Lean Cuisine: A Guide to Eating Clean in the City

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(Photo courtesy of Robert Dennis)

There’s no question that Birmingham has some of the best food in the country. While it’s nice to splurge on some soul cuisine (can I get some fried green tomatoes?), it can often be difficult to find a healthy meal. But don’t fret! From hole-in-the-wall cafés to fancy restos, we’ve rounded up the five best spots in Birmingham to grab organic, wholesome fare that will satisfy just about any palette.

The Pantry
Tucked away in the quiet streets of Crestline Village, this intimate eatery features locally grown cuisine that is anything but boring. Sip on complimentary cucumber water while enjoying the rustic ambiance indoors or soak up the sun on the outdoor patio with a Steel City Pop from the stand out back. Stop in for lunch and you’ll find a small, seasonal menu, which includes gluten-free and vegan-friendly options. Can’t stay for a meal? Grab a jar of homemade jam or try one of their fresh juices made with greens, enzymes, roots, nuts, fruits and good-for-you veggies.
The Pantry, 17 Dexter Ave., Crestline, 205-803-3585, thefarmsteadpantry.com

The Bottletree Café
Nestled between warehouses downtown, this café-meets-musical venue is perfect for any time of day. Grab a bite for lunch and choose from a hefty selection of vegetarian and vegan options or swing in dressed in your Sunday’s best for a weekend brunch featuring favorites like the BLTree (think a traditional BLT topped with a fried egg) or an Andre the Giant, which includes veggies and tofu sautéed over seasoned black beans and grits.
3719 3rd Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-533-6288, thebottletree.com

Seasons 52
Casual and sophisticated may be an oxymoron, but it perfectly describes this wine and dine eatery. Enjoy lighter dishes from their seasonal menu like an autumn vegetarian plate that features quinoa-citrus salad, a soft taco, seasonal vegetables, cedar-roasted tofu and fruit salsa or stop in during happy hour to snack on a signature small plate at the piano bar. Each menu item is packed with fresh, in-season ingredients and have 475 calories or less. Talk about eating with a healthy conscience!
245 Summit Blvd., Birmingham, 205-968-5152, seasons52.com

Café Dupont
Inspired by the season, this traditional bistro houses an ever-changing menu that relies on only the freshest and finest quality ingredients. Grab a luxurious meal during your lunch break or opt for the dinner service and enjoy culinary masterpieces like fried oyster and okra with cayenne butter sauce made with organic and locally grown ingredients. Feeling something sweet? Share classic beignets with homegrown strawberry preserves for dessert.
113 20th Street North, Birmingham, 205-322-1282, cafedupont.net

Little Savannah Restaurant & Bar
Don’t let the casual décor fool you; the food and service at this suburban eatery is top notch. On the dinner menu you will find bites like the Heron Hollow arugula salad, which includes Asian pear, toasted pecans, onion marmalade and tarragon vinaigrette. As a part of the farm-to-table movement, everything on the menu uses fresh and local ingredients. As if that wasn’t enough, every Wednesday local ‘celeb’ chefs and farmers hand-select, prepare and then eat a family-style supper with guests. It’s like having a meal in your own home.
3811 Clairmont Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-591-1119, littlesavannah.com