At Red Bowl’s Dim Sum a few weekends ago, we struck up a conversation with two very nice ladies across from us who were clearly foodies. As we bonded over the amazing dumplings and fried eggplant, we shared restaurant recommendations. Even though we’ve been at this blogging thing for almost two years, we still get recommendations for places we haven’t heard of all the time. So as we sat there talking about Birmingham’s amazing restaurant scene, we kept our ears open for the next “blogworthy” find.
“Have you tried Brito’s?” one of our new friends asked, her voice brimming with excitement. I knew what she was referring to immediately. Brito’s is a Latin American grocery store on Greensprings, in the same shopping center as Big Lots and Harbor Freight, two of Mr Foodie’s favorite stores. I had always assumed it was just a grocery store. No, she told me, they have tamales. Probably the best in town. And they are only a two minute drive from Dim Sum…..
Mr Foodie and I finished up at Red Bowl and walked slowly through the parking lot planning our next move. I looked at him and asked “could you eat just a little more?” We decided that between the two of us it would be no problem to eat just one tamale. And so, that’s how we decided to try Brito’s.
You also have to appreciate that Mexican-style tamales are one of my favorite foods. Not so much for Mr Foodie, but all the better, since I’ll eat any old tamale, but Mr Foodie is much more discerning. He is the yardstick by which tamales are measured.
Here’s what it looks like on the outside; you can see why we thought it was only a supermarket.
Well, we stand corrected. Brito’s is definitely a grocery store-they have all kinds of really cool Latin American products and produce. But if you walk straight to the back, you’ll see this:
We went up to the counter and asked if they had any tamales. Just 1 pork tamale left. Perfect. Grabbed a beverage from the extensive beverage section of the grocery store, checked out, and sat down with our tamale:
Unwrap the corn husk:
The corn meal was light and flavorful; the filling was spicy and delicious. Not greasy, not heavy, as tamales can sometimes be: just perfect. Of course I loved it-I love all tamales. Mr Foodie, the tamale skeptic, proclaimed it the best tamale he’s ever had.
After having eaten the last tamale, we felt too full for more food, but walked around the store to check out the dessert options. Happily, we stumbled upon a case of these in the front of the store:
Popsicles! They had dozens of interesting looking flavors, but these seemed like definite winners. We were intrigued by the fact that they are made right down the street…. we still can’t figure out exactly where. We checked out for a second time and sat down on the bench outside to eat them.
First, the rice. We didn’t get an up-close shot so I’ll have to explain. It tasted exactly like cold, frozen Horchata. Horchata is often made from ground rice (hence the name of the popsicle, I’m assuming) and spices. This popsicle had whole bits of cinnamon stick embedded in it. Absolutely amazing.
As for the vanilla “Eskimo” – not the best choice of name, but delicious and refreshing. Vanilla covered with a chocolate shell and shredded coconut. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
After eating at Brito’s on a Sunday, I spent the rest of the week craving that tamale and those popsicles. And wishing we had tried more food so that we could serve you, our loyal blog fans, better. So, the following weekend, we took one for the team and went back.
This time, we had our original fantastic pork tamale, but also tried the chicken. Just as light and flavorful, this one was less spicy, stuffed with moist chicken and a green salsa. Outstanding.
At that point, I was still hungry, and I was really feeling like we should branch out and try something besides the tamales. Then, I spotted this in the case:
Pork stew, the woman behind the counter told me. Yes, please.
This could not have been messier. I felt like I needed a wetsuit to eat it, but it was well worth the risk. The pork stew was served with rice and beans, and these:
Wow. The most amazing pork rib stew, tender and falling off the bone, with buttery rice and creamy beans. One bite told us that those tortillas are homemade. I had to ask to confirm, and was pointed to this amazing tortilla enormous tortilla press:
We asked and apparently you can buy these homemade tortillas for less than $2 per pound of tortillas. That’s cheaper than the packaged kind, and a whole lot more delicious.
We had to try some new popsicle flavors, and like the last time there was plenty to choose from. Here’s what we got:
And in case you’re thinking these are made of high fructose corn syrup, they’re not:
It might be sacrilege to say this but, watch out, Steel City Pops.
So to our new friends Nancy and Deane, who gave us this most excellent and blogworthy restaurant suggestion, thank you. You helped us find yet another gem hiding in plain sight in the Magic City. Keep those tips coming.