It’s Nice to See you Birmingham

A few months back we had an amazing weekend getaway in Birmingham, Alabama. Easily lured by some longtime friends to attend a Martin Sexton concert on Saturday evening, we decided to head up on Friday night and make a weekend out of it.

During the day on Friday, I got a notification that one of our friends was attending a show at Iron City in Birmingham, and it was a new band that I’ve recently been turned on to and desperately wanted to see live, Tank and the Bangas. A New Orleans based band, I first heard of them when they came to Montgomery a few years back to play at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Their music is lively, soulful, playful, fun,  and just makes me want to bounce all over the room smiling. Us getting to see them was fate because we rolled into town right as they came onto the stage. The timing could not have been any more perfect.

After a night of seeing friends and dancing all over Iron City, we retired to an AirBnB that we had rented for the weekend just a few blocks away from Iron City, near Five Points. It was the cutest little bungalow, and it was SUPER convenient for everything. Everywhere we went the entire weekend was only a five dollar Uber ride, and the free parking on-premise was nice as well. It allowed us to have easy access for our daytime adventures further out from downtown.

The next morning, we were up and out early, and we were able to make brunch at The Essential about a mile from our apartment. There was parking along the street, and we were there early enough that we had no wait to be seated. Described as a refined neighborhood cafe, The Essential is located on the historic cobblestone roadway, Morris Avenue. There are two murals close by the cafe, the “Before I Die” chalkboard and the John Lytle Wilson Robot mural just beyond the overpass. As we walked into the restaurant, we were warmly greeted, and I could hear my favorite band of all time playing over the speakers, The Allman Brothers. I knew immediately we had chosen the right place to start our day. My husband started with a latte and a mimosa to drink. I had already had several cups of Mama Mocha’s brew that I always travel with back at the apartment. So I started off with a one of their house Bloody Mary’s. The Bloody Mary, aka the Hair of the Dog, hit the spot! It was spicy and woke my mouth up. I ordered the quiche of the day, which was Gruyere and caramelized onions, and my husband ordered the smoked salmon eggs Benedict. Everything we had was delicious. The service staff was very attentive and we had a lovely breakfast.

After fueling up for the morning, we started our adventure around downtown Birmingham and the Avondale area in search of some of the many murals scattered throughout the city. As you have seen in some of our previous trips, seeking out murals and art in cities we visit is a must on my to-do list. It provides us the opportunity to not only see some great art but also see parts of the cities we may have not visited otherwise. I had researched mural locations online before our trip and knew all of their approximate locations before we set out for the day. I also had discovered a local place called MELT that had a pretty unique, delicious-looking menu. The ambiance of the place was casual and comfortable. It was packed when we arrived, and we bellied up to the bar. We ordered cocktails and a few appetizers to share. To eat we tried out the mac n’ cheese egg roll. Yes that is macaroni and cheese, wrapped, fried inside an egg roll, and served with spicy, sweet and sour dipping sauce. I really was not sure if I would enjoy such a savory dish, but it was incredibly delicious. We also tried the Food Truck Nachos, which were a base of kettle chips, loaded with  BBQ pulled pork, nacho cheese, BBQ sauce, jalapeno ranch, and fried jalapeno crisps. You would not think that we had just had breakfast just a short couple of hours or so before. We devoured both dishes and cocktails quickly! There is a mural directly outside of the restaurant, as well as a waiting area equipped with a corn hole set. Not far from Melt is HOT BOX, another favorite spot of ours for cocktails and delicious food. Located within an Air-stream trailer, it’s a pretty cool scene.

That evening we were able to grab a table at the newly opened Automatic Seafood and Oysters. They had just opened their doors a few weeks prior to our visit. The restaurant is located in what was at one time Automatic Sprinkle Co. in downtown Birmingham. Upon entering the restaurant you are immediately blown away by the breathtaking, stylish interior. Even the bathrooms were unique and interesting. I loved the color scheme, vintage feel, and excellent use of astonishing wallpapers.

