5 Ethnic Restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama has a wide variety of different cultures especially when it comes to food. Below are five ethnic restaurants to enjoy with your family and friends!

1. Grab some delicious bbq at Saw’s

It’s only in the Southern US states where the word barbecue is not an adjective. It’s a noun, and for some, it’s a world all its own. Walking into a true hole-in-the-wall barbecue such as SAW’s BBQ is more than just a place to get some really good food to go, or to sit and enjoy a leisurely meal. It’s an experience.

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Doorways to Downtown

by Sydney Cromwell

A chalk drawing of Birmingham's most distinctive sites on a wall on 3rd Avenue North.

A chalk drawing of Birmingham’s most distinctive sites on a wall on 3rd Avenue North.

The landmarks of Birmingham’s skyline are easily recognizable – Sloss Furnaces, the Vulcan, the Regions building and City Federal, among others.

From the streets, however, the variety of doorways in the city are a glimpse into how Birmingham’s architectural tastes have changed over time. Below are just a few of the unique entrances around the city.


Alabama PowerAlabama Power

The geometric metal and gold design of the Alabama Power headquarters entrance reflects the art deco style popular when the building was originally constructed, in 1925.

The building was restored in the 80s and the headquarters complex added in the 90s, but the art deco motif remains in the original doors and the gold leaf-covered statue of Electra on the building’s roof.




First United Methodist ChurchFirst United Methodist Church

One of downtown’s older buildings is First United Methodist Church, which was built in 1891 and holds services to this day.

The church, built in the American Romanesque Revival style, cost $160,000 to build, a steep sum for the time. The church’s stained glass and towers lend it the appearance of a European cathedral or castle. It is now on the Register of Historic Places.


Regions Harbert PlazaRegