Updated: Feb 26
One thing I have learned from starting this blog is that there isn’t a ton of realistic travel shown on Instagram or other social media platforms. While I think it would be, in some ways, awesome to travel full-time and take endless beautiful photos, I also think it would be exhausting. There is a level of travel out there that includes the balance of having a home-base and a “normal” job. I am at that level, and I think most other travel enthusiasts are too.
There’s nothing wrong with traveling full-time and making money that way. If you can do it, more power to you. But, I think it’s also important to celebrate home and the reasons you love your home-base. So, this post is going to focus on some places I love from my home-town, Birmingham, AL! This place has really seen an uptick in the last decade or so. It’s starting to feel like a tiny, hipster hub, and I’m very proud. Growing up in the suburbs, the downtown area was a place to be avoided. Now, it’s kind of turned into the opposite, at least for me. If you’re ever in the area, these are some go-to spots.
Rojo - I lived in the Highland Park neighborhood for five years, and I still have such a soft spot for the area. It was the first place I was on my own. I started out in a studio and later moved to a one bedroom. It’s a beautiful area full of trees, parks, and dogs. Right in the heart of Highland Park, Rojo is a neighborhood favorite. It’s pretty much walking distance for anyone who lives there. The food is great and well priced. The atmosphere is fun. The menu is also huge. Rojo has both a mexican-inspired menu and an american-inspired menu. I’ve had several things off of both sides and they are all great. But, if I picked one time to go, it would probably be brunch. The brunch menu is mostly mexican-inspired. My favorite is the Chorizo Con Huevos. Andrew usually gets the Migas, which is pretty much the same thing without the chorizo. We love it so much that we’ve started recreating this dish at home with soy chorizo. It’s scrambled eggs, chorizo, and queso. It’s served with tortillas, lettuce, tomato, and bacon. Add a mimosa and it’s the perfect meal. Even though I don’t live in the neighborhood anymore, we still come here pretty regularly. It will always be my fave.
Roots & Revelry - If you are looking for something a little more upscale, I would go with Roots & Revelry. The space is in a renovated part of the Thomas Jefferson Tower, a historic building in Birmingham. It’s gorgeous inside. All the walls are white with the exception of a large mural on one wall. The chandeliers also add a nice touch. They also have a great patio if it’s a nice day. I’ve had their burger and I was not disappointed at all.
The Essential - This is quite a popular spot at the moment, and I can understand why. It’s on Morris Avenue, which is a cute little cobblestone road in downtown. Many many engagement shoots happen here, so you might see one of those. The Essential has a classic brunch menu. I highly recommend the breakfast sandwich. The egg and ham are absolutely delicious. Another specialty of theirs is baked goods. All of their bread is freshly baked. They are also the home of the homemade poptart. Like I said, it’s popular, so you might have a wait, but it can be fun to spend your wait time walking around on Morris and exploring other cute shops popping up in the area.
Bars and Breweries
Trim Tab Brewing - Craft brewing is huge in Birmingham and it’s only getting bigger. As I’ve stated in other posts, I’m a fan. I feel like it’s actually hard to go wrong with breweries in Birmingham. I think they all have strengths and they all have beer I would gladly drink. However, if you are looking for something a little more unique, I’d try out Trim Tab Brewing. They have a couple of standard beers, but mostly focus on small batches. I think it’s genius because it gives them a lot of room to explore and be creative with their brews. Personally, I’m not an IPA fan, but they definitely have some interesting options if you are into that. My favorites are usually the sours. I love the Holiday Now during the holidays. It’s a cranberry sour that tastes like Christmas in a cup. The Euphoria Now is also a favorite. So fruity and juicy. There’s nothing better on a warm day.
Parkside - The Avondale area has been growing like crazy in the last few years, but Parkside has been a staple for a while now. It’s a cute little bar with a great patio. Again, weather is important to consider, but it’s really worth it if it’s nice outside. Parkside has several drafts, usually local brews, as well as a full bar. There’s also a great food truck in the back called HotBox. It’s tied with Back Forty for my favorite burgers in Birmingham. They make it with bacon jam. It’s perfect. I also highly recommend the lemongrass chicken. Drooling thinking about it now.
Queen’s Park - This is a newish bar in downtown. They have been around for a little over a year and have made a name for themselves in the cocktail game. It’s themed as a tiki bar, but they specialize in all kinds of cocktails. The owner is award-winning and it shows. Look through a menu that might as well be a textbook. Each cocktail has a description as well as when the cocktail was invented. You’re sure to find something you like.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - It’s important to acknowledge the incredibly complicated and shameful history of Birmingham. Obviously, I wasn’t alive when the Civil Rights Movement was taking place, but it’s so important to remember what happened here. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is an amazing historical experience. It’s a powerful testament to the bravery and heroism of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement and it’s very worth a visit.
Railroad Park - Railroad Park is a newish area of Birmingham set up as part of the revitalization of the city in the last decade or so. It’s a beautiful area to hang out. It's also where Andrew and I had our first date. The park has a track and trails throughout if you’re looking for a nice walk. You’ll also see plenty of runners, bikers, and skateboarders. There are several restaurants and coffee shops popping up nearby. Good People Brewing is in walking distance. It’s just a fun place to be on a nice day.
Civil Axe Throwing - Andrew and I have been to Civil Axe a couple of times. I’m not great at ax throwing, but it’s still fun and makes you feel like a bad ass. Make a reservation for your group ahead of time. The employees will give you an overview of safety and the best ways to throw an ax. After that, you just have an hour to go to town throwing axes. The facility is BYOB, so you can bring in some beers or even food if you want. It’s a unique experience.
El Barrio - If you like Mexican, you’ll like El Barrio. It’s not your typical Mexican restaurant. It’s definitely a little more upscale, but the food is worth it. Check out the daily specials to pick which day you want to go. I usually go with the quesadilla. It has the best dipping sauce of all time. The margaritas are the real deal. Definitely no mix involved. Be prepared for a bit of a wait, but usually, it’s not too bad.
Bamboo on 2nd - Across the street from El Barrio, Bamboo on 2nd is the place to go if you’re in more of a sushi mood. It’s a little pricey, but everything is very well done. I am always a fan of the spicy tuna roll. They also have delicious dumplings and ramen. Both El Barrio and Bamboo on 2nd are Birmingham staples. They aren’t as crazy price-wise as some, but they are still great for a date night.
Ovenbird - Personally, I think tapas are an innovation. I don’t know why they are just now a thing in the states. I guess we are just against small portions, but all that means for me is that I get to try a bunch of tasty things! Ovenbird is an upscale tapas place in Pepper Place. Andrew and I recently went for the first time with a large group of people. At least 10, and they were able to take us with a reservation. We sat at the bar for a bit and the atmosphere was really fun. We got to try a porron, a Spanish drink that you’re supposed to pass around. It comes in this pitcher with a skinny spout, so you’re supposed to pour it into your mouth with your arm fully extended. I failed at it, but it was still fun. The tapas were delicious. My favorite was the duck, but another must try is the bone marrow. I don’t think you can go wrong. It’s not the cheapest place, but I felt that everything was reasonably priced and filling. Definitely give it a try!
I hope this list isn’t too overwhelming. It’s long, but it’s hard to narrow down all the things I love about Birmingham. This is only a little snapshot of the awesome food, drinks, and fun we have around here. Come see for yourself!