Eli’s Jerusalem Grill

Mr Foodie and I were running some errands at the Summit (read: guiltily returning some online shopping purchases) and looking for a place to have lunch afterwards. Whenever we visit an area of town, even one we’ve been to a million times, we try to find a new and interesting place to eat. A few Google, Yelp, and Urbanspoon searches revealed a brand new Isreali place on 280 that had been open for less than a week and already seemed to have a dedicated following.

Israeli food is something I grew up with as a kid in Pittsburgh. There used to be an Israeli restaurant in Birmingham but it closed a few years ago, leaving a big void in our food scene. My heart started to race… Could this be our next big foodie discovery?

Eli’s Jerusalem Grill is located in a pretty run of the mill strip mall past Target on 280 (if you’re coming from the city). They already have a nice temporary sign up:

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When you walk in, there’s a wall to your right with photos of a market in Israel to get you in the mood. As we approached the counter, a nice gentleman with a big smile gave us the menu and prepared to take our order. Here is the menu; I love the graphic design!

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And he added “everything else you need to know is here,” pointing to himself. Turns out this was Eli, the owner.

So as usual, we asked him what we should order. And then we noticed this in the background:

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This is schwarma, where meat is grilled for hours or days on a spit. They had chicken and lamb/beef; we went with the latter. Besides that, we told him we wanted to try a little bit of everything. He recommended the vegetarian plate with a side of falafel. Sold.

As we waited for our food, we struck up a conversation with Eli. Originally from Israel, he lived in Chicago for many years. His dream was to open an Israeli restaurant, and when he moved to Birmingham for family a few years ago, he began perfecting some of his grandma’s recipes. The restaurant has only been open for a week, and is the only Israeli place in town. While I don’t know this for sure (correct me if I’m wrong), I believe they are the only place that does schwarma on a spit like the photo I showed. They make everything in house, even the pita, and have lots of gluten free options. All of their meat is organic and shipped in from a farm in the Carolinas daily, and they also receive daily shipments of fresh produce.

After that lead in, we were starving and ready to eat. First, the schwarma. Crispy pieces with pieces that are melt-in-your mouth tender. Fantastic.
Served with rice and Israeli salad. The salad was lemony with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions -the best I have had – it just tasted so fresh.

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Then, the veggies. All amazing. The beets stood out as they were seasoned with a little bit of cumin. The tabbouleh was totally unique-in an effort to be gluten free, Eli uses quinona rather than bulgur wheat. I really dislike the texture of bulgur wheat, so I loved this substitution. The tabouleh was bright and flavorful, the best I’ve had.

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Mr Foodie’s favorite food of all time (no exaggeration, I think) is hummus. Eli told us that this hummus was made with dried chickpeas rather than canned. This makes the texture deliciously creamy. Served with soft, thick homemade pita. Amazing.

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Then the falafel, which were light and crunchy. I’m not usually a big falafel fan but these were great-the best I’ve had, in fact. They might have converted me into a falafel believer. Shown here with homemade tahini (which had a light, delicate sesame seed flavor), a green spicy sauce (not sure what it was, didn’t use it), and the hummus.

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Now in cross section. Isn’t that gorgeous? So green!

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We weren’t really hungry for dessert but, for the sake of our readers, we indulged. Again, everything is homemade. Knafeh, which is a cake made of cheese and toasted pistachios, and light, flaky baklavah. Both fantastic.

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Eli insisted on giving us some Moroccan tea with our dessert, which I highly recommend. Tasted like a menagerie of spices. Hard to explain. Went perfectly with the sweets.

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Can’t wait to go back to test out the rest of the menu, especially the Shakshuka. This is one of only two shakshukas in town as far as I know, and I’ve already blogged about the other one! What a fantastic experience. And what a fantastic addition to our food scene!

Eli's Jerusalem Grill on Urbanspoon

Wilson’s Hot and Sweet Cafe

Mr Foodie here.

When Ms Foodie and I moved to Southside last year, we asked around for tips on great places to eat. One of the things we noticed right away is that our neighborhood has a great international vibe. My guess is this has to do with UAB drawing students and faculty from all over the world. So when we found a hidden ethnic food gem right around the corner we were not surprised.

We started hearing about a place called Wilson’s Market, which we were told sells homemade samosas by the dozen. We then realized we live just a block away. It took us nearly this whole year to figure the place out-so we figured we would pass that knowledge along to you, our loyal readers, so you can begin enjoying the wonders of Wilson’s right away.

Wilsons is mysterious. Like a turducken, or a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I think it can be best described as an Indian carry-out restaurant wrapped in a Wal-Mart wrapped in an Indian grocery store wrapped in a convenience store. Read on.

Wilson’s Market in Southside is located in a simple brick building across the street from Dreamland BBQ and next to a laundromat. At first glance it looks like a typical convenience store.

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When you walk in, there is a cash register with snacks on the counter, large soda cases, and an ice cream freezer is visible along the wall – a convenience store. When you walk up and down the aisles, you find paper towels, pet food, and dish soap. A Wal-Mart. But then you notice the indian frozen food and the large bags of a dozen varieties of rice and lentils. An Indian grocery store. And then there’s this:

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Yup. Wilson’s is a foodie gem hiding in plain sight. This part of the operation is called “Wilson’s Hot and Sweet Cafe.”

At this point, I think I need to take a moment to comment on where the food in the cases comes from and how you procure the food. We were told awhile ago that you can either eat what is in the case, you can call a day ahead for a custom order, or you can eat in and they will heat it up. I know the call ahead thing sounds a little unusual but we plan to try this for a party this winter so we will comment more on that in a future post. As far as the case goes they don’t always seem to have the same items and they don’t always have rice. If they don’t have rice when you stop by ask about their Naan.

I walked over to Wilson’s on my lunch break this past week. I grabbed some chicken tikka masala from the refrigerator case and the gentleman working behind the cash register suggested I try the beef samosas. These were in the heated clear box on the counter a bit to the left of the register. I had not noticed these before and I was really excited to try them.

When I got home, I plated them. [Ms Foodie's editorial comment: isn't this picture like a work of art?]

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I started with the beef samosa. I bit in with a satisfying crunch through several crispy layers of dough. The ground beef was light and had a nice heat to it that was not overpowering. You could still thoroughly enjoy the flavors of the beef, onions, and spices combining with the dough in your mouth. Great texture and flavor all around with minimal grease. A really fantastic samosa. Mine was still warm from the case as I ate it right away but if you are taking it home remember to use your toaster oven to preserve the crispy quality of the dough.

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On to the Chicken Tikka Masala. It has an almost slightly smoky taste. The chicken is juicy and flavorful with the right amount of heat to it. The sauce has a tomato and herb base with a variety of Indian spices making for a complex but well balanced flavor. I liked the sauce so much I will admit I spread it on crackers after all the chicken was gone.

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One serving of Chicken Tikka Masala lasted for three lunches. What a great value.

If you don’t want to do carry out, there are a few booths and they’ll even microwave it for you.

So in sum, check out this unexpected foodie find. I know it sounds a little unconventional, and it is, but hey, that’s why you keep coming back to read this blog, right? So you can brag to your friends that you ate at an Indian restaurant in a Wal-mart in an Indian grocery, all wrapped up in a convenience store.

Wilson's Hot and Sweet Cafe on Urbanspoon

Champy’s Chicken and Tamales

Last Friday, we set out for the Gulf Coast with empty stomachs, hoping we would find a blogworthy surprise within an hour south of Birmingham. As relative newcomers to town, we still have to study the map carefully. Our choices were Pelham, home of our favorite El Salvadorian restaurant La Libertad, or Alabaster, a place we had never been. After some intensive Yelping and Urbanspoon-digging, we read about what sounded like the kind of unique dining experience often discussed but rarely attained on a road trip: a place with fried chicken, Mississippi delta tamales, and blues.