Chef Adam Evans, a graduate of Auburn University, and his designer wife, Suzanne Humphries Evans are the visionaries behind this beautiful establishment. With her style and his culinary skills, this place is destined to be a long-standing, hugely successful restaurant in Birmingham. The menu is largely fresh seafood-focused, and they have an excellent beverage selection as well. I tried several of their specialty cocktails, including one of my favorites, frosé. As a group, I think we may have ordered everything on the menu. We shared dishes so that we could experience as much as we could during our visit. The fried whole snapper was amazing. I have only ever had that before in Culebra, Puerto Rico, so being able to have seafood that fresh and delicious in the heart of Birmingham is incredible.

I am ready to start planning our next trip to Birmingham. There are other murals to see and more food to try! I have been so delightfully surprised to see the culinary world in Alabama elevate and progress, most notably in recent years. I am grateful for the risk all of these restaurateurs have made in changing the culinary face of Alabama. I am excited and hopeful for the future food scene of Alabama.

That’s So Fetch mural located at 3027 6th Avenue South.
Know your History mural located in Avondale across from Melt on 4th Ave S.
Miss Fancy mural on the side of a salon located  at 400 41st St S Suite 100.
Tre Lilli Mural located on side of Alabama Ballet 2726 1st Ave S.
Homewood Is Always A Good Idea mural located at 2790 B. M. Montgomery Street.
It’s nice to have you in Birmingham mural located on side of John’s Diner @ 112 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N.
John Lytle Wilson Robot mural located on Morris Ave just past The Essential.
Before I Die chalk board mural located just past The Essential on Morris Ave.
What’s Up Birmingham? mural by Paul Cordes Wilm just past our AirBnB on 18th St. S.
Tank and the Bangas at Iron City Birmingham.
Very simplistic outdoor area of The Essential on Morris Ave.
Yummy, yummy latte from the Essential. Cocktails not pictured.
Gruyere and caramelized onion quiche at the Essential.
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict at the Essential.
The “Waterever is Meant to Be” cocktail from MELT.
“Bitter Peach Symphony” cocktail from MELT.
BBQ Nachos on homemade chips with fried, crispy jalapenos on top. Delicious!
Mac N’ Cheese Egg Roll with sweet n’ sour dipping sauce!
Deep Fried Double Stuffed Oreo’s covered in confectioner sugar.
Delicious frozen drink from Automatic Seafood.
“Spring Time In Mexico” cocktail from Automatic Seafood- Tequila, Vida Mezcal, Herbsaint, cucumber, lime, mint.
Menu from Automatic Seafood 4/20/19
Marinated Spring Vegetables from the starters at Automatic Seafood.
Oysters for dayzzzzz….at Automatic Seafood. The Murder Points were my favorite!
Whole B-Line Snapper Fried. Felt like I was ocean side in Puerto Rico!
Chris Trapper opening for Martin Sexton at Workplay Birmingham.
Martin Sexton at Workplay in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

Lucy’s

For our last date during the month of June, we returned to the place where we met. June for us is a month of celebrations. We met on June 8, 2013, and had our first date together at what was Maestro 2300. Three years to the day we married in a wine vineyard in Oregon. My birthday is the following week and it’s the beginning of summer fun. Needless to say, I love June.

In the building where Maestro 2300 used to be located in the Moore’s Mill area of Auburn, Alabama, you will find the newly-opened, completely-renovated, vibrantly-cheerful,  Lucy’s.  Lucy’s is a great addition to the restaurant scene here in our growing community. Classified as a neighborhood eatery, with killer cocktails, shared plates, wine on tap, and good vibes only. During our visit, they lived up to all these things.

Upon entering the restaurant, I believe you will be blown away at the transformation Lisa VanderReijden, one of the owners and interior designer has done with this space. Her design style is impeccably classy and timeless. This space resembles nothing of is predecessor. It’s vibrant white, with black and yellow tastefully accenting the room. It’s no longer a choppy, obstructed dining room, but a beautiful open space that is welcoming and inviting. The beautiful bar, and the locally made metal accents throughout by John Howell add an industrial feel to the space.

