City Portrait

Birmingham’s New Hot Spots

The best of what’s new in the Magic City

Photo: Caleb Chancey

Late-night eats at Hotbox.

Where to Eat & Drink

Avondale Brewing Company
One of the first outfits to inject fresh energy into downtown’s now hip Avondale neighborhood, this pioneering brewery is at it again. Its new distillery, Avondale Spirits, is set to open this winter complete with a compact fifty-gallon still turning out experimental gins, vodkas, and whiskeys. For sour beer lovers, the brewery has also unveiled a separate taproom that’s dedicated to saisons, tripels, and other deliciously funky suds.—

Carrigan’s Public House
The two-year-old bar has already cemented itself as the city’s happy-hour clubhouse, where the after-work crowd dives into gastropub-style bites such as jalapeño boiled peanuts and Cotija-speckled corn dogs. Barman Eric Bennett dreams up drinks that champion the flavors of Birmingham, such as a G&T with a splash of Icebox cold-brewed coffee, and the Black Sails, a combination of TrimTab beer, peppery Buffalo Rock ginger ale, grapefruit, and gin.—

The Collins Bar
A tongue-in-cheek periodic table highlighting local celebrities, landmarks, and other area businesses sets the playful tone of this low-lit lounge. Want something with whiskey that’s a little bitter? Or perhaps you’d prefer a citrusy rum drink? Name your base spirit and whether you like it sweet, spirit-forward, or more herbaceous, and watch the bartenders run wild.—

Feast & Forest
It all started with their can’t-eat-just-one Conecuh sausage and cheddar scones. Today, from their new bakery-café, Kristen Hall and Victor King, a.k.a. the Baking Bandits, dish out what they term “modern nostalgia,” with bites like pecan pie Pop-Tarts and salted caramel banana pudding. Tuesday through Friday afternoons, pull up a chair at one of the century-old sweet gum tables for Cookie Happy Hour, with milk or coffee on the side for dunking.—

Hotbox at Parkside
Don’t let the Airstream fool you. Inside, chef Ryan Champion, a veteran of Frank Stitt’s Southern-accented Italian trattoria Bottega, is now satisfying Birmingham’s late-night cravings with on-the-fly orders of lemongrass fried chicken, burgers slathered with bacon jam, and pork-belly-topped drunken noodles. Dig in at one of a smattering of picnic tables illuminated by strands of twinkling white lights.—

Leave it to visionary chef Chris Hastings—the eat-local maestro behind the Birmingham culinary landmark Hot and Hot Fish Club—to transform a shaded garden plot in Pepper Place into a live fire laboratory, where wood-fed flames lick small plates of beef shoulder, ash-roasted vegetables, and platters of paella. They don’t take reservations for fewer than six, but there’s not a bad seat in the house, from the cozy courtyard to the marble-topped bar. Better yet, angle for a seat in the open kitchen, where you’ll get an ovenbird’s view of the action.—

Children of the eighties, rejoice. This neon-lit bar/arcade might be the ultimate throwback adult playground. Play Ms. Pac-Man to your heart’s content, eat quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs, sip a PBR twist on a Pimm’s Cup, or attempt the beastly Paramount burger—two patties topped with corned beef hash, a crispy smashed risotto ball, a fried egg, two kinds of cheese, hot sauce, and pickles.—

Post Office Pies
Native John Hall, who cooked his way through New York’s finest (Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Per Se, Gramercy Tavern) and ran a pizza delivery service out of his Brooklyn apartment, returned home to open Post Office Pies in 2014. He and his team of pizzaiolos overlay hand-tossed crusts with pepperoni disks, house-made sausage, oversize polka dots of ricotta, and lots more goodies before sliding the pies into domed wood-burning ovens.—

With its neutral colors and clean lines, this minimalist coffee shop would seem perfectly at home in Nordic climes. But the downtown caffeinator is decidedly entrenched in the local community. All of the beans pass through its 10,000-square-foot roasting facility just down the road, and the menu regularly showcases area-made products, from kombucha to goat cheese to salted caramels.—