Champy’s is located in a juke joint-inspired building. Can’t miss the sign:

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On the inside, the place is surprisingly huge, with a bar, booths, and lots of tables. We grabbed ourselves a seat at a booth and were immediately greeted by a very friendly waitress who helped us navigate the menu. Although we forgot to photograph it (sorry), I’ll give you the summary: Fried chicken, po boys, and tamales. And sides. Based on her recommendations, we made our selections.

First, the tamales. A little bit of history is in order. Many years ago, before we moved to Bham, we took a road trip through Mississippi. At that time, we learned that there is a long tradition in the delta of making “hot tamales.” These tamales are different from the usual Mexican tamale. They are indigenous to this region, and are thought to originate from interactions of African Americans and Mexican migrant workers (to learn more, see this fantastic article from the Southern Foodways Alliance). In fact, there’s even a Tamale Trail, along which we traveled briefly during a recent Blues-related trip to Clarksdale, MS. On that trip, we ate at 3 different classic Hot Tamale shops. What an experience.

All of that came flooding back when this arrived at our table:

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Now for a close-up:

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Served in a corn husk, these little tamales were made from corn meal and stuffed with perfectly seasoned ground beef. Sometimes, hot tamales can be greasy, or even a little bitter (maybe from the combination of too much cayenne pepper and cumin?). These were delicate and light, but spicy and flavorful. Mr Foodie liked these so much that he forgot his assignment to take a picture of what’s inside the corn husk. Trust us, it looked and tasted like a delicious hot tamale. These tamales were just like what we had in the delta, but, I shudder to say… Better?

Next up, the fried chicken. We got the two piece white meat. Heavily breaded (in a good way), crispy, juicy, and perfectly fried, served hot hot hot (temperature-wise). Probably the best white meat fried chicken I have ever had. Served with creamy cole slaw and baked beans:

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I love that it comes on a slice of white bread. Since this isn’t really an open faced sandwich… It’s a Southern thing, I know.

And then lastly, the catfish po boy. Breaded, fried, and served with horseradish mayo on soft yet crusty bread. The perfect sandwich:

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Now for the side view. See what I mean about the bread? You can see its crusty soft goodness:

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I have to spend a moment on the fries. They were really good, breaded deep fried fries. As I was stuffing my face with them, I noticed a squeeze bottle out of the corner of my eye. Looks like a few others had also noticed this bottle, given it’s well-loved appearance:

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I put some on my plate, started dipping the fries, and – wow. Smoky, sweet, just a little tangy, I have no idea what this stuff is but it’s addictive. I wonder if they sell it… Forgot to check.

As we sat there obviously enjoying the food, our very attentive waitress and the ?manager checked in often and offered helpful tips (the chicken is really temperature hot, be careful!) or information that will be useful on future trips (they often have live blues in the evenings).

To sum it up, Champy’s re-creates what we experienced on our trips to the Delta-great tamales and other southern favorites served in a juke joint atmosphere by warm, friendly people. We can’t wait to return for blues to get the full on Champy’s experience.

Champy's Famous Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Everest Sushi, Part 2

Since our original post only a week ago, Mr Foodie and I have returned not once but twice to Everest Sushi. The first time, it was just us. The second time, our two wonderful, highly discerning foodie friends joined us. We also ran into the president of our local neighborhood association who had decided to stop by based on our first blog post. He joined us too. With 5 people, we were able to order our old favorites (the Wham Bam Birmingham, Beer Battered Roll, and Fire Roll), and also try a few new things. It was unanimous- everything was fantastic.

First off, there are some advantages to eating sushi at a sports bar. For example, if you want to eat something greasy and deep fried, you can. We ordered the fried green beans, which were battered in ?cornmeal and deep fried. Served with ranch. Perfect start to the meal. They went quickly.

