Gus’s Hot Dogs

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Chosen by Blake, Gus’s Hot Dogs has been operating in the Crestline Village for many years. Located next to former BLC Stop, Taco Mama, this restaurant offers both breakfast and lunch menus. The specialty at Gus’s Hot Dogs are hot dogs. Please visit the new sports app, FanCred, for more in depth discussion on sports as well as hotdogs.

 

gus-s-orginal-hot-dogBlake: Gus’s is another one of those spots sort of situated in my hood, or at least, my work hood, that I’ve been to quite a bit because of convenience. I think there are probably better hot dogs in Birmingham, like Pop’s (which, frankly, I’ve been concerned recently about if its open or not as I am barely down there anymore and each time I am it’s closed) and it’s neighboring Five Points Hot Dogs.

Gus’s has secret sauce, which is apparently not much of a secret, because it’s basically the same secret sauce every other hot dog place uses. I really need to expand my ordering options, because I always go in and just get whatever the special is – usually two dogs, a fry and a soda for around $7. That’s a steal. And it’s typically very fast. The fries are really great, but they serve them in bucket loads like popular hamburger chain Five Guys Burgers & Fries. A thing I learned this go around that I observed from some cool kids at another table – apparently they serve breakfast sandwiches all day. So that’s cool.

I like Gus’s a lot because I like hot dogs a lot; I may like hot dogs the way Joey likes tacos. It’s very convenient. The price is right. You can normally get in and out of there in 30 minutes or so. I wish they had brought the ranch I asked for for fry dippin,’ but I don’t think the restaurant industry has caught up to that trend. On a relatively unrelated tangent, they should, because I think most people (especially Southern folk) like dippin’ stuff in ranch. Anyhow. Gus’s makes good hot dogs. I recommend eating there if you are in Mountain Brook and want a hot dog.  Overall Rating: 3.5 bros

 

Joey: When Blake picked Gus’s Hot Dogs in Mountain Brook, I was excited to try a hot dog place located in one of the richest places in America. I was expecting fancy stone ground mustard spread on a Kobe beef sausage served on a gluten free wheat bun. I got something decidedly different. I got the same basic hot dog that is served all over Birmingham. Gus’s serves their dogs with that weird mustardy sauce that is popular here. I don’t know if that sauce is a nationwide thing or not. Usually when I travel out of state, I don’t eat hot dogs.

I ordered the Hot Dog Combo which came with 2 dogs, a very large order of fries and a drink. This was a pretty good deal for a lunch combo and a very good deal for a lunch combo in Mountain Brook. Unfortunately the dogs weren’t that great. I think I’ve gotten the same hot dog at Legion Field. The fries, though I did get a TON of them, were not served very warm. I think if they came out hot, I would have added one bro to this review. Gus’s appeared to have a large, dedicated, older clientele, but I won’t be joining it anytime soon. Overall Rating: 2 Bros

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Greg: Birmingham has lots of hotdog restaurants. I don’t really know why, but there are quite a few. Most have some kind of special sauce that they on the dogs. For the most part, the actual hot dogs taste the same, the variance comes in the toppings. I was excited that Blake picked Gus’s hot dogs because I enjoy eating in that area of town and the atmosphere. The inside of the store was a little small but appeared to be remodeled in the last few years. We ordered our food. I got the 2 dog special (1 chili dog, 1 Gus Dog, fries and drink). The food came fairly quickly as there weren’t too many other customers around. I will now start with the bad. The fries tasted like they had been reheated in the fry oil a few times and developed that weird crispy aftertaste. Not hot, just crispy. If you have worked in a fast food restaurant, you are probably familiar with that trick. There were a lot of fries tho! Possibly,maybe because they were trying to give us the batch that had been sitting there for a while. The dogs were pretty good, nothing exceptional. The chili didn’t have much flavor, but it wasn’t terrible. All in all, the lunch was filling. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the price wasn’t bad at all (less than $8 out the door). However, there are many other hot dog places I would recommend in Birmingham before going to Gus’s Hot Dogs. Overall Rating: 2.5 Bros

 

Composite Bro Rating: 2.67 Bros

Milo’s Hamburgers

Milo’s Hamburgers is a regional hamburger chain based in Birmingham, Alabama. There are 15 locations, with 14 being in the Birmingham metro area. Milo’s is known for their famous sauce and sweet tea as well exceptional health department ratings. As the jingle says, “everybody goes to Milo’s”.

Milo's Exterior

Joey- I used to work at a deli next door to a Milo’s when I was in high school. We consistently had customers come in that had tried Milo’s, hated it and wandered over to try something else. To find a person outside of Birmingham that likes Milo’s is a rare thing as it’s popularity seems to be among people raised in Birmingham. Luckily I was one of those people, so I was excited when Greg chose Milo’s for this week’s BLC location.

They weren’t kidding when they said “Everybody goes to Milo’s”! This Milo’s location, next door to UAB, had a line out the door when I arrived. The line remained long my entire time there. This was probably due to Mr. Milo deciding to only have one cashier and one expediter manning their stations. I ordered the same thing I always do – Cheeseburger combo, no onions, mega sized, Sweet tea – and waited. While waiting, I saw All-Pro linebacker Karlos Dansby enter the restaurant. Seriously, everyone does go to Milo’s! (While leaving, I saw someone had double parked Dansby’s Audi, making that driver the first person to block Dansby in Alabama in years!!!)

My food was good as always. I’m not as big of fan of Milo’s syrup based tea as most people, but I still drank close to a gallon of it. This trip was nothing spectacular though and the long line annoyed me.

Overall Rating- 3 Bros

Greg- If you live in Birmingham, there is a good chance you have been to Milo’s at least once. I find it to be a situation that you either love or you hate. The menu is small (but growing) and the sauce isn’t for everyone. However, it is one of my favorite places and was long overdue for a BLC stop. We visited the UAB location and were greeted to a line almost out the door. We were worked through the line very fast (about 5 minutes) and I ordered the usual: a Mega Meal Combo (double cheeseburger, large fry, drink, and pie). Since my last visit to Milo’s they added a bunch of sauces for their chicken tenders. I got a few of these for dipping. The one that knocked me out was the Boom Boom sauce, which was like a better version of Zaxby’s sauce. The burger is simple with the meat, bread, cheese, diced onions, and secret sauce. Mine was fantastic. The fries were hot and crispy and the apple pie was delicious. As with most Milo’s, somehow the health rating was 100 and the restaurant was very clean. Overall, nothing but the highest praise for this experience. Fast, great food and clean.

Overall Rating: 5 Bros

Milo's Line

Blake- When we arrived at the Milo’s on 5th and 19th, it was crowded. Really, really crowded. But a funny thing happened on the way to the secret sauce – that line moved very, very quickly. I never would have imagined that such a busy location, in the middle of UAB’s hospital, would be as efficient during the most peak lunch hour. But then, maybe that’s WHY they were so efficient and I should have had higher expectations.

Here was another special thing that happened on this trip to Milo’s: new sauces. We sampled the “Boom Boom Sauce,” which was sort of a wing sauce and a “Chick Sauce,” which was basically a play on Guthrie’s or Zax Sauce. Both were outstanding, though the “Boom Boom Sauce” was a home run.

Here was another thing that happened on this trip to Milo’s: All-Pro linebacker Karlos Dansby was there. Just eating a burger. Like some regular bro. I have a signed jersey framed by ol #11. So that was cool.

Everything about Milo’s is perfect anyway. And everything on this trip went perfect. A Mega Meal combo with a lemon pie and a sweet tea. I took that lemon pie back to the office for later. [Note: If you’ve not had Milo’s fried lemon pie, I highly recommend it.] I don’t know what to say: I rarely go to Milo’s, but every time I do, I promise myself I’ll go more often. It’s not been around three weeks (maybe four?) since this trip, and I’ve still not made good on my promise. Really need to treat myself more often.

Overall Rating- 5 bros

Composite BRO Rating- 4.33 Bros

Taco Mama

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Taco Mama in Mountain Brook, AL is nestled into Crestline Village across the street from Mountain Brook City Hall. Taco Mama serves up traditional Tex-Mex fare including the ubiquitous tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadillas and taco salads. The Mountain Brook location is Taco Mama’s only location…so far. So what did the Bros have to say about this “Authentic Mexican Cantina“?

Taco Mama Mountain Brook AL

Joey’s Tacos

Joey: My continuing quest to eat every taco in Birmingham brought the Birmingham Lunch Club to Taco Mama in Mountain Brook. This upscale (it is in Mountain Brook!) “taco bar” offers many Americanized versions of your favorite Mexican dishes. I chose to eat the Muy Authentico “Cheezy Beef” tacos. If you visit, you’ll order at the counter and get assigned a number on a cool el rojo wooden triangle.
The tacos came out ¡Muy Rapido!, before Greg even had a chance to order. My plate came with 2 large beef tacos in big flour tortillas, cole slaw, chips and salsa. This large plate plus a drink set me back around $11. It’s a lot of food. Way too much for me at lunch. The tacos are less authentic than Chipolte, but they taste pretty great. I’ll be back. And hopefully get some margaritas. OVERALL RATING 4.5 BROS out of 5 BROS

Greg: Like Joey, I am a big fan of tacos and we have had some good experiences with them in the BLC. I hadn’t been to this part of Mountain Brook in a long time, but it was nice. Street parking was easy and there were lots of nice shops on my short walk to Taco Mama. Traffic made me a touch late so the other bros were already seated when I arrived. I went to the counter and ordered the taco combo with 4 tacos. I mixed it up and got some ground beef, chorizo, chicken and pork just to try everything. All kinds of different toppings and sauces. I wanted to try many different things. Here is the thing, it was all terrific. The food came out fast and with a water I totaled out at a shade under $11. The meat was perfectly seasoned and the ingredients were fresh.  I don’t know if there are different salsas on the menu, but the one I got was fantastic. Good flavor with just enough kick. One thing I regret is not getting the ferried chorizo beans. Next time tho. The restaurant had ample seating space and a few tables outside. As far as I’m concerned, this was an all-timer on the BLC list. Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Bros

Taco Mama Mountain Brook Quesadilla

Blake’s Quesadilla

BlakeTaco Mama is another Muontain Brook spot I’m pretty familiar with, as it is one of about five inexpensive, quick dining options a stone’s throw from my office. Taco Mama is my favorite of all of the “assembly line, Tex-Mex, Southwesterny quick service” places. I like it more than Moe’s, and I love Moe’s. I like it more than Izzo, and I love Izzo. I’ve never been to Chipotle.
Here’s the thing about Taco Mama: chorizo. I think Izzo may have Chorizo, but that’s way over at the Summit and my reasons for going to the Summit these days are extremely limited. Another thing: sauces. They have a nice chipotle ranch (which Moe’s also has, in fairness). I think they have a pesto, though, and some other weird stuff. I wonder if Latino-Americans dip their quesadilla in chipotle ranch? Probably.
I like the quesadilla, which I topped with aforementioned chorizo, corn, black beans, cilantro and something else. Can’t remember. They brought like 12 dips out at no extra charge (guac, salsa and then, like, 10 other dips). The service was lightening fast, and it was $10 or so. Maybe less on account of I got water.
You can expect the same type of meal and the same type of service at Taco Mama that you can at its peers, like Moe’s. But I think the quality of the product is much better and it’s no more expensive. I like Taco Mama a whole lot. OVERALL RATING 4 bros out of 5 bros

