Healthy and Hungry in Birmingham
A quick, tasty tour of our favorite things to eat and enjoy in Cooking Light’s Alabama hometown.
By: Cindy Hatcher
About 15 years ago, Birmingham became an early signifier of a new style of Southern cooking: local ingredients, regional approaches, a lighter and brighter sensibility. In the last five years alone, the James Beard Foundation has recognized six Birmingham chefs and restaurants, an impressive accomplishment for a city with a metro population of about 1 million. One chef—the still-on-his-game Frank Stitt— started a chain reaction that’s making this a truly magical city in which to eat and explore.
Stitt was an Alice Waters protégé, and he’s paid it forward by mentoring many of the top chefs in the city. Most lauded is Chris Hastings, chef/owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club and winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef South. Try the seasonally shifting bouillabaisse, his legendary tomato stack salad (when in season), a Southern-twist dish like rabbit on corn puree, and anything made with small-production Fudge Farms Pork.
Located in the buzzy neighborhood of Avondale, the restaurant has a decidedly scrappy vibe, as though it has existed for decades instead of a few months.
“[The Pepper Place Farmers Market] is one of the best assets in the city of Birmingham. They've done a tremendous job diversifying: local non-GMO grains of all types, heritage breed pork and poultry, eggs, honey, cheese—it's all there, in addition to the amazing produce. It's also taking on this Southern makers vibe, offering lots of artisan crafts. I love that; it reminds me of the markets I grew up with.” —Chef Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL