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Asian Rim Sushi Company, Birmingham.
Asian Rim Sushi Company, Birmingham.
Photo: Asian Rim

The Eater Birmingham Heatmap: Where to Eat Right Now

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Asian Rim Sushi Company, Birmingham.
| Photo: Asian Rim

Today Eater takes a first-ever look at Birmingham, AL to focus on 11 newish restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. For the list, Eater asked AL.com/Birmingham News dining and social events reporter Bob Carlton for his picks of the hottest openings of the past year or so.

So what's hot in Birmingham? Well-known local chef James Lewis has opened the meat-centric restaurant of his dreams (Vittoria Macelleria) and an American Idol star is trying his hand at barbecue (Saw's Juke Joint). A beloved hot dog institution is happily serving customers again after a ten year hiatus (Lulu's Chicago Style Eatery), while a new downtown bistro has become a special occasion destination (Bistro Two Eighteen). The biggest surprise of the year? Todd English has joined the Birmingham restaurant scene with a location of his Vegas pub (Todd English P.U.B.). Below, the Eater Heatmap to Birmingham:


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Vittoria Macelleria

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Even before Food & Wine named him one of the Best New Chefs of 2011, James Lewis was already dreaming of opening a meat-centric restaurant with an adjoining butcher shop. Late this Spring, he did. Located next door to Lewis’ Italian eatery Bettola in the bustling Lakeview entertainment district, Vittoria features an ambitious selection of cured meats, aged cheese, and house-made condiments.
[Photo]

Lulu's Chicago Style Eatery

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Owner LuAnn Beck first opened Lulu’s in 2001, but family obligations caused her to close less than two years later. After 10 years, Beck has reopened in the same location. Don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s connected to a gas station: Beck serves authentic Windy City eats, from juicy Italian beef sandwiches to proper Vienna beef Chicago dogs.
[Photo]

Bistro Two Eighteen

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The new kid on a downtown block that has undergone a dining renaissance, this special occasion bistro has reinvigorated a 140-year-old building that dates back to the earliest days of Birmingham. Chef Tom Saab has put his stamp on an upscale menu that includes seafood crepes, chicken palliards, and flat-iron steak frites.
[Photo]

Todd English P.U.B.

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Todd English's only restaurant in Alabama has been drawing crowds since it opened in February in the new Westin Birmingham hotel. An import from Las Vegas, the restaurant is loud with customers drinking, playing darts, and eating pub fare like bangers and mash.
[Photo]

Asian Rim

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The menu at this Pan-Asian restaurant borrows from Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Hawaii. Thanks to the friendly staff, open kitchen, and outstanding dishes like Vietnamese-style rib tips and white miso-marinated butterfish, it's easy to forget the strip-mall setting.
[Photo]

Saw's Juke Joint

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When he’s in town, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is likely to drop in and belt out a few songs at this barbecue and blues joint that he co-owns with Saw’s BBQ guru Mike Wilson. In addition to the pulled pork and smoked chicken, one of the hottest items on the menu is the grits and greens, a soulful combo of cheese grits, collard greens, and barbecue.
[Photo]

Carrigan's Public House

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This handsome new gastropub opened in early August on Morris Avenue in the downtown loft district. About 20 beers are available on tap, including many of the local brews, and the menu features thoughtful bar staples like a double burger with white cheddar and a CLT sandwich with crispy chicken skins instead of bacon.
[Photo]

The Pantry

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Relocated from its original Cahaba Heights location, The Pantry is now tucked away on a Crestline Village side street in a small cottage. The dining area is cozy and homey with a fireplace, farmhouse table, and a menu of locally sourced, organic dishes. A take-home shop includes goat cheeses and preserves from owner Deborah Stone’s Stone Hollow Farmstead.
[Photo]

Johnny's Restaurant

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Southern cooking with a Greek accent is the order of the day at this casual meat-and-three from yet another member of Birmingham’s legendary Hontzas restaurant family. Chef/owner Tim Hontzas trained under John Currence at City Grocery in Oxford, MS and his menu includes everything from fried catfish and chicken pot-pie to Greek meatloaf and pork souvlaki.
[Photo]