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The dumplings. On our first visit, Abhi told us be had been making Nepalese dumplings with ground turkey in a special “tomato vinaigrette”. We had to try them. Sitting in a light, tart tomato sauce with garlic, coriander, and ginger were dumplings with a delicate skin and very meaty center. The flavors all just explode in your mouth. Have never had anything like them anywhere.

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Then, the salmon skin roll. Usually these just have a little sliver of deep fried salmon skin inside. This roll had a half an inch of salmon skin. I don’t think I’ve ever had one this good before. Smoky, crunchy, and delicious.

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Next, the Super Eel roll. Large chunks of grilled eel atop a roll of avocado, crab, and cucumber. Usually I don’t like eel rolls because the eel you get on top is small and slimy. This was big, had a great char to it, and wasn’t slimy at all. Completely changed my mind about eel rolls.

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Then, the diplomat roll. Not on the menu so know to ask for it. Shrimp tempura and something smoky and crunchy on the inside (sorry, should have asked for more details). Salmon or tuna on the outside. The smokiness, crunch, and fresh fish blend together in your mouth.

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Cross-sectional views are so much easier with sushi:

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When we left, the place was hopping. Three couples at the bar, our table, and another table of four nearly filled the little sushi corner. Seems like Everest is quickly becoming a local neighborhood hangout. And since it seems that we are going there three nights a week, there’s a nearly 50% chance that we will see you there!

Everest Sushi on Urbanspoon

Everest Sushi

What I love about this town is that JUST when you think you’ve found every last [fill in the blank], you find one that has been right under your nose, that you’ve never heard of before, and that is as good or better than all of your favorite places.

To find these hidden gems, I occasionally obsessively peruse Yelp and Urbanspoon. Sushi being one of my favorite things in the world, as I have done many times before, last week I did a Yelp search for all the sushi restaurants in the Ham. Imagine my surprise when I found one that is ON MY WALK HOME FROM WORK. In Five Points, Southside. An area I know like the back of my hand, or so I thought.

Now as excited as I get about sushi, I’m also wary. From a food standpoint, there is nothing worse then bad sushi. So, I did some investigative work. I looked through the photos on Yelp-all were beautiful. Found nothing on Urbanspoon (all my hidden gem radar signals were beginning to go off). Found a Facebook page with 25 four-five star reviews. Just one problem…. Where in the world is this place? The address suggested it was somewhere between the Pancake House and Dave’s. So I sent the restaurant a Facebook message and received a very quick reply. It is a sushi bar that is located in the Red Zone Sports Bar Monday-Thursday 5-9 and Friday and Saturday till 10. On Fridays and Saturdays, they reopen from 11pm till 2am (!!) at the Blue Monkey, also in the neighborhood.

I discovered all of this on a Friday and so…. as part of our bloggerly duties, we headed out for a romantic date nite at the Red Zone. Not that I’m mocking the location, but well, could you fault me for being a little timid? I must admit I’ve never eaten sushi, or heard of eating sushi, at what appears to be typical sports bar. I must admit we drove there, chickened out, drove three blocks past it, and then turned around with the understanding that we would eat just one fully cooked roll before doing anything more adventurous.

As we walked down the street, we noticed a moderately sized neon sign for Everest Sushi hanging in the window of the Red Zone. How had I missed this before? When we walked in, we realized the sports bar is actually really nice-spacious with lots of TVs and not overly loud.

Somehow they realized we were in pursuit of sushi and ushered us to the sushi bar. And sho nuff, there it was. A neat and tidy little sushi bar complete with the usual sushi refrigerator and soy sauce canisters. We were immediately greeted by a gentleman who introduced himself as Abhi, the sushi chef. He introduced the two sous chefs as his “helpers” as the bartender quickly took our beverage orders. Something about all of this convinced us that this was more than just a legit operation – it was a true diamond in the rough. Mr Foodie and I exchanged a knowing glance and a text or two to confirm that we would order whatever Abhi said.

Before I get into what we ordered, I’ll show you the menu. Also note that they have a full bar food menu-but we barely glanced at that. Who could eat bar food at a time like this?

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So we put ourselves at Abhi’s mercy. Here’s what we got. Note that some of these are not on the official menu but can be made on request.

First, the Wham Bam Birmingham roll. Tempura shrimp and avocado on the inside. Salmon on the outside. They actually torched it right in front of us.
Finished with toasted sesame seeds, which gave the roll an ever so slightly nutty taste, and horseradish mayo. First of all, I’ve never tasted anything like this. The flavors of the salmon and shrimp with the horseradish worked together perfectly and it was just spicy enough to allow me to breathe well through both nostrils-a good thing. And I mean, just look at this. So beautiful:

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Here’s another look in cross section. Like a work of art:

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Next up, the fire roll (this one’s on the menu). Spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber inside, fresh tuna outside. Topped with house made aioli. On this roll, you could really taste the quality of the ingredients. The tuna tasted so fresh and smooth. Like the ocean. Delicious.

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Next, the hot Asian. Crab on the inside, tuna topped with tempura crunchies on the outside. Again, the freshness shone through. This one was the lightest of the rolls which made it an excellent pairing with the others.

We initially told Abhi that we didn’t want anything deep fried – after what I’ve been eating lately (see ALL previous posts) I’m working on my cholesterol. But he absolutely insisted on having us try the beer battered roll, which he says is his number one seller, without charging us. We couldn’t resist accepting his generous offer. Soon we understood why he was so insistent. I usually dislike fried sushi rolls because they end up being so heavy. This one was light (ok, not healthy, but not greasy or heavy). Filled with salmon and cream cheese, topped with sweet and spicy sauces. We were already stuffed when he brought it to us, but we ate each piece slowly, deliberately, and with our eyes rolling back in our heads from happiness just a little. Fantastic and worth each and every calorie. Here’s the aerial view:

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Now the yummy underbelly:

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As soon as Mr Foodie took his first bite of this feast, he looked at me, then looked at Abhi, and quietly asked, “Where did you learn how to make sushi?” The sushi was such high quality, and so creatively designed, we knew there had to be a good story behind it. And of course, there is. Abhi is from Nepal and worked at the bar at Surin, just around the corner, for many years. After observing the sushi chefs there, he taught himself how to make his own. He tested his recipes on friends until he had perfected them. He loves to make different types of food, especially Asian food- he told us he’s testing out a recipe for Nepalese dumplings that he said we should order next time (yes, please!). Abhi is a genuine restaurant entrepreneur-one that we hope will continue to grow his business. And we hope he will let us interview him for a future Backstory post!

This is what we love about this town. When you take a foodie adventure, not only do you find amazing food, but you meet inspiring people who are eager to share their stories and delighted by people who enjoy their food creations. Everest Sushi is as good as our favorite sushi places in Manhattan and Philly-no doubt. So come for the sushi, but stay to talk to Abhi, watch the game (after all, it’s in a sports bar with a million TVs!), and have an unexpectedly fantastic and unique all-around experience that’s as Birmingham as BBQ or shrimp and grits.

Everest Sushi on Urbanspoon

The Foodies on Flip my Food with Chef Jeff

Hello fellow foodies,

So…. about 2 months ago, something really amazing happened. I received an out of the blue email from a TV producer asking me if Mr Foodie and I would be interested in appearing on a reality TV show that would be coming through town. They were looking for local food people, and told me that food bloggers are always the most passionate about food and fun to hang out with (obviously!). So, they googled “Birmingham food blog” and checked out Urbanspoon, which led them to our little corner of the blogosphere.

A word about the show, Flip My Food with Chef Jeff: Chef Jeff is a guy who started off on the streets of Compton and ended up in prison, which is where he first learned to cook. From there he became a dishwasher at the Bellagio, where he worked his way up to head chef. Lots of reality TV ensued, including this show. The premise is, take unhealthy food and turn it into something healthy. Where better to do that than the Deep South??