OVERALL RATING: 4.5 BROS ON OUR 5 BRO SCALE

 

 

Gilchrist Drug

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Gilchrist Drug in Mountain Brook, AL is an old fashioned soda fountain serving up sandwiches and chips to its loyal customers daily. Its so old fashioned it doesn’t even have a website. Nestled in the heart of Mountain Brook Village, Gilchirst isn’t too easy to find, but the bros of the BLC managed anyways.

Greg: As longtime readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of a tasty chicken salad sandwich. I have combed Birmingham looking for the best one in town. Gilchrist was mentioned by a friend as having excellent chicken salad, so when Blake made this pick, I looked forward to giving it a try. Parking was easy and Joey had arrived early to secure us a seat. I ordered a chicken salad sandwich on wheat and got some Sweet Hear BBQ chips and a water. The food came quickly and the waitress was nice. Following the theme from last week, the sandwich was quite small.  The sandwich did not have special ingredients outside of what you would find in basic chicken salad and also lacked spice and flavor. Just your standard boiled chicken with mayo. Maybe some celery. The chicken was cut very small, minced is the term (I think). Can I tell you about the sweet heat chips tho? Fantastic. Coach Bryant would have been proud. The meal (with cookie included) got me out the door around $7 after tip. Not too shabby at all for a lunch in Mountain Brook. While the location was nice and I like the old timey drugstore feel (think It’s a Wonderful Life without the poison) I don’t think I will be returning here anytime soon for chicken salad. OVERALL RATING: 2 out of 5 BROS

 

Blake's Hot Beef and Joey's Pimento Cheese BLT at Gilchrist Drug

Blake’s Hot Beef and Joey’s Pimento Cheese BLT at Gilchrist Drug

JOEY : Gilchrist Drug was a great overall experience despite the misleading title. After a very quick drive over from my office, I was lucky enough to find street parking right outside. I was surprised as Gilchrist’s location is in a very crowded Mountain Brook shopping area. I arrived a little bit early but quickly found a seat and read over the limited menu.
A nice middle aged waitress in a bright neon Gulf Shores t-shirt was quick to serve me one of their signature limeades. Greg and Blake arrived shortly after that and the waitress took my order for a BLT with pimento cheese. This was a pretty great sandwich and I would recommend it if you like cheese and bacon. And since you’re all American readers, I know you already do. Gilchrist doesn’t offer any sides for their sandwiches besides potato chips, which I declined to order.
While we were waiting to pay at the register, I noticed that besides the bros in the BLC the entire Gilchrist Drug customer base was women and kids. There weren’t any other men eating at that time! Not one!  I suspect once school lets out, Gilchrist will be even more full of young entitled Mountain Brook kids. But I’ll definitely be back to join them in eating fast, cheap sandwiches. OVERALL 4.5 out of 5 bros.

BLAKE: Gilchrist Pharmacy is the first BLC stop that I have walked to from my office. I do that a lot, as it is in Mountain Brook Village, maybe a little more than a mile from my door. I’ve had Gilchrist’s chicken salad, which I find to be second only to Olexa’s [also in Mountain Brook Village] in Birmingham, and I have had their pimento cheese, which is the best I have ever had outside of perhaps The Turnip Patch [lifeofaturnip.com].

I wanted to get something new this time.I chose the Hot Beef on a Bun. I’ve always had my eye on that. Everything about it sounds amazing. So I got that and a bag of Dill Pickle flavored Golden Flake potato chips, like Coach Bryant would have ordered. Heck, he may have! The place has been there like a billion years!The Hot Beef on a Bun should probably be called “Beef on a Hot Bun.” The beef is just fine; a nice temperature. But the bun is really hot! Really! I think they put mayo and mustard on it. That’s it. And that’s great because it’s all I want. Ketchup is for poor people, and poor people don’t eat at Gilchrist. Well, they could, because it is very affordable. But poor people aren’t allowed in Mountain Brook Village.
I also got the cherry limeade, a staple of the old-timey soda fountain/pharmacy. And it is always delicious. I got out under $10, including a $1 tip [this is probably the toughest part of this place; the whole, “Do I tip?” thing]. And that limeade was, like, $2. And I got the equivalent of the most expensive menu item. We were out in 30 minutes. Gilchrist makes really delicious sandwiches in a nostalgic venue at a very affordable price and can easily get you in and out quickly. I can walk there, and when it’s nice out, I enjoy doing so. So I can promise I’ll be back a lot. OVERALL RATING 4 bros.

COMPOSITE BRO SCORE: 3.33 BROS ON A 5 BRO SCALE

Demetri’s BBQ

The Birmingham Lunch Club returned with a bang as we visited our worst rated restaurant ever! We visited Demetri’s BBQ in Homewood AL, which is a longtime favorite of many Birmingham residents. The BLC did not feel the same way.

