Birmingham is quickly becoming a foodie haven, celebrated as much for its regional dishes as it is for barbecue. Food & Wine recently moved its headquarters to the city, and Zagat declared it one of America's Next Hot Food Cities. Five local chefs are gaining national recognition through prestigious awards and popular cookbooks.
Frank Stitt is Birmingham's rock star. He was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2001 and was nominated many more times in multiple categories. He wrote two cookbooks and is featured in many regional and national food magazines. His Highlands Bar and Grill is a five-time Outstanding Restaurant, according to the James Beard Foundation. It features Southern food in an upscale, relaxed environment.
Bottega, the second of Stitt's three Birmingham restaurants, is a sophisticated restaurant in a historic, 1920s-era limestone building. Southern ingredients are combined with artisanal ones from Italy to create the delectable menu. Try the "Capellini Bottega," prepared with San Marzano tomatoes.
At Chez FonFon, Stitt has created a cozy bistro that serves hearty French fare all day. A shady courtyard has a boule court for those who want to stay a while. Nibble a charcuterie platter or dine on roast duck with cherries. There is also an extensive wine list for finding the perfect pairing.
All of the dishes at Chris Hastings' OvenBird are cooked in a wood-burning hearth, inspired by cooking techniques from Spain, Uruguay, Portugal and Argentina.
It's the second Birmingham restaurant opened by the James Beard Award-winner, whose first—the upscale Hot & Hot Fish Club—blends French, Southern and California cooking styles in an open kitchen concept. His creations have earned him 11 consecutive Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and several Best Chef nominations from the James Beard Foundation, in addition to winning the prestigious award in May 2012.
At Bettola, James Lewis turns locally sourced meats and produce into fresh dishes, like his signature Neapolitan-style pizza and housemade pastas. Food & Wine named him one of America's best new chefs in 2011, and he is one of the few American members of the Associazione Pizzaiuloli Napoletani, which certifies authentically Neapolitan pizzerias. He was a finalist in 2012 for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the South.
Café Dupont has achieved a very rare feat—the AAA/CAA Four Diamond status. Chef Chris Dupont was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's 2011 Best Chef in the South award. He worked with Emeril Lagasse and Susan Spicer, and in Birmingham serves up contemporary dishes prepared with regional ingredients and classic cooking styles. Signature dishes include "Fried Oysters & Okra with Cayenne Butter Sauce" and "Seared Sea Scallops with Goat Cheese Souffle."