By Emily Williams
In 2018, Mountain Brook Mayor Stewart Welch came up with the idea to host a Restaurant Trail challenge, inviting community members to visit 48 of the city’s restaurants in one year for the chance to win a grand prize of gift cards and packages from participating establishments.
“When I first heard about it, I thought it would be really hard to eat at 48 different restaurants in one year,” said Bert Amason, a Mountain Brook resident and partner at Balch and Bingham. “Maybe by the second week of January, I had eaten at (four) of them.”
He couldn’t imagine who ate out that much, but the task didn’t feel so insurmountable after he had knocked the first few off his list. After clearing the first three restaurants, Amason set the goal of eating at all 48.
To verify each meal, Amason posted a photo taken at each of the restaurants on Instagram along with #i8mb.
“There were actually a bunch of repeats that you don’t get credit for – places that we eat on a normal basis,” Amason said.
Completing the contest challenged him to try out places he had never been before and some places he had never heard of before, which surprised him considering how long he has lived in the city.
Not a life-long resident but a majority-of-life resident of Mountain Brook, Amason also enjoyed being able to lend his support to the local food industry.
“There are about three Asian or Asian-inspired restaurants within a mile of my house,” Amason said. “I never would have thought about driving all the way to Overton to eat at Wok Express, but I did and I enjoyed it.”
Not only was the challenge fun for him, his family wasn’t complaining along the way.
“My kids loved deciding to go get beignets in the morning at Another Broken Egg, going to get Breakup Cookies at Church Street Coffee and Books, getting ice cream at Mountain Brook Creamery. We also went and picked up cookies at Olexa’s one day, so it was a lot of fun for them,” he said.
Once the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce began running promotional videos announcing the first few finishers, Amason realized that there would be plenty of competition for the grand prize.
“I think in all we had about 28 finishers and I was just happy to hear my name drawn,” to win the grand prize package, Amason said.
Fellow finishers included Abby Nevins, Stewart Welch, Janet Forbes, Sam Gaston, Jackie Nesmith, Sue and Matt Abele, Holley Wesley, Alex Valencia, Elizabeth Riddle, Joshua Osborne, Kristen Osborne, Allison Savela, Julie Edwards, Steve Boone, Felicia Stewart and family, Samantha Chandler, Heather Scott, Food Baby Bham (Hunter and Alexandra White), Chris Mullins, Kristy Smith, Ashley Lyerly, Dylan Angeline, Monica Sargent and Layne McDougal.
After experiencing the Restaurant Trail, Amason said he is ready for the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce’s next challenge
“I was hoping that the next challenge would be visiting all of the gyms,” Amason joked.
While he is waiting, he’s been revisiting spots along the trail to use the gifts he won. He’s already treated his family to dinner at La Paz, Char Bar and Icehouse.
Having now visited most of the city’s restaurants, Amason gave his suggestions for places to eat this Valentine’s Day. His thoughts: it all depends on the mood you’re looking for.
“One, there are a lot of great restaurants around town,” Amason said. “If you’re going for fancy, there is dg, Root to Tail, Vino. You can go all the way down to Sneaky Pete’s or Gus’ Hot Dogs if that’s what you want to do. … There is such a wide range of restaurants out there, so there is something for everyone.”