For this week’s selection, Joey picked The Gardens Cafe by Kathy G. The restaurant, loacted inside the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, features an inside dining room and outside patio. As the state’s top free attraction, over 350,000 visit each year (including many groups and students).
Joey– I was excited to visit The Gardens Cafe at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for this week’s meeting of the Birmingham Lunch Club. I had not been to this venue since my senior prom many years ago. The restaurant was some fancy French restaurant then. I remember naively telling the waiter that brought me sorbet between courses that I hadn’t ordered desert. Now, after many years of fine dining, I now realize how stupid I was. But that venue is now a cafe run by Kathy G that offers light sandwiches, salads and soups. It’s priced slightly higher than we’re used to seeing, but obviously a Mountain Brook restaurant that is physically in the botanical gardens has a different price point.
We were seated on the covered patio and were given a basket of bread. I should say, for consistency’s sake, that we did not have to order or pay for the bread directly. So the prices were slightly higher than we’ve seen at sandwich shops, but we also got “free” bread. It’s weird how that works out. I ordered the Chicken Salad plate for $9. It came with a generous scoop of their honey mustard chicken salad on a small salad. I think this was a great, light, lunch in a beautiful setting. The clientle was 95% older, white women so we bros kinda stuck out. But I really enjoyed the setting, the service and the food even though it wasn’t exactly the ideal setting for bros to sit around and make fart jokes. I would highly recommend The Gardens Cafe if you want to take your grandma some place she can feel young. Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Bros
Brad: This blog has taken us to many restaurants we wouldn’t otherwise eat at. As someone who was called “dainty” by one of the other BLC members (for my choice of restaurants – an accusation that did nothing more than prove beyond shadow of a doubt that the accusing bro misused the term), you would think I would have chosen Cafe at the Gardens by now. The restaurant situated within Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens offers sandwiches, soups and salads primarily. We ate outside on the covered patio and were treated to a view of the Gardens. I went with a half turkey and Swiss and a bowl of tomato basil soup with water. The sandwich was served on fresh, whole wheat that was so good, it was like biting into a pillow. The turkey was thin-sliced of the carving-board variety and the crisp lettuce and tomato just topped things off. The soup was warm, not overbearing, and a perfect blend. Our waitress was wonderful. She took great care of us and was on point. The whole experience was well worth it as I got out of there for roughly $10. The location was ideal on a clear and beautiful day. The food was outstanding. The service was even better. Alexander Hamilton, never have you received so much value. My hope is that you came across our blog out of curiosity and will perhaps give these locations a try for yourself. Plant yourself at Cafe at the Gardens. You will not be disappointed. Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Bros
Blake: The Gardens Cafe by Kathy G. is a place I take for granted because it’s downstairs. Kathy G. has long been known as a Birmingham culinary expert and combining her talents with the gorgeous setting at my office was a perfect storm. I made the mistake of eating breakfast on this particular morning, so I wasn’t very hungry when we convened at 11:30. I would have had the burger, as it is really terrific, filling and reasonably priced based on expectation. It’s the least “dainty” menu item.
I instead opted for the sweet potato chips (they rotated sweet potato fries off the seasonal menu in favor of home made chips) with bleu cheese dip. It was very, very good. The dip is amazing. The fries are better than the chips, but the chips were still okay. Because of my light ordering, this score is going to be more of a lifetime achievement award.
The service is top-notch. It may have been the best service we have received at a BLC stop. And the day chosen to convene on this site was a perfect, Chamber of Commerce day to sit on a covered patio in one of Birmingham’s most beautiful locales. The burger is phenomenal (though as acknowledged, it wasn’t this day’s order). The menu is limited, but it’s seasonal, so you’ll never tire of the available options. I wouldn’t normally dine here, but that has more to do with price than any other factor. If I could afford $10 for lunch daily, I would do so much more often. If your mom is in town for lunch, it is an absolute perfect spot to take her. I’m not sure it’d be my first choice to take a group of bros, but on this day, it seemed to work as everyone was dressed nicely and we enjoyed pleasant conversation. Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Bros
Greg: Going in to this week’s lunch, I knew that the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was the state’s top free attraction. That’s something we should all know (visit if you have the opportunity, it is quite lovely this time of year). The @bbgardens Twitter page and Birmingham Botanical Gardens Facebook page also keep me up to date of fun activities in and around the Gardens. Joey selected the Café for our lunch, so I looked over the menu online. It wasn’t very big, but I do love chicken salad, so I selected that. On the menu, it was noted that you could get a half soup/half sandwich combo. There was no mention of getting just a sandwich by itself. I figured they would be able to accommodate, and I was right. We were seated on the outside covered patio. The weather topped out at about 68 degrees that day, so we were good to go. Our waitress was very helpful throughout the process and allowed me to get just a whole chicken salad sandwich. With a water. No side. Since there was no price available for this zany menu combination, I hoped my $9 in cash from the Easter Bunny would be able to cover it. The sandwich arrived on wheat bread. My bread was a little crumbly (if that makes sense), but that’s not a big complaint. Longtime readers know I love some chicken salad. I am not opposed to having nuts in my chicken salad, I’d even say I like it. The problem here was that the nuts were chopped a little too big for my liking. I fell they should give the chicken salad a little crunch, but not the primary texture. Also, the mustard in the chicken salad was a little over powerful. That was all I tasted going in. I may just be picky and know what I personally like in a chicken salad. Others may love this recipe, but it was my favorite. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t excellent. It was firmly planted somewhere in the middle.
The time with bros was excellent. Conversation was top-notch and the atmosphere was delightful. I ended up paying $9 for a sandwich, no side, and a water (including a 10% discount). For what I ordered, this seemed a little high to me. I loaded up on the Sister Schubert rolls provided on the table, so I left pretty full. If you need to impress a relative coming into town who says there is nothing to see in Birmingham, I recommend you take them to the Gardens and show them one of our gems. Have a bite while you are there, it’s not too bad. Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Bros
Composite Bro Score= 4.00 Bros