The production team asked Mr Foodie and I to create videos talking about our food interests. I’ve shied away from showing my name or pictures on the blog to date but since we are about to be outed on national TV, well, who cares. I have my disguises and can still be anonymous when I need to be, but I’ll show you my face in my audition tape for the show. They were especially interested in our story: two northerners – me a doctor, Mr Foodie a kitchen gadget designer (that got them REALLY excited) – who explored our beloved city through food.

So, Mr Foodie and I joined Chef Jeff on his mobile food truck in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. They told us that they usually like to separate couples, so we each cooked individually with Chef Jeff using recipes based on a list of favorite foods we submitted. Mr. Foodie made fish tacos and even got to use a cheese grater he designed while on air, and I made soba noodles with lobster. We were totally geeking out over what was going on. Here are some behind the scenes shots we took of each other, and a few that the crew was kind enough to take of us:

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So, set your DVRs or ask for that day off now-the show will air around the country on October 31. Here in Bham, it will show on Fox 6, WBRC, on October 31 at 11:30am central. Tune in and let us know what you think!!

Olive Branch

Last week was our 7 year wedding anniversary. Adorable, I know. Since we’ve been kinda obsessed with this blogging thing lately (have you noticed?), we decided to try a place we had never been to before with the hopes of writing an adorable, romantic blog post about our new find. Well-epic fail. This is not that post, because the place we went was just … meh. We were both so disappointed that we decided to have an anniversary do-over – adorable, yes, I know. At a tried and true local gem that we have been to at least a dozen times. It’s one of our absolute favorites. And we were shocked when we realized we had never written about it. This is THAT post. Welcome to the Olive Branch.

The Olive Branch is located in Cahaba Heights across from the fire station. On our anniversary-plus-one evening, we arrived at sunset… which made for a beautiful picture.

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The observant will note that in the parking lot below the Olive Branch is Doodles… Stay tuned for the companion post. But I digress.

Here’s a pic of the front of the restaurant:

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Since it was such a perfect September night, we chose to sit on the beautiful deck to the right of the restaurant. Romantic for sure. When the waitress came for our drink order we knew what we wanted to eat – all of our favorites.

Starting with the hummus. Theirs is very lemon-y and smooth, served with soft pita. I don’t think these pita are homemade but they might as well be-they’re always perfectly soft and fresh-tasting. I love that they give you a few veggies, too.

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Next, fried cauliflower. I think these are flash fried and then doused generously with lemon juice. Addictive.

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Just because it’s so beautiful… Now the glamour shot:

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Then, the entrees. The kibbeh plate. Baked kibbeh-a combo of lamb and beef in this case, I think-cooked with lots of spices (we could taste the cinnamon!). Soft, moist, and the most amazing flavor imaginable, with yogurt dipping sauce. I have craved this every day since we ate it:

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I love that all the entrees come with a little hummus and a piece of fruit. Makes for a complete meal. It’s served over a bed of very flavorful rice pilaf, and a light Greek salad with feta is the perfect complement. Now for a closer shot so you really can see this is a unique meatloaf:

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Next up: stuffed squash. They once told me that grandma makes these every morning-she cores out the yellow squash, then stuffs it with a lightly seasoned mixture of ground beef and rice. Delish. We ordered ours with tabbouleh-a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley with a light dressing-the perfect consistency and very refreshing.

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Now in cross-section:

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The Olive Branch is our go-to place for an any-night-of-the-week romantic, solidly yummy, meal. So, the moral of the story is: when you want to have a romantic anniversary dinner with your partner, it might be better to stick with what you know. So Mr. Foodie, thanks for 7 years of foodie adventures and missteps, and for always having something predictably wonderful in case plan A doesn’t work out. This post is for you.

Olive Branch on Urbanspoon

Tropical Grill

Mr. Foodie here. As regular readers may know, I am Ms. Foodie’s fulltime tasting assistant. I also occasionally help out with photos, but this is my first full post here at What to Eat in Birmingham. In order to keep pace with all the yummy tips coming in from our readers, I am going to help out by writing a post here and there from now on.

