwood, go. The Met is nice, but Rickwood has all the charm and history.

Vulcan Park – of course.

City Stages – drink lots of water!

Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale.


Pete’s Famous – on 2nd Avenue North.

Linn-Henley Research Library – this is the old Central Library, and it’s adjacent to the new one. The best place I know of to sit down with a good book and read.

Cobb Lane – I’ve written before about the Chicken Supreme and the Roulage. This is the place for lunch.

Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum – in Calera. Especially when they have a Day Out with Thomas!

I could go on and on. But this is a good start.


About revjatb

I am a father of six who is trying to do his best! My interests are varied. I have one blog, KnowTea, that is primarily focused on liturgy and worship and another one, Bengtsson's Baking, that is about, well, baking! I hope you enjoy both of them, and if you have any questions, please contact me!
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11 Responses to Magic City Musts

  1. kristen says:

    Thanks for the list. We’ve been working our way around the barbecue places (I’m fond of Jim ‘n Nicks… their cheddar “biscuits” are so delightful, especially with the honey butter they serve them with) and have discovered Homewood Park, Smiths and a few other things. We went to St Mary’s-o-t-H for Ash Wednesday, which was interesting (longest homily by an ECUSA minister I’ve ever heard…) but certainly one of the most beautiful churches in town. We chaperoned a trip to the Symphony a few weeks ago to hear Verdi’s Requiem and today we went to Oak Mountain State Park for the first time.

    I’ve got to say, as a Carolina girl, I don’t get Milos. Love the tea, the burgers and fries are just not my thing, especially for the price. The only fast food burgers I’ve ever loved enough to REALLY crave are In-N-Out.

  2. RevJATB says:

    Check out Limehouse over at the Advent one of these Sundays. They also have probably the best choir in town. IPC has a great choir too, and a wonderful organist in Jeff MacLelland (who played at our wedding).

    Milo’s is a different experience, I’ll admit. Their tea is better than almost any other fast-food place, although the sweetened tea there is too sweet for me: I get it half sweetened, half unsweetened, with light ice (otherwise they’ll pack your cup so full of shaved ice, there won’t actually be much tea in there). You can even order it with no ice (hence, even more tea), but they’ll charge you extra for that.

    If you ever happen to go to a Jack’s Hamburgers (another local establishment), do not, I repeat, do not, under any circumstances, order the iced tea, unless you have a death wish.

    Oak Mountain was always a big class field trip destination. I remember watching them shear sheep there when I was in the first grade. Tannehill is another good state park.

  3. MoDrig3 says:

    Hey Rev.
    Is Johns Seafood still up and running? or Rossi’s Italian?

    Just curious.


  4. RevJATB says:

    I know that the guy who used to own John’s committed suicide several years ago. But, I think the restaurant is still in operation. Connie Kanakis and John Ed Willoughby (who owned Rossi’s together) had a falling out several years ago. I think the old Rossi’s (on S. 20th St.) closed, and the other location (on 280, where T.P. Crockmeyer’s had been) kept the Rossi’s name. But, alas, THAT Rossi’s was demolished a couple of years ago. Connie Kanakis opened another restaurant in the Colonnade, but I think that one has closed too.

    Romeo’s was another great local Italian place. Also closed. I guess Salvatore’s in Vestavia is still open. I’m not sure though. It would be sad if the only remaining Italian places in Birmingham were the chains (Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, etc.), although Macaroni Grill is quite good.

  5. MoDrig3 says:

    The Rossi’s I remember was upstairs through a little door from the street (just screams stereotypical, doesn’t it?). I remember enjoying not being able to understand anything that got shouted in the kitchen because it really was all in Italian.

    Bif and Shawn Pelham kidnapped me and took me to John’s one birthday. It’s the first place I can remember actually liking cabbage.

    How you know all these people?

    Incidentally, I noticed that your post mentioned Step Sing. I was going through some stuff (trying to clean out and simplify) and found my instrumental score to the 1986 sweepstakes winning Step Sing show. I did the vocals and chord charts and contracted with Tim Thompson (the walking carpet) to flesh out the instrumentals. I wish I still had the vocal score to go with it. Maybe one day when I have too much time on my hands I’ll give a shot at recreating it (but I’ll do it with Finale on the computer rather than by hand).

  6. RevJATB says:

    That was the A D Pi show, wasn’t it?

  7. RevJATB says:

    And yes, the Rossi’s you remember was the original one, on S. 2oth Street (“on the Strip”), just down from the old Michael’s Sirloin Room, which was another great place.

    Rossi’s was so good. So was Lovoy’s, though! They had those wonderful baked oysters, and a great red clam sauce. I wonder if they are still there. They were on Green Springs.

  8. mike says:

    I actually heard Limehouse share his story from agnosticism to faith the other at the Birmingham Country Club. It was a great talk.

    He also shared a small pamphlet his church has drawn up on the current episcopal crisis that was well done also.

    I was duly impressed with what’s been doing and what’s going on at advent.

  9. MoDrig3 says:

    That was the A D Pi show … USO tribute thing with big band music and all. It was fun to do. I LOVE add-6 / add-9 harmonies.

  10. kristen says:

    How could you have left “Thunder on the Mountain” with the synchronized radio soundtrack off this list? 😉

    That was great good fun, from the lawn of friends who live Southside.

  11. RevJATB says:

    Yes, Kristen, and I hate it that we had to miss this year. We had a great time last year watching them with WG, King Pen and crew, but we had to head back to LA early. The fireworks on Red Mountain have always been great. I think it was around ’84 or ’85 that they added the simulcast thing. Originally it was on Magic 96, I think. I noticed this year that two stations were doing it now, 94.5 and 99.5.

    And Southside is probably the best place to watch them, followed closely by some prime spots atop Shades Mountain (such as at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church).

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