By Donna Cornelius
Birmingham food has been getting pretty good press in recent years, but 2018 took the city to the top of the culinary charts.
Highlands Bar and Grill won the James Beard Foundation Award for best restaurant in America, and Highlands’ Dolester Miles was the foundation’s outstanding pastry chef.
The Beard awards also showed some love to Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood by naming him a semifinalist for best chef in the South and to downtown’s Atomic Lounge, a best bar program semifinalist.
Jeremy Downey, chef of Bistro V in Vestavia Hills, won the Alabama Seafood Cook-Off in Bayou La Batre.
TV food guru Andrew Zimmern visited Birmingham in May to film an episode of “The Zimmern List,” which aired last month.
Birmingham’s Martie Duncan, a Food Network Star finalist, was on TV, too, as a contestant on Guy Fieri’s popular “Guy’s Grocery Games” on Food Network.
Blueprint on 3rd, Whistling Table, The Essential and Shake Shack were among new restaurants that quickly gained praise – and a loyal customer following.
While 2018 might be hard to top, 2019 promises to be an exciting year for Birmingham food lovers. Three new restaurants slated to open early this year already are generating a buzz thanks to the high-profile people behind them.
Automatic Seafood and Oysters
Chef Adam Evans will open his first restaurant, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, in Birmingham’s Lakeview neighborhood.
Evans is a Muscle Shoals native who stood out in Atlanta’s crowded culinary landscape. His signature seafood dishes at The Optimist helped the eatery earn Esquire magazine’s restaurant of the year award as well as a spot on Bon Appetit’s top 10 best new restaurants. In 2015, he opened Atlanta’s Brezza Cucina with chef Jonathan Waxman.
Evans returned to Birmingham in 2017 with the goal of opening his “dream restaurant” with his wife, interior designer Suzanne Humphries Evans.
Automatic Seafood and Oysters gets its name from the building’s former occupant, Automatic Sprinkler Corp.
Evans will work with local vendors, markets and fisheries to offer a menu featuring high-quality, simple seafood dishes. The restaurant will have a coastal vibe inspired by different shorelines.
A website, automaticseafood.com, is still under construction, but you can visit the site to sign up for email updates.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Rodney Scott’s BBQ will bring the South Carolina whole-hog barbecue tradition to Birmingham. The restaurant will be at 3719 Third Ave. S. in Avondale.
Scott is an award-winning pit master who cooked his first whole hog when he was 11 years old. He had a small family barbecue operation in Hemingway, South Carolina, when he accepted an invitation to prepare pig for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in 2010. That appearance was a turning point in his career, and he got invitations to cook in places ranging from Australia to Belize.
He partnered with the Pihakis Restaurant Group in 2017 to open the first location of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina.
It didn’t take long for Scott and his restaurant to earn some pretty cool honors, including a spot on Bon Appetit’s list of 50 best new restaurants and the Chef of the Year title from Eater Charleston. In 2018, Scott won the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef in the Southeast.
Whole hog is the star of the menu at Rodney Scott’s BBQ, which also includes tried-and-true Southern favorites.
Get updates about the Birmingham location by visiting rodneyscottsbbq.com.
Mile End Deli
Montreal-style cuisine and Jewish deli food are meeting up in Birmingham.
Mile End Deli will be located on the outskirts of the Southside neighborhood facing Railroad Park. It will be modeled after Jewish delis found in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood.
Like Rodney Scott’s BBQ, the restaurant’s entry into the Birmingham market is spearheaded by the Pihakis Restaurant Group and restaurateur Nick Pihakis and his partners Max Levine, Joel Tietolman and Adam Grusin.
The owners said they’re committed to serving elevated, long-established dishes made with fresh ingredients and from-scratch cooking techniques. The menu will include dishes such as Montreal-style smoked meat, homemade hot dogs, fresh whitefish salad and poutine – a Quebec concoction of french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy.
Mile End’s original location opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 2010. After partnering with the Pihakis Restaurant Group, the restaurant also expanded to Nashville.
To keep up with Mile End, follow the restaurant on Facebook or visit mileenddeli.com.