We were seated in one of the booths just left of the bar area. It was a perfect spot to view everything going on in the bustling restaurant. As we usually do, we started with cocktails. My husband ordered the Affirmation, which consisted of Redemption Whiskey, Cappelletti, Vermouth, bitters, and Jack Rudy Bourbon Cherry. If you’ve never tried Jack Rudy products, I highly suggest you do. One of my favorites is their classic tonic syrup. It makes the best vodka tonics! I ordered the Habanero Paloma.  This delicious sip consists of Casamigos tequila, grapefruit, habanero simple syrup, sparkling rosé, and a Himalayan salt rim. This was a great kick off to  our dinner.

For starters, we ordered the tuna poke and the truffle fries. The tuna poke was a beautiful and colorful dish, almost too pretty to eat! You have probably seen poke restaurants starting to pop up. Poke originates from Hawaii and refers to the type of preparation of the dish. Poke is a chopped salad consisting of raw tuna (in this case), cucumbers, avocado with a house yuzu dressing. Lucy’s serves theirs with a side of plantain chips for dipping. The tuna was fresh and delicious, and I really enjoyed the plantain chips. The truffle fries were as expected, savory and delicious.

For our entrees, I ordered the Argentinian style New York Strip steak. My steak was cooked perfectly to my desired temp, medium well. I know many would criticize my temp preference on steak, but I like what I like, and that’s what I order. The chimichurri sauce served over-top of the steak was yummy. I almost thought about asking for more. Chimichurri sauce is a raw mix of finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano with garlic, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes, originating from Argentina and Uruguay. The sides were lovely roasted potatoes that had been smashed into a flat disk, blistered tomatoes, and perfectly cooked asparagus. Everything was perfectly season and very tasty.

My husband ordered the garlic and rosemary lamb shank. The presentation was pretty awe-inspiring. The shank was served over McEwen and Son’s polenta, with stewed vegetables and braising jus. The shank peeled off the bone with ease, and all the combined flavors worked really well together. We enjoyed a bottle of a 2015 Jean Louis Chave Offerus Saint Joseph. This wine is comprised of one-hundred percent Syrah, which paired nicely with both of our meals.

Last, but certainly not least, we ended this magnificent feast with attempting to share the dessert board. This astounding board of chocolateness was comprised of ice-cold Blue Ribbon milk out of Tallassee, Alabama, served alongside fried cookie dough balls, and a hot fudge sundae with the cutest tiny milk can full of fudge to pour over ice cream and meringue crisps, and finally a small iron skillet full with monkey bread, served with bourbon butter pecan ice cream.  It was all sinful to the say the least, but was thoroughly enjoyed.

I cannot wait to dine at Lucy’s again! I really want to go back and try their brunch menu they serve on Saturday and Sunday’s. I see many more drinks and dinners here in our future!

Dinner menu.
Cocktail menu.
His and Hers Cocktails. The Affirmation for him, and the Habanero Paloma for her.
Tuna poke and plantain chips.
Truffle Fries.

Argentinian Style New York Strip steak with chimichurri sauce, served with asparagus, blistered tomatoes, and roasted smashed potatoes.
Lamb Shank served over polenta with stewed vegetables.
Dessert Board  (L-R) Ice cold milk from local creamery, fried cookie dough balls, hot fudge sundae with meringue crumbles, and monkey bread with Bourbon butter pecan ice cream.

Key West is the Best- Day Two

The best way to wake up after a late night out is to just pick up right where you left off; grab yourself a Bloody Mary, and keep yourself moving. I am an early riser so I was up despite the late night/early morning prior. It is truly a blessing and curse. A blessing because I get to enjoy the quiet and stillness that the morning often brings. A curse because my body was starved for much-needed rest. Coffee is the first thing I drink every single morning. It is one of the few constants in my life. I bring my own Mama Mocha’s Coffee with me whenever I travel. Our AirBnB was stocked with a coffee pot and filters and after a quick walk around the block to the supermarket for my favorite creamer, I was set.

I spent my morning reading on the front porch and drinking my coffee while all my housemates caught up on their rest. Our porch overlooked the gorgeous Curry Mansion. It was nice to watch the beautiful bed and breakfast start to come alive for the day. I think if we were to ever return, I would love to stay there. However, I do enjoy the amenities and sense of being at home that vacation rentals afford.