Greg: At long last, the BLC has come back to Birmingham. A day I have looked forward to for 8 months or so finally happened. This turned out to be the highlight of the meal, the bros getting together.ALABAMA BBQ

I chose Demetri’s because I had heard some decent things about it and it was fairly close to Joey’s new job. Also, I love BBQ. We were seated immediately and introduced to our waiter. Maybe he was having a bad day, but he was terrible. I ordered a BBQ Chicken Sandwich, baked beans, and fries. I would usually get the pork, but was told the chicken was the specialty. The food took awhile to arrive, but it gave us ample time to catch up. Once the food got to our tables, I did a quick double take to see if there were more plates coming out because the portions were so small. The sandwich was the smallest Winn Dixie sized bun you have ever seen. The meat was cooked very well and the sauce was different, but good. The sauce had a very vinegar based taste, smoky and strong. The beans were straight from a can and a small portion. The fries were decent but the portion was less than you get on a kids meal at Full Moon. All in all, the meal left me very unsatisfied. I thought a slice of pie might help. I ordered coconut pie, luckily this was one of the few they had in stock. The pie was almost as bad as the food as it had a overwhelming salty taste. Worst pie I have had in Birmingham, a city with lots of terrific pie choices. After settling up, I was out the door at $15. The service was adequate, but nothing to write home about.

I was looking forward to this meal because I love BBQ. The takeaway from this meal was that the BLC is back. I won’t return to Demetri’s and give it the title of Worst BBQ in Birmingham, AL. Overall Rating: 1 Bro

Joey: A new job gave me the opportunity to return to the Birmingham Lunch Club. Greg’s choice of a previously unvisited BBQ place close to my new office gave me even more excitement for my return visit.  Unfortunately, Demitri’s provided a disappointing return to my return to the BLC. I will be sure not to return to Demetri’s BBQ in Homewood, AL. Greg at Demetri's BBQ

I wanted a light lunch because I had planned on getting a pie. Taking advantage of the abnormally cool May weather, I ordered the chili and grilled cheese sandwich combo from our dopey waiter. He let me know they were out of the red chili, but the white chicken chili was fine with me. Our waiter was the only male in the sketchiest crew of waitresses this side of a Louisiana truck stop. My cup of chili returned, clearly fresh from a microwave. I knew this because of the skin on top of the chili and the cold beans I bit into. So my chili order was a total bust. It tasted like Dinty Moore on a good day.The pie wasn’t much better. I might as well put a bunch of cool whip on top of a Hershey’s bar. There are plenty of BBQ options in Birmingham. Demetri’s should not be one of them. OVERALL RATING: 1.5 BROS

BLAKE: As we left Birmingham Lunch Club with the “Lost Review of Full Moon BBQ,” which was intended to begin “BBQ Month,” it’s fitting that we pick up there and visit Demetri’s BBQ in Homewood. Parking was no major issue at noon on Friday, though the lot was full. Nor was seating. Nor was relatively quick service. We could have been in and out in just over half an hour.

I ordered a pork sandwich with potato salad and fried okra. Problem was: there was no potato salad. Now, I have been to a lot of BBQ joints in the great state of Alabama and I’ll tell you things you can expect on the menu, after pork, in order: baked beans, potato salad. But here, there was no potato salad. The online menu said there was potato salad, but alas, no potato salad. Not a, “We ran out” or anything like that, simply a “We don’t have potato salad.”

That’s off-putting. But welp. The vegetable of the day was fried okra. Now, this wasn’t just any fried okra. The okra wasn’t sliced – it was breaded and fried whole and served with a side of ranch. I’m not sure how long you have been following Birmingham Lunch Club, but I like ranch. A whole, whole bunch. I make no apologies for it, and I will dip almost anything into it. Because it is delicious. And frankly, I’d never thought to dip fried okra in it. It was spectacular. This fried okra, which I believe to be the vegetable of the day on Monday and Friday, is probably the best I have ever had. It likely added a full point to the final score.

The sandwich was good. The slaw and the hot sauce on the table, which I believe to be made in house, were a terrific complement to a “good” pork sandwich. This pork sandwich was perfectly fine. It was just FINE. There was nothing wrong with this pork sandwich. Now, I may have been able to go somewhere else and spend $2 more and I could have had a spectacular pork sandwich. But this one was just fine. I left satisfied.

I ordered the lemon pie, as lemon pie is one of my two favorite pies (see also: peanut butter). They were out of lemon pie. So I settled for the chocolate, and it was one of the top three or four chocolate pies I’ve ever had. It was a LITTLE salty, but not overly so, and I thought that added a very unique taste.

Demetri’s BBQ is the best BBQ place in Homewood if you exclude Edgewood and West Homewood. I got out at $15, which included nearly a 20% tip and a $4 slice of pie, so relatively speaking, it’s probably more affordable that other BBQ joints. This was my second experience at the place, and my sustained opinion is that it is a place that will wow you with sides and complement you with the main course. I’ve also heard the breakfast is top shelf. I’m sure I will go back, but I couldn’t tell you when. OVERALL RATING: 3 bros.

COMPOSITE BRO SCORE: 1.83 BROS out of 5 possible BROS

Salem’s Diner

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The Birmingham Lunch Club visited Salem’s Diner, located in the heart of downtown Homewood. Known for their famous Philly Cheesesteaks, this restaurant was given a ringing endorsement by comedian Craig Ferguson. This selection was made by Blake.

Greg: I love a good cheesesteak. I have been to Philadelphia and had a delicious one there. However, my favorite cheesesteak of all-time came from T-Bones on Highland. During my years at UAB, that place was a staple along with Fat Sam’s and Al’s. Sadly, it closed a few years ago and the other location isn’t very convenient. SO, I have been on the hunt to find something comparable. Salem’s in Homewood is highly regarded as being top notch when it comes to cheesesteaks, so I was looking forward to this one.