Ms. Foodie and I were jonesin’ for some Jerk chicken as tends to happen from time to time. We decided to check out a tip about a restaurant that sounded like it might be a great new place to get our fix.

We pulled up to Tropical Grill, which we recognized from the sign – it features the Jamaican flag and cartoon palm trees. I am a sucker for signage with cartoon palm trees. There’s a very convenient parking lot in the back.

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As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by the owner with a broad and welcoming smile. Something about his enthusiasm and charm tipped us off that this place was probably going to be good. We later found out the owner is from Montego Bay, and actually owned a restaurant in Jamaica years ago. After moving to the US and working in a factory for many years, he jumped at the chance to start a restaurant when this current space opened up. (Longtime Birminghamsters may remember that the previous restaurant in this location, Gwen’s Caribbean Kitchen, closed awhile ago. We have heard it was beloved by many though unfortunately we never had a chance to try it.)

Here’s the menu:

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After some debate over which items to order, we knew we had to try the brown stew when the owner mentioned that they had just finished cooking up a fresh batch. The aforementioned Jerk Chicken made the cut, though many other tempting options made us wish we had brought some friends so we could try a number of other items like the Oxtail and Pineapple Chicken. Those will have to be for another trip. Our choices of sides included steamed broccoli, steamed cabbage, meat pie in cocoa bread, and plantains. I also had to try the DG Jamaican ginger beer.

So we sipped sodas in our booth in anticipation of our first Styrofoam clad course. I love trying new ginger beers, birch beers and root beers from mass market to small batch microbrew and anything in between. I am happy to report this “brew” was fantastic. It was a 7 out of 10 on the ginger scale…one being day old tap water and 10 being a sinus clearing sneezing fit. [For point of reference Birmingham's Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale is 10 for me.] So DG brand ginger beer has just enough kick from the ginger to have a nice bite. It has a well rounded ginger to sweetness flavor and I could have sworn it had cane sugar in it even though when I looked on the label it was actually corn syrup. I highly recommend it.

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Next up is the meat pie wrapped in cocoa bread. The meat pie is from a bakery in Atlanta. The cocoa bread was very “white bready” in the best possible way. The meat pie had spiced beef inside of a pastry shell. We both found it to be quite tasty.

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The jerk chicken was served on the bone which may have been part of why the chicken was so nice and juicy. It was sweet, smoky and spicy all at once. Truly delicious. I highly recommend it.

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The fresh cooked brown stew had a great medium heat to it. The rice was buttery and along with the beans served as a delicious counterpoint to the spiced chicken and potatoes of the stew. The brown sauce was not as sweet as the jerk seasonings, but we both found it equally delicious.

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The plantains were perfect. Nicely sweet and browned. A bit of grease. Super tasty. The cabbage was steamed. I am used to having cabbage either raw or with a heavy dose of vinegar or both. Steaming the cabbage gave it a lightness that played off of the spicy sweet jerk chicken quite well and made it a very complimentary side.

Tropical Grill is worth the drive to Fairfield. It’s right down the street from our other favorite Jamaican place, Southern Jamaican Caribbean Restaurant, which Ms. Foodie posted about here. Ms. Foodie is looking over my shoulder and asking me to suggest that you have a progressive meal – start at one, get a few things, go to the other, get a few more. Why not? Even better would be a cook-off between the two chefs… do I smell another blog post?

Tropical Grille on Urbanspoon

Ms. Foodie on the radio live this morning!!

Hey y’all! In case anyone wants to tune in, I’m going to be on Baton Rouge’s Talk 107.3 WBRP this morning at 11am central chatting with host Karen Profita about the blog, what to eat in Birmingham, and our amazing Birmingham food scene! Might even mention a restaurant or two if I get the chance….

To tune in, download their iTunes app. There will be a play button at the bottom. Just press play!

