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10 essential Birmingham restaurants

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Niki’s West is a Birmingham mainstay and one of the essential restaurants you have to visit in the Magic City. (Bob Carlton / al.com)

By Amber Sutton

Whatever you’re craving, Birmingham has a restaurant you need to try. (contributed)

When it comes to finding a noteworthy spot to grab some grub in Birmingham, there’s no shortage of excellent eateries that’ll keep food lovers eager for their next meal. After all, Birmingham has been listed as a great American food city multiple times.

Of course, when you’ve got so many outstanding options, choosing just one can be hard. That’s why we decided to put together a list of 10 must-try restaurants in the Birmingham area. Go with one of these, and you can’t go wrong.

And, while we’ve narrowed our list to 10, it’s important to mention that Birmingham has a wealth of unique and memorable restaurants that might not have made this list but deserve a visit, like the classic Irondale Café and Johnny’s in Homewood.

Highlands Bar and Grill

2011 11th Ave. S.

When it comes to must-try dining experiences in Birmingham, Highlands Bar and Grill sits at the top of many folks’ list for good reason.

recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for the most outstanding restaurant in America in 2018, its eclectic menu of French-inspired Southern cuisine is nothing but noteworthy no matter what you order. While Highlands is currently closed, its Instagram page stated that its dining room will reopen this spring. Until then, you can have a meal at Chef Frank Stitt’s other outstanding restaurants, like Bottega and Chez Fonfon, which are also Magic City must-visits.

Saw’s Soul Kitchen

215 41st St. S. as well as multiple other locations

While Saw’s Soul Kitchen might look like nothing special on the outside, it offers up some of the best barbecue in Birmingham and – for that matter – the whole country.

Since 2009, Saw’s has been attracting hungry diners looking to fill up on its Carolina-style smoked pulled pork, chicken and ribs. The best part? You can dress your plate however you like with any of their three signature sauces. If you’re not in the mood for their barbecue, they also have stuffed baked potatoes, salads, burgers and an assortment of Southern sides.

Niki’s West

233 Finley Ave. W.

Niki’s West has become a Birmingham institution after offering customers homestyle Southern cooking at its finest in a no-fuss atmosphere for more than 50 years.

The beloved restaurant offers a slew of entrees and sides that rotate daily and are served cafeteria-style. With so many great options, picking out what you put on your plate while sliding along Niki West’s fast-paced serving line can get a little stressful. You can take comfort, though, in knowing that no matter what you choose, you’ve made the right choice.

Hot and Hot Fish Club

2901 2nd Avenue S.

If you’re looking for a fine dining experience offering unique meals that are not only delicious but also beautiful, head over to the Hot and Hot Fish Club.

Hot and Hot’s one-of-a-kind artisanal food is created using a modern blend of Southern, French and California-style cuisines. With dishes like Southern Bouillabaisse, Boudin Stuffed Quail and Blueberry Sweet Corn Clafoutis, it’s easy to see how the James Beard award-winning restaurant has developed such a devoted following.

Post Office Pies

209 41st St. S. and 270 Rele St.

While it has only been open since 2014, Post Office Pies has already made its mark on the Birmingham food scene by racking up customers always ready for their next slice. It’s received plenty of national acclaim, too.

Post Office Pies has mastered the craft of wood-fired pizzas, baking each pie in a brick oven using dough fermented for 12 hours, local ingredients and handmade mozzarella. It also has a bar loaded with popular and local brews. Combine all that and you can see why the restaurant was named among USA Today’s 30 best pizzerias in the country.

El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar

2211 2nd Ave. N.

El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar has been a downtown Birmingham favorite for nearly a decade, thanks to its hip atmosphere and dedication to delicious dishes.

El Barrio offers Mexican-inspired food that is elegant, distinctive and features all kinds of unique and unexpected flavors. Whether you’re looking for something familiar, like chicken enchiladas and tacos, or want to branch out and give something new a go, like the customer-favorite grilled chorizo meatloaf, you’ll find it and so much more on their menu.

Automatic Seafood and Oysters

2824 5th Ave. S.

Automatic Seafood and Oysters has only been open a few years, but its classic seafood fare and comfortable setting have already earned it a spot on this list.

With a menu full of dishes that mix Southern cooking with fresh seafood, a meal at Automatic Seafood and Oysters comes along with the feel of being on vacation at the coast – even when you’re actually just on your lunch break on a Tuesday. They offer dishes like Gulf Shrimp Fried Rice, Crispy Whole Flounder and more, served with some of the South’s favorite sides.

Green Acres Café

1705 4th Ave. N. and multiple other locations

Since 1958, Green Acres Cafe has been serving the people of Birmingham some of the best wings in the state alongside plates of fried catfish, pork chops and more.

Green Acres Café features a casual atmosphere and a menu full of tasty food that’ll make you feel like you’ve just sat down for lunch at your grandma’s house. No, seriously, you can order fried green tomatoes, bologna sandwiches and all the chicken wings you can eat. With nearly 50 years in business, it’s no surprise Green Acres Cafe has become a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Eagle’s Restaurant

2610 16th St. N.

Eagle’s Restaurant is a family-owned meat-and-three that offers hungry diners a large selection of Southern soul food so good it has kept folks coming back for more since 1951.

Located near downtown, the popular restaurant has everything you’d want from a meat-and-three – a relaxed atmosphere, affordable prices and a daily rotation of dishes like oxtails and baked pork chops with sides made from fresh, local produce selected at the nearby Jefferson County Farmers Market.

The Bright Star

304 19th St. N. in Bessemer

While you’ll have to take a trip to the Birmingham suburbs, you won’t regret sitting down for a meal at The Bright Star in Bessemer.

Said to be one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in America, The Bright Star has been in business since 1907 and it is beautifully reflected in its unique, historic dining rooms. Its menu is filled with a mix of delicious specialty dishes and memorable Southern fare for a dining experience unlike anywhere else. Whether you order the Snapper Greek Style or Grilled Hamburger Steak, there are no wrong choices at The Bright Star.