Parking in Homewood was crowded as usual during lunch time, but I secured an underground spot on this hot September day. Blake had secured us a small table for 2 (pour one out for Joey T and Brad H). I got the Philly and fries. Our food was delivered pretty quick, about 10 minutes or so. I’d say with most cheesesteaks, the bread is going to be a make or break factor. This variety was very fresh and had good taste to it. The peppers and onions were cooked perfectly as were the fries. Here was the problem with mine though, no seasoning and the meat was overcooked making the sandwich dry. Don’t get me wrong, it was edible. However, I was expecting more from this one. Based on the good reviews I have heard about Salem’s,  I am thinking this may have been a one off occurrence. It may be one of the best options in town and I am willing to give it another try sometime, but this place couldn’t touch T-Bones. Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Bros

Blake: It was the first real week of the exciting new spinoff, “Blake and Greg Eat Lunch at Places.” It’s kind of like “Joey,” but without Joey. I think this can last longer than one season because Blake and Greg really like to eat.

Here’s the thing about Salem’s: Craig Ferguson who hosts The Late Late Show and was on the Drew Carey show once called Salem’s the “Best Philly Cheese Steak not in Philly.” So I had been curious.

I’m here to tell you, parking is a booger bear in Homewood at lunch. Wowee zowee. I finally found a spot and waited on our old pal Greg to join. He came later. 

Service was fast and courteous and the sandwich was really great. They offered me some ranch to dip my fries in, and it may have been home made. I’m not sure. Tasty, though. While Salem’s was invented by a Bama guy, they had lots of Barn hanging on the walls, too, so it was really inviting. It’s a tiny room, and I could hear pretty much every table having some form of the discussion “Craig Ferguson says this is the best Philly…” which probably makes it the most famous thing Craig Ferguson has ever said, because people in Alabama like to hear nice things about themselves.

 I got out under $10 and I’d go back. I wouldn’t hit the peak lunch hour, and I don’t think it’s the best Philly in Birmingham, let alone “outside of Philly.” That award goes to T-Bone’s which is now in Center Point and impossible to get to for lunch. But it was very, very good and easily one of the best sandwiches in the Downtown/Homewood/Mountain Brook area that we try to stay for BLC. Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Bros

COMPOSITE BRO RATING= 3.25 Bros

Becky’s Burgers South

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The Birmingham Lunch Club (and a very special guest) visited popular UAB burger joint, Becky’s Burgers South , located on University Avenue and 20th Street. This establishment has been in town for a number of years and is popular with the hospital staff and university students.

Brad: Becky’s South is a dive tucked in between Five Points and UAB. As I have grown tired of writing these reviews, I will be succinct:
Parking – a bitch on a weekday. Bring change.
Food – average. Burger was overwhelmed with BBQ and SHREDDED?! cheese? Ugh. And Ryan Seacrest has more flavor than the mac n cheese.  Water tasted like a pipe and they had no lemons.
Price – Not too high ($8.50) but not worth it.
Atmosphere – I have found more inspiration – and relaxation – in a gas station toilet.

Love prison but hate the food? Stay on your best behavior and go to Becky’s South. You’ll feel right at home. “Brooks was here.”
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Bros

Greg:I have driven past Becky’s Burgers on University many times in my day and always been curious about it. I like a good burger and have heard good things about this place. It looked pretty small from the outside, so I figured we were going to run into an issue with seating. There was a nice table outside, but it was taken. There was some bar seating inside for 5, so we grabbed that. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a drink. I made it out around $8.50, quite a steal. The food came very quickly and smelled great. The fries, while hot, were pretty greasy. I didn’t enjoy those at all. However, the burger was incredibly good. This was a fresh made patty with lots of goodness cooked in. Fresh toppings and thick bacon made this one a winner.  I was most impressed with the size of the meat and the flavor within. I decided to get some dessert. They were out of a couple of options they had listed on the menu, so I settled with Strawberry Short Cake. I was charged $82.50 for this cake (which was refunded), but we all make mistakes. The staff was incredibly friendly. All things considered, this was easily one of the top 4 or 5 burgers in Birmingham. The sides were lacking and it isn’t the most comfortable place to eat a lunch. But the burger alone is worth a takeout visit. Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Bros

Kristin: I’m the “lady that stays with” Greg. The guys of the BLC were kind enough to take pity on a lonely mom whose baby just started Kindergarten and let me join in this week. I’m always up for trying new restaurants downtown, and once you venture inside Becky’s you definitely get the big city feeling of small square footage. There were enough burger choices to add variety to the menu, plus a few other non-red meat options. I went with the small Smokehouse burger – grilled onions, cheese, bacon and bbq sauce. The meat and onions were cooked perfectly, the cheese was melted just right and the bbq sauce was well flavored and tied it all together. I tried a similar assemblage at a popular burger place a couple of weeks ago and the bbq was so gross it rendered the burger inedible. Becky’s version was great so I will definitely get the Smokehouse again. The only problem was the side selections. There were plenty of options listed, but they were out of every one that I selected, so I just had the burger and water. There were quite a few desserts options as well, but they were out of what I wanted. As for the atmosphere, getting your order to-go is probably the best option – while the silver-painted restroom door is cute and the staff friendly, we took up four of the six seats available inside and left with the lovely French-fry grease aroma on our clothes. Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Bros

Blake: I’ve been looking for Birmingham’s Best Burger for a long time. I think I’ve found it, but I’m never afraid to allow new contestants.

Becky’s is a “hole in the wall,” a room likely no more than 10 feet wide and, maybe, 20 yards deep. Seating is extremely limited inside, and we didn’t spot the alley seating until after we had left. If you have .50, parking isn’t really much of a problem, and you probably need to walk the block to burn off your meal anyway.