Steel Drum Grill

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This casual neighborhood eatery in suburban Mountain Brook is a popular hangout for couples and families, with a menu that ranges from blackened grouper to flatbread chicken pizza. The from-scratch sandwiches are served on owners Patti and Jeff Pierce’s locally made Big Sky Bread, a Birmingham favorite since they opened the bakery in 1994.
[Photo]

The Villaggio at Ross Bridge

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This new Italian-American restaurant in the Ross Bridge golf and resort area is from the owners of La Dolce Vita, a long-time favorite of diners in suburban Hoover. The Villaggio is home to one of the area's only wood-burning brick pizza ovens, which is almost as big of a draw as its extensive, well-priced wine list.
[Photo]

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Vittoria Macelleria

Even before Food & Wine named him one of the Best New Chefs of 2011, James Lewis was already dreaming of opening a meat-centric restaurant with an adjoining butcher shop. Late this Spring, he did. Located next door to Lewis’ Italian eatery Bettola in the bustling Lakeview entertainment district, Vittoria features an ambitious selection of cured meats, aged cheese, and house-made condiments.
[Photo]

Lulu's Chicago Style Eatery

Owner LuAnn Beck first opened Lulu’s in 2001, but family obligations caused her to close less than two years later. After 10 years, Beck has reopened in the same location. Don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s connected to a gas station: Beck serves authentic Windy City eats, from juicy Italian beef sandwiches to proper Vienna beef Chicago dogs.
[Photo]

Bistro Two Eighteen

The new kid on a downtown block that has undergone a dining renaissance, this special occasion bistro has reinvigorated a 140-year-old building that dates back to the earliest days of Birmingham. Chef Tom Saab has put his stamp on an upscale menu that includes seafood crepes, chicken palliards, and flat-iron steak frites.
[Photo]

Todd English P.U.B.

Todd English's only restaurant in Alabama has been drawing crowds since it opened in February in the new Westin Birmingham hotel. An import from Las Vegas, the restaurant is loud with customers drinking, playing darts, and eating pub fare like bangers and mash.
[Photo]

Asian Rim

The menu at this Pan-Asian restaurant borrows from Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Hawaii. Thanks to the friendly staff, open kitchen, and outstanding dishes like Vietnamese-style rib tips and white miso-marinated butterfish, it's easy to forget the strip-mall setting.
[Photo]

Saw's Juke Joint

When he’s in town, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is likely to drop in and belt out a few songs at this barbecue and blues joint that he co-owns with Saw’s BBQ guru Mike Wilson. In addition to the pulled pork and smoked chicken, one of the hottest items on the menu is the grits and greens, a soulful combo of cheese grits, collard greens, and barbecue.
[Photo]

Carrigan's Public House

This handsome new gastropub opened in early August on Morris Avenue in the downtown loft district. About 20 beers are available on tap, including many of the local brews, and the menu features thoughtful bar staples like a double burger with white cheddar and a CLT sandwich with crispy chicken skins instead of bacon.
[Photo]

The Pantry

Relocated from its original Cahaba Heights location, The Pantry is now tucked away on a Crestline Village side street in a small cottage. The dining area is cozy and homey with a fireplace, farmhouse table, and a menu of locally sourced, organic dishes. A take-home shop includes goat cheeses and preserves from owner Deborah Stone’s Stone Hollow Farmstead.
[Photo]

Johnny's Restaurant

Southern cooking with a Greek accent is the order of the day at this casual meat-and-three from yet another member of Birmingham’s legendary Hontzas restaurant family. Chef/owner Tim Hontzas trained under John Currence at City Grocery in Oxford, MS and his menu includes everything from fried catfish and chicken pot-pie to Greek meatloaf and pork souvlaki.
[Photo]

Steel Drum Grill

This casual neighborhood eatery in suburban Mountain Brook is a popular hangout for couples and families, with a menu that ranges from blackened grouper to flatbread chicken pizza. The from-scratch sandwiches are served on owners Patti and Jeff Pierce’s locally made Big Sky Bread, a Birmingham favorite since they opened the bakery in 1994.
[Photo]

The Villaggio at Ross Bridge

This new Italian-American restaurant in the Ross Bridge golf and resort area is from the owners of La Dolce Vita, a long-time favorite of diners in suburban Hoover. The Villaggio is home to one of the area's only wood-burning brick pizza ovens, which is almost as big of a draw as its extensive, well-priced wine list.
[Photo]

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