Birmingham in Alabama

I landed in Birmingham Alabama hungry, having been deprived of food since the night before. A quick drive got me from the airport to what the GPS told me was the center of the city, where I promptly started looking for a place to eat. Having cruised the crumbling and mostly shuttered city blocks of downtown Birmingham, a fine dining restaurant was the last thing I expected to find. I nearly chose chick-a-fil but last minute parking problems forced me to attempt the rather plain exterior of the oddly named Restaurant G.

Once past the door, the change was dramatic. The plain glass Eurodiner gave way to valuted celings and original artwork. A soaring staircase led the previous group of four diners into the heavens while we soacked in the smile from our glamorous hostess and occupied a table at the window. The extremely pleasant space, it turns out, was matched by some marvelous food. Right off the bat, bread basket came with excellent sesame nut and walnut raisin breads. My choice of spicy green tomato soup with apple-smoked backon bits and peppered shrimp was tangy, spicy, tasty and extremely well presented to boot. The special of the day - perch on spicy corn - was just as good. The menu is completely non-vegetarian, but my colleague managed to substitute cheese for bacon on his BLGT (green tomatoes again) and ended up with a sandwich that was, well, superb. In short, this place is highly recommended. A suit is suggested, though - a nearly full-house lunchtime crowd had everybody wearing one.

Equally satisfying though more basic was the Dreamland Barbecue near the University. It's a chain, kind of - the original was founded fifty years ago and fifty miles away in Tuscaloosa. It's now a franchise operation of seven locations, and I went not (alas) to the original but a much newer variant in Birmingham - a large comfortable dining room whose chimney spouted copious quantities of hickory smoke. The choice was simple; half rack of ribs with loaf bread, a side of sauce and a beer - and as satisfying as can be. The ribs were beautifully done and the barbeque sauce a rare version without that overpowering, cling-to-everything barbecue smell. Dont take the banana cream pudding, but this is a good place to come hungry, watch the game and leave happy.

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