The service at Becky’s was incredibly fast. We situated ourselves at a bar-type dining area in the rear of the restaurant. At about $7, I got the patty melt and fries with a lemonade. I added a slice of red velvet cake at the end and kept it well under $10 total.

The seating situation was awkward, but then, I think most people grab it to go at Becky’s. An easy walk to UAB’s hospital areas and surrounding businesses, I don’t believe most of the clientele is “dine-in.” The burger was phenomenal, easily a noteworthy contestant for Birmingham’s best. It’s not, but it deserves a spot in the conversation. The fries were kind of soggy, and based on our conversations, it seems like sides were a huge let down. The red velvet cake was very good.

I’d go back to Becky’s because it’s close to where I live. I think there are better burgers, but that list isn’t long. Offhand, Becky’s is probably in the Top 8-10. The consensus is that the sides weren’t memorable (as mine was not), that the seating is uncomfortable and that it takes a little more effort to reach than it may be worth. That is, unless you work in the neighborhood. Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Bros

COMPOSITE BRO SCORE: 2.875 Bros

Klinger’s European Bakery

In what was the last Birmingham Lunch Club meeting for one of us, the 4 original bros went to Klinger’s European Bakery in Vestavia. Even though Klinger’s has been operating in the Birmingham area for 30 years, this was the first visit there for all of us.

GregI have lived in Birmingham a long, long time and I had never heard of Klingler’s Bakery in Vestavia. I have driven through the area many times, but never noticed this establishment. The menu looked good and I was excited to check it out. The inside of the restaurant is kinda like what your grandma’s cluttered kitchen and/or craft room may look like. But instead of the smell of mothballs, sub in sweet scents. Cookies, cakes, and other treats were held behind the glass display case. Seating was limited inside, so we decided to enjoy a freaky cool August day and sit outside (Blake signed off on it). We had the outside seating area to ourselves and ordered. Our waitress was very friendly and provided excellent service. I ordered the pecan chicken salad sandwich with a side of German Potato Salad.

The food arrived in a little under 10 minutes. In my quest to find the best chicken salad in Birmingham, we may have a new clubhouse leader (behind the world famous Feed and Seed, which may or may not still be in business, help from a reader would be appreciated on this one). Served on delicious wheat bread, the consistency and texture of this chicken salad was perfect. The seasoning was bold yet not overpowering. Just enough of a kick for you to remember it. The pecans offered the perfect complement to the other ingredients. Needless to say, I was blown away. I don’t care for regular potato salad too much, but my grandma makes German potato salad and I enjoy it. This version would make grandma proud. Just the right amount of vinegar and seasoning with the onions made this an excellent side. Normally, I don’t do dessert at BLC stops. However, I spied the German Chocolate Cake when we explored the inside and it looked great. It was fantastic. Served cold, the cake was fresh and used fresh coconut and other ingredients. After all that food, I really needed a nap.  Great service, great food, and if you take out the cake I would have gotten out around $11. Try this place. Soon. Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Bros

BlakeI wrote off Brad’s choice this week as “dainty ol’ Brad doing dainty stuff.”

Boy, was I wrong. I’ve never been wronger. Think about the wrongest you’ve ever been and multiply that by 100 and that’s half as wrong as I was. Then, I DID realize I was wrong after taking time to view the menu online before visiting. Come on, bros. The name of the place had “bakery” in it. How was I going to leave satisfied?

At the end of this meal, I sprang for a $6 slice of German chocolate cake, which really isn’t German at all (it’s named for a guy with the last name German. He’s American. Fun Fact). So in fairness to other BLC stops, the final bill was a little pricey, but it was voluntarily so because I could have easily left with a full stomach at $12 or so. I also tipped pretty generously because the service was through the roof. Tops. The best.

Sometimes you get a perfect storm, and that is what we had on this day. It was very pleasant outside in August. Parking was a breeze. We had great conversation. I had the bratwurst sandwich with a side of hot German potato salad. Absolutely off the charts. I long thought about the meatloaf sandwich, and that’s where I’m going on the next trip. But bro, this sandwich? This potato salad? Wow. The server was spectacular. Both of them. And it was a very busy lunch crowd, but we had our food in ten minutes and both ladies that served us took time to talk, kept our drinks filled. We were there almost 90 minutes, and it felt like 20. I think Greg said this is the 35th stop of the BLC Tour, and I knew upon my first bite it was in my personal top six. Klingler’s Bakery is worth the drive. From anywhere. We’re all very fortunate that this palace of deliciousness is on 31 in Vestavia and not 280 in Brook Highland. Go. Go often. Thank me. If I could give this place more than 5 bros, I’d give it more than 5 bros. Like, if I were just making up bros, I’d give it a million bros. But alas, that’s not playing by the rules. Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 bros


Brad: A native Michigander, I try and return to spend time with my grandmother whenever I can. In 2009, while making my visit, we ventured to the town of Frankenmuth – a slice of old Germany in the middle of America. While on that trip, I enjoyed some of the most delicious food I have eaten while traveling. This was the inspiration for my choice this week – Klingler’s Bakery in Vestavia.Parking was a cinch. Though it appeared to be a busy lunch, I was able to find a quick spot in this strip across from City Center. My struggle was “what to choose?” I settled on the knackwurst plate earlier in the week (I was prepared), only to call an audible at last second. I chose the Schnitzel Sandwich. Schnitzel is one of those words most people hear and want to vomit – perhaps because they are not familiar. Please, become familiar. While no German food connoisseur, lightly breaded veal with lettuce, tomato and special sauce on a pretzel roll sounded like it would hit the spot. It did. The warm German potato salad was new to me and a welcome complement. I topped off my visit with one of the “100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die” – a slice of Black Forest Torte. It was a perfect combination of chocolate, cream and cherries. Amazing. Though the bill with tip neared $20, it was worth every penny. Additionally, while paying, I asked if Klingler’s served beer. “September 1st we will begin when we open nights.” I will see you then, Klingler’s.