There’s also a listen live button on the website:

http://www.talk1073.com/home/

And if you want to live tweet from the show, my twitter handle is deepsouthfoodie.

Update: here’s the audio of that interview! Enjoy!

Continental Bakery Downtown

French Colonial/Moroccan soul food brunch in downtown Birmingham. Yes, you read that right.

Continental Bakery Downtown is an offshoot of the very popular Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu restaurant in English Village that has always been one of my faves. They started by serving weekday lunch, which is very similar to Chez Lulu’s lunch – outstanding – I’ve visited several times in the past few months and always forgot to take pictures for the blog. Last week, I heard through the grapevine (aka a very helpful fan-thank you!) that they are now open for weekend brunch on Sundays only. So, Mr Foodie and I did what all reasonable and responsible foodie bloggers would do – we cleared our Sunday morning schedule.

The space is so adorable. Sorry for not taking any interior shots, but just trust me. It has the feeling of a French bistro. I’ve never been to an actual French bistro, but I can Google image search just like you can.

We were there on the second weekend they were open-something we usually try to avoid since places are typically still working out the kinks.
But that didn’t seem to be the case here. We were cheerfully greeted by the hostess, then the chef who poked his head out of the kitchen, and the owner. Everyone told us how excited they were about their menu, and made some suggestions for us.

First, the tagine. This is a dish I’ve only ever seen on the menu at middle eastern restaurants but is turns out to actually be a Moroccan dish- a stew cooked and served in a traditional earthenware dish that has many variations – can be meat-based or vegetarian.

The tagine presentation was gorgeous. Look at this. This is what gets delivered to your table:

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Then the server dramatically removes the super-hot lid to reveal:

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I’m sorry, but tell me that isn’t gorgeous. A rich tomato sauce with large cherry tomatoes, other vegetables and a soft boiled egg over top. Served with slightly crispy homemade naan and spicy olive tapenade.

We ate the entire dish by putting the delicious tagine on the naan and at times adding the tapenade. Absolutely fantastic-light and healthy, and also very filling. I’ve never seen this on a menu in Birmingham before-and it is the best tagine I’ve had anywhere.

Ok, I know I’m being gratuitous but here’s one more close up. Ahhhh.

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Next, crepes. The tagine is meant for two and was more than enough. But, I mean, this is a Chez Lulu offshoot, and there are so few places to get good crepes in the Ham. So we got the pear crepes with whipped cream. They were served with a delicious berry salad.

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Now, in cross section:

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The pears were just a little crunchy and a little sweet. With the pillowy whipped cream, it couldn’t have been a better midday dessert to cap off the tagine. Wow.

At this point, I have to assume that the waitstaff and kitchen staff had observed our glee. We try to be discreet but sometimes we have trouble containing ourselves. The over the top number of pictures we were taking didn’t help things. The chef (or one of the chefs?), Joshua, came out with a smile to greet us and ask how we were enjoying our food. As we like to do, we asked him a little more about his vision for the restaurant. His excitement about the food he serves was infectious-if we weren’t already fully infected by the meal. He explained that he wants to create a French/Moroccan soul food experience. Not fusion, but rather, authentic dishes from former French colonial areas. Ultimately, he plans to be open for dinner as well (more blog posts, hooray!). This place is certainly unique in the Bham food scene in terms of the type food it serves, and having a passionate chef like Joshua makes the experience an all around win.

Brunch was ending and he sent us on our way with some kitchen leftovers-an extra “birds nest”-a pastry with sprouts and an egg. I’ve never seen anything like it. Mr Foodie ate it for lunch the next day and loved it. Ordinarily I wouldn’t write about something I haven’t personally tried but 1. Mr Foodie is pretty reliable and 2. I mean, I had to show this spectacular picture:

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say something controversial. Yes, I know there are a small handful of good places to grab brunch downtown. And everyone has their favorite. This one is my favorite. So next time you’re in the mood for a hearty, heartfelt urban brunch-this is the place.

Continental Bakery Downtown on Urbanspoon