Saw’s Soul Kitchen

Order the Pork ’n’ Greens at this postage-stamp-size smokehouse, and chunks of pulled pork arrive atop a creamy bed of cheese grits, piled with stewed greens and crowned with a thin, vinegar-based sauce and crispy fried onions. It is, in short, barbecue bliss. Round it out with a side of fried okra and wings with Alabama-style white sauce.—

Tau Poco
Chef Chris Dupont’s new take-out spot is an international choose-your-own-lunch adventure. An homage to global street food, the modular menu—painted by the local artist Véronique Vanblaere—lets you mix and match a changing smorgasbord of vessels (steamed buns, corn pancake cachapas, flatbread), fillings (bo ssam pork, miso steak, turmeric-coated chicken), and toppings (chimichurri, kimchi). No passport necessary.—205-322-9909

We Have Doughnuts
Start your morning off right at this stand in the vestibule of the former Trust & Savings building (7:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., Tuesday–Friday) to pick up a dozen (or two) glazed, cakey rounds in old-fashioned flavors such as double chocolate, brown butter, buttermilk, and even a riff on Coke and peanuts in fried dough form. Not a morning person? They deliver.—

What to See & Do

Iron City
The growing roster of Birmingham music venues mirrors the city’s rich, mushrooming music scene, which is producing such national darlings as Lee Bains III and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. At Iron City, with its state-of-the-art sound system and bi-level perches, concerts with A-list acts (Gregg Allman, Grace Potter, Gary Clark Jr.) feel intimate, despite the fact that the space sprawls across 22,000 square feet.—

Lyric Theatre
Built in 1914 as a vaudeville house, the majestic Lyric was one of the first theaters in the South where blacks and whites could simultaneously watch shows for the same price. It shut its doors in 1958, but this winter, the stage lights are scheduled to shine again—thanks to an $11.5 million restoration funded largely by residents of Birmingham. Get tickets early to catch some of the first performances in the very place where the Marx Brothers and Will Rogers once held court.—

Open Shop
Equal parts art gallery, pop-up restaurant, music hall, and clothing boutique, local singer-producer Armand Margjeka’s shop in Woodlawn, Birmingham’s next “it”neighborhood, trades in cool. Stop by on Thursday nights for a cocktail while you browse Golden Goose sneakers and Hannes Roether tees, or settle into one of the chesterfield sofas and listen to the sounds of Birmingham musician Duquette Johnston on the hi-fi.—

Painted Shovel
Artist Julie Kay Nelson originally opened this eclectic boutique in Avondale as her creative work space and as a headquarters for her urban farming classes addressing everything from backyard chicken coops to canning. Today, in addition to examples of Nelson’s work (paintings, jewelry), the modern mercantile houses architectural antiques (barn doors, chandelier sconces), home goods (pottery, candles), and pieces by other noted Alabama makers, such as Gee’s Bend quilts.

Railroad Park

The flourishing businesses downtown can thank Railroad Park for first beckoning folks back to the city center. Its nineteen acres of trackside green space—with an amphitheater, lake, running trails, an outdoor gym, a skate park, and the Mediterranean-influenced Boxcar Café—kicked off the transformation from bleak landscape into urban playground.—

Regions Field
If you build it, they will come. A baseball cliché, yes, but a fitting one for this minor-league ballpark. When the Barons relocated to downtown in 2013, game attendance more than doubled. The season kicks off in early April, and you’ll find locals relaxing in the stands or on grassy patches beyond the outfield. A tip: The seventh-inning stretch is a perfect time to visit the Dreamland BBQ concession stand.—


This space-themed, ultramod outpost of the Bowery Presents, a New York City–based concert promotion firm, is more proof that indie music is alive and well in the Ham. You can hear everyone from Mike Cooley to Houndmouth to David Mayfield, while in the adjoining bar cocktail goddess Steva Casey will rock your world with such clever creations as the frozen Rocket Booster—made with Tang, Campari, and Cathead honeysuckle vodka.—

Where to Stay

The Redmont Hotel
Despite downtown’s boom, lodging options have been lacking, which is why this historic hotel couldn’t have timed its return better. Set to reopen this winter, the thoroughly revamped 1925 landmark preserves original details (vaulted ceilings, a sweeping marble staircase) while adding modern touches ranging from luxurious Aromatherapy Associates toiletries to local Revelator Coffee brew. Best of all, there’s a rooftop bar.—