I thouroughly enjoyed my experience in Frankenmuth, MI. The food and beer there was something I have always remembered. Klingler’s brought those same flavors and memories rushing back. Drive to Vestavia and enjoy a slice of the Deutschland here in the Steel City. I can truly say I was proud to have selected such a satisfying spot. Overall Rating 5 out of 5 bros.

Joey: Thanks for reading, everyone! It’s been fun.  Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Bros

NEW HIGH SCORE: 4.75 out of 5 Bros

(See the full ScoreSheet.)

Bottletree Cafe

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We went to the Bottletree Cafe, a noted music venue and perfect birthday party venue, for lunch. Bottletree recently reopened for lunch on weekdays and has a unique menu with many vegan options.

Joey: I was excited that Blake chose Bottletree, because even though I’ve been there many (MANY) times before. I normally go to see bands such as The National, Vampire Weekend or TV On The Radio, but had never been there to try their recently reopened lunch offerings. The lunchtime customers proved to be much more diverse than the normal Bottletree concert crowd. There were bros in khakis! At Bottletree! Since Bottletree is known for their vegan options I ordered their Buffalo Tofo wrap. Tofu is not something I eat a lot of, but I do eat a lot of fried things with Buffalo sauce so this felt like a nice compromise. I ordered my food at the bar that is normally reserved for MGDs and PBRs. When ordering, the bartender actually acknowledged my existence, which was a welcome change than my normal wait during shows. I guess it’s easier to see me trying to order in daylight. My Coke tasted a little flat, but it’s also possible that I’m used to the Coke flavor there being compromised with cheap whiskey. The food came quickly and was served very warm. The tofu tasted fine, but I suppose everything does when battered, deep fried, and bathed in Buffalo sauce. I definitely would like to go back to Bottletree to try more of their unique lunch offerings. I would recommend it to anyone looking for vegan/vegetarian options or anyone looking to try something new for lunch Downtown. Overall: 4.5 out of 5 BROS

Brad: While I am a veteran of Bottletree’s live shows, I had never consumed anything other than beer and water while in their confines. I was excited to see if their menu would be comparable to their show lineup. Though a vegan restaurant – something my bros didn’t inform me off until I was seated inside, I was determined to find a selection suitable to my carnivorous palette.
Parking is good at Bottletree, especially at lunch. Upon walking in, I was pleased, if not somewhat surprised, to see about 30 people inside. Bottletree just recently re-opened for lunch, and it was clear many folks were excited to partake. If you haveb’t been to Bottletree, the scenery alone is worth the trip. The myriad paintings by local artists, combined with, shall we say “unique”, pieces of art and old-school records of the ironic variety, is comforting and inspiring. Not into perusing vintage aluminum lunchboxes? Feel free to enjoy the feature film they show on their theater screen (today, it was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
But I was already aware of these aspects of Bottletree. The food was a challenge for me. After scouring the menu for something that wasn’t composed of tofu, the options were minimal. I was prepared to order a Buffalo chicken/tofu wrap, when I saw a sign for a fried tilapia sandwich. Boom. Consider me, on this day anyway, a devout pescatarian. Lunch was on. The sandwich was not bad. The roll was the size of a small tire, though, and drowned out the fish. The sweet potato fries were a nice addition, though they weren’t exactly a perfect complement to the tilapia. With a water, I got out of there around $13 bucks.
Bottletree is a great venue to see a show. While the food wasn’t bad, I feel I truly cannot appreciate their offerings because of my tastes. As mentioned previously, it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing places you will encounter. Give it a shot at lunch, provided you’re willing to pay twice the average cover. OVERALL RATING 3 out of 5 Bros 

Blake: I’ve never had an opportunity to go to BottleTree for lunch. When we began doing this, it was one of the first places I wanted to go, but alas, they were not serving food during the week. That changed last month, and I eagerly awaited my having the first real opportunity to select America’s greatest indie rock venue for a vegan lunch.

I had long been told about the “Viking Funeral,” a full or half serving of sweet potato fries topped with vegan chili, pimento cheese and chives. I had promised myself I would check out this dish, but upon exploring the menu, there were so many unique things I wish I had been able to also try. In any case, I paired a half order with an order of corn nuggets and washed it down with a water. We ordered at the bar, and I got out of there with a very large order at about $13.

I wasn’t surprised at a courteous staff that I have come to expect, but I will admit I was a little surprised at how fast the service was. The food was absolutely spectacular, and I’m not sure I was hungry again the rest of the day. The Viking Funeral is certainly unique and it lived up to hype and expectation, but the corn nuggets may have been the best corn nuggets I have ever had. The only corn nuggets that are in the ballpark are Niffer’s (of Auburn, Lake Martin). But at BottleTree, they are served with what I believe to be a home made “Southwestern” sauce. THAT was awesome. I’m very eager to return to BottleTree and work through some of the other menu items. It’s the rare week where I was going to often return to this venue regardless of the restaurant experience, but this experience will have me back for more at lunch. I love this place. I love the people. And I love what they do to promote the Birmingham scene. OVERALL RATING 4.5 out of 5 BROS

COMPOSITE BRO SCORE 4 out of 5 BROS

Courtyard Oyster Bar and Grill

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Courtyard Oyster Bar & Grill was Greg’s pick for this week’s meeting of the Birmingham Lunch Club. Located in the 5 Points neighborhood of Birmingham, this bar is so old school that it doesn’t even have a website for me to link to. But here’s the Yelp page if you want more info.

