From a weekend-only Thai spot to a James Beard finalist, here are the best restaurants in Birmingham Alabama.
Birmingham has always been a food city. It’s a city of food that’s deeply satisfying. It’s a city of food that’s heartwarming. It’s a city of unlimited flavors. You’ll find a gamut of countries represented by Birmingham’s best restaurants: Ethiopia, Thailand, Cuba, Italy. When Birmingham locals travel, they bring what they’ve tried, tasted, and fallen in love with back home.
So when in Birmingham, you eat. No ifs, buts, or excuses. There are too many good places to pass up on. From James Beard award winners to smaller, everyday family spots, here are Passport To Eden’s picks for the best restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama.
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Best Breakfast In Birmingham
As the name suggests, Birmingham Breadworks makes bread for Birmingham in Birmingham. It’s a boulangerie with the occasional Southern edge. Waits are long. Bread is fresh-baked (thus making the long wait times worth it). The titular ingredients are simple and sans-frills: flour, salt, water. Here’s what to get: the Sourdough (it’s got a nice, crisp exterior, the kind that cracks a little when you bite into it, and a soft tang).
Travel Tip: Not planning on grabbing breakfast? No problem. Get their Alabama Bird (turkey, tomato, arugula all in the right amounts) for lunch.
If you’re craving a quick, casual breakfast in Birmingham, Hero comes to the rescue. Walk inside, wait in line at the counter, and marvel at their donuts caped in light glazes, thick creams, and gentle crumbles. They’re hard to resist, so go ahead and pick out a few. Just save room for Hero’s Egg & Cheese Bun (you can get the egg fried or folded. Get it folded), an easy-to-down sandwich sweetened up by a scrape of pepper jam. Note: the bread is the real hero ingredient – light, fluffy, and airy (more, please).
Dining at Italian-inspired restaurants in Birmingham is usually a sit-down, intimate dinner affair. Trattoria Zaza keeps the sit-down aspect but gently nudges its menu towards sunny mornings on weekends when light more naturally pours onto loaded brunch plates. Order their breakfast pasta or frittata (pro tip: don’t tip. Trattoria Zaza pre-includes service charges in its body of prices).
Best Restaurants In Birmingham For Lunch
Green Acres Cafe
Green Acres Cafe was Antonia from Freedom Line Tour’s recommendation, and it ended up being my partner’s favorite meal in Birmingham. This is an in-then-out, takeout-only stop along Historic 4th Avenue, one of the few surviving Black business corridors in the U.S. Here’s the deal: how you order will affect how much you like your order. So go all in. Get the Manager’s Special (crispy, warm fried chicken, finger-length fries, soft green tomatoes) and ask for salt and pepper (you won’t taste it if you don’t ask for it) and hot sauce (if you like a splattering of heat). Find a place to sit outside (or head back to your car) and enjoy your meal immediately (the wings taste best warm).
Saw’s Soul Kitchen
Saw’s Soul Kitchen, the sister restaurant to the well-known Saw’s BBQ (which you should also make an effort to visit), has a Southern soul. And much like Saw’s BBQ, it draws lines (partially because there are fewer, tighter-knit seats here). There’s a range of meats and menu items offered at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, but this shortlist highlights what we’d recommend: Saw’s Fried Green Tomatoes, their white-sauce lathered Smoked Chicken Thighs, and their (Alabama BBQ-style) Smoked Pulled Chicken.
Automatic Seafood & Oysters
It would be a bold move to make a list of restaurants in Birmingham and not include Automatic Seafood & Oysters, a (mostly) straight-from-the-gulf seafood space dreamed up by husband-and-wife duo Adam and Suzanne Evans. A James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2020, a nominee for Best Chef Of The South in 2022, a feature on Esquire, Automatic Seafood & Oysters has a lot of accolades to back its reputation. If the hype doesn’t intrigue you, it should. Let’s just say that the Duck-Fat Poached Swordfish and Hushpuppies are worth making reservations for.
Best Restaurants In Birmingham For Dinner
Red Sea Ethiopian
Situated in a strip mall stretch, Red Sea Ethiopian is more glam inside than out. It serves Ethiopian food, and while most dishes are traditional (get the Ultimate Red Sea Combo Platter to split), some offer a unique (perhaps unintentional) South Asian tilt. Sambusas lean towards samosas. The sour slant of injera is (sometimes) skipped out on for a more parotta-like flavor. Doro wat is served in a bowl instead of heaped atop a rolled-out canvas of injera. It’s good food all the same, served in a chic, tidy dining room. And Red Sea Ethiopian’s consistency easily makes it one of the best restaurants in Birmingham.
The Pizitz Food Hall
You might consider including Pizitz Food Hall on this list of restaurants in Birmingham cheating. And yes, it is. You would be right. Pizitz isn’t just a Birmingham restaurant; it’s a collection of food stalls, each with a different vibe, theme, and atmosphere. But there’s also a sense of unity to Pizitz – all the vendors market below the same roof, and stalls share seats (so sit wherever you like). You can easily Frankenstein a meal across booths (which we recommend because, unlike Mary Shelley’s original story, these concoctions usually have a happy ending). Go for a date night, and grab whatever you’re interested in. From Bangalore-biased bites to true-to-the-South fare, the range of food at Pizitz Food Hall is incredible.
One of the most luxurious restaurants in Birmingham (reservations are a must), Chez Fonfon serves indulgent French cuisine in a surprisingly simple setting. It’s a restaurant that keeps its decor cozy and comfortable, and its flavors haute and complex. I mean, this is where you bring your friend for an escargot conversion mission. Chez Fonfon is also where you should bring a friend (or family member or just yourself) for a lighter, more dreamy French Chicken Liver Pâté experience. Side Note: visit Chez Fonfon’s patio. It’s magical and fairytale-like.
Best Dessert & Snacks In Birmingham
Kathy D’Agostino is one of the best chocolatiers in Alabama. Enough said.
JaWanda’s Sweet Potato Pies
Hours are limited (Fridays and Saturdays only), but JaWanda’s is worth waiting for. Jawanda Jackson provides the sweet treats you crave at the end of the week (say yes to all of her mini pies – one is enough, and one more won’t hurt).
Pastry Art Bake Shoppe
When in Birmingham, you might feel the urge to try Pastry Art Bake Shoppe’s Baby Bite, baker Carol Gregg’s wedding-perfect twist on a Petit Four. Baby bites are everything you love about cakes condensed into a single guiltless bite (plus, they come in all the classic flavors, from red velvet to carrot).
More Restaurants In Birmingham
If you’re still looking for restaurants in Birmingham to try, here are some more unique places to eat in Birmingham, Alabama:
- Cafe Dupont: split the Cafe Dupont Charcuterie during an evening date
- Cayo Coco Rum Bar: heavy Cuban atmosphere and fun, boozy tropical drinks
- Ovenbird: delightful, small plate-heavy Birmingham restaurant (bring a friend or family member to split each dish with)
- Amore Ristorante Italiano: one of the most romantic restaurants in Birmingham
- Tay Thai Street Food: flavor-packed, warm Thai eats only available at Pepper Place Market on Saturdays
Also, thank you so much to every Birmingham local who patiently answered my questions and listed all their favorite places to eat for me! I love when people are confident in their city’s food scene, and y’all are just that. I truly appreciate all your help bringing this post to life.
Did you enjoy this guide to the best restaurants in Birmingham Alabama? What are your favorite Birmingham restaurants? Let us know in the comments below! As always, we love hearing from you!