Once everyone started to rise, I was anxious for us to decide on somewhere to eat because it was almost midday. The groom suggested we stroll down Caroline Street a few blocks and meet his incoming family at one of their favorite places, B.O.’s Fish Wagon. A staple in Key West for over twenty-five years, this no-frills shack just blocks from the water is a must stop. They are known for their conch fritters with key lime mayo and Cuban sandwiches. We ordered the conch fritter appetizer, my husband had a Cuban sandwich, and I tried their burger. The conch fritters were good, and my burger was absolutely delicious. Between the coffee and the burger, I felt like a new woman.

After lunch, my husband and I separated from the group to go and see the Hemingway House, which was on my list of must-do’s while in Key West.  It was a short stroll from our rental house down our favorite street, Whitehead Street. Along the way, we passed the impressive Kapok Tree and many banyan trees; truly a botanists dream. We popped into a few local shops for souvenirs, and could not resist making a pit stop at our favorite bar, The Green Parrot.

After having a quick cocktail, we wandered down a few more blocks to the breath-taking estate of Ernest Hemingway. We arrived midday, and I was happy to see there were not hoards of people visiting. We slowly wandered throughout the house, stopping to pet the numerous kitties (some with six toes) and taking pictures of all the nostalgic memorabilia of one of my favorite authors. They offered guided tours throughout the home, but in an effort to avoid the crowd, we chose to do a self-guided tour and kept to ourselves. The lush lawn, the picturesque pool, and the overall ambiance of the property are captivating.

Later, we cleaned up for a nice dinner at a spot recommended to us by the groom’s mother, Bagatelle on Duval. This was hands down one of the best dining experiences we had while on the island. The atmosphere was tropical and intimate. We were seated in the upstairs dining room overlooking the moon lounge. We made the reservation last minute, so I was thankful they were able to accommodate us on such short notice. We started with cocktails and moved into wine with dinner. They had an excellent selection of cocktails and wines. For an appetizer, we shard the octopus salad and the barbecue shrimp wrapped in bacon. For my entree, I ordered the whole fried snapper. I had only had snapper like this before on one of our trips to Puerto Rico. I was really excited to see it on the menu here and to be taken back for a moment to our time in Culebra. The snapper was better than I could have hoped for, and I really like the Thai chili sauce that lightly covered the snapper. My husband had the yellowfin dish and it was equally tasty.

After dinner, we hurried down to Mallory Square to catch the sunset celebration and meet back up with our group. We had perfect timing and caught all the excitement. Our visit to Key West coincided with the Conch Republic Independence celebrations. They were having boat wars out in the water, there was a conch shell blower, and all kinds of exciting activities going on pier side. One of the more unusual acts we saw was that of Cat Man, Dominique LeFort. He has a slew of cats that he has trained to jump through fiery hoops and walk tight-ropes. It was intriguing to say the least. He is a staple act on the pier in Key West.

After the sun had set, our group ventured over to the Smoking Tuna off Charles Street. They had a live band playing, and everyone was having a great time. We hopped around after leaving here until we all ended up back at the house to rest up for what would be another eventful day.

B.O.’s Fish Camp on Caroline Street.
Really cool looking banyan trees everywhere.
The Kapok Tree on Whitehead Street.
Sidewalk quotes are throughout the Key.
Back at The Green Parrot.
Hemingway House Historical Maker.
Such an exquisite property. Can I live here?
Lord cat of the manner. He was huge….
And he has SIX toes!
If this pool could talk!
Exceptional dinner menu at Bagatelle on Duval Street.
Octopus and fresh tomato salad with Parmesan crisps.
Key West pink shrimp wrapped in bacon with a spicy chipotle sauce.
Whole fried snapper with a thai chili sauce served with jasmine rice.
Sesame Yellowfin Tuna with udon noodles, pickled edamame and a peanut sauce.
Sunset walking up to Sunset Pier at the end of Duval Street.
Key West Cat Man, Dominque LeFort.