Blake: Was Greg pandering by selecting the bar I sit at most every Sunday devouring delicious .35 wings and six dollar pitchers of beer? Probably. But in a turn of events I failed to recall prior, I had major oral surgery just an hour before this week’s stop. So, largely, this review will be a lifetime achievement award, much like our visit to The Gardens Cafe by Kathy G. when I forgot we were going to lunch and ate a big breakfast. I couldn’t eat wings, and even now, I’m not sure I can. God, how I miss those wings. (NOTE: there is also a trick to ordering wings that I’m not sure anyone in our party took advantage of – mixing the flavors. My favorite option is to combine hot, honey mustard and garlic. I have also opted in lemon pepper instead of honey mustard and garlic. My mouth is literally watering typing this.)

On this day, I ordered the crawfish bisque, a seasonal item, and a side of tater tots. I’ve always heard the gumbos and soups were great, and it didn’t disappoint. I’m not one to choose a soup, but I liked it a lot. The tots were a lot of value in a side and served with ranch (by request) made an odd pairing but adequate complement to a delicious meal. With a water and tip, I got out at $12.

The wings at Courtyard are my favorite in Birmingham. I discovered them in the Fall of 2011, shortly after my move to Southside, and they quickly topped On Tap on my big board. This discovery was made when I also realized the bar carried NFL Sunday Ticket and I could watch my Cowboys (who never get any national exposure) while eating delicious wings. All of this may seem moot, but it’s an important note because I know that a major flaw from our worldly staff of reviewers is going to be service. This isn’t a restaurant that happens to serve delicious beer, it’s a bar that happens to serve delicious food. Most patrons are drinking, playing pool, watching games on the 20 or so televisions that fill the room, or listening to the band. So speed isn’t necessarily important because there are plenty of distractions. It’s going to take 20 – 30 minutes to get your food. That said, the service is extremely courteous even though servers are often juggling tending their bar and ringing phones. Whatever is in your glass, it will never be empty. It’s the type of place where “everybody knows your name.” Everything I have eaten there has been terrific, from the soups to wings and oysters, to the fries to the loaded tots to the corn nuggets.

I think Courtyard serves as what it has become for me: a terrific WEEKEND lunch option. I don’t really recommend doing it when you have to return to the office. If time isn’t a factor, there’s almost no place in Birmingham I’d rather chill out, watch a game, enjoy some wings and wash it all down with a beer. OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5 BROS

Brad: I was a late arrival to the BLC this week. Duty called and I found myself in 5 Points nearly 25 minutes behind the fellow bros. I was excited to try Courtyard as Blake is apparently just as much a fixture there as the pool tables; the beer; the walls. He is to Courtyard what Joe Patern… nevermind.

My tardiness was not as much an issue as the ineptitude of the staff. As I was late, I made a quick decision and ordered the .35 wings. You CAN’T go wrong with that price point! However, my ticket was lost, and I waited while the other bros finished up.
Courtyard is a bar. The food, though, is better than most “pub grub.” The wings weren’t amazing, but they were good – and their price point makes them great. The service was mediocre, though I am sure that’s not always the case. Blake’s too damned smart to sit there and take garbage service. (Let the record show I complimented his judgment.) Is it worth the drive? No. Is it worth it if you’re in the area, want a cold one and some decent, well-priced food? Absolutely. Overall 2.5 out of 5 BROS

Greg: I continued the long BLC tradition of pandering to other members be selecting Courtyard. Blake sets up home base here each week, so I knew he wouldn’t mind. I also tried some of the wings during trivia one night and they were very tasty. Throw in a cheap wing special price for lunch and that was enough for me to make a pick.

I enjoyed this place because we were able to park on the roof. I felt like we were in an episode of 24 up there. Once we got inside, we were seated quickly and ordered our food. Our drinks were kept topped off, but it took between 15 to 20 minutes for our food to arrive. The wings were very meaty and I got half hot and half spicy teriyaki. Both had great, bold flavor and were very satisfying. I got some fries too. These fries were hot and tasty, but for the 3.50 price, I hoped for more than a value sized McDonalds fry. Minor complaint. The food tasted great and the service was pretty good. For a cheap wing special, you won’t find a better value in Birmingham. Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 bros 

Joey: I am glad that Birmingham passed the smoking ban before Greg picked Courtyard. I couldn’t imagine traveling to this formerly smoked clogged bar for lunch. It is literally hard for me to imagine going somewhere for lunch that was as smoked clogged as Courtyard used to be. But that’s no longer the case and the interior provided a pleasant surrounding for a daytime trip.

I made the mistake of not taking advantage of the 35 cent wing special and instead ordered the nachos. These nachos were probably the worst meal I’ve had on this BLC adventure.  The chips were soggy and obviously microwaved. I would definitely avoid the nachos if you ever make it to Courtyard. Besides the nachos being terrible, everything else was fine about Courtyard. There was easy parking for a 5 Points location, the service was fast, and the prices were reasonable. But when the most memorable thing was a badass rooftop parking lot, I’m probably never going to go back there for lunch. OVERALL RATING: 1.5 out of 5 BROS

COMPOSITE BRO SCORE : 3 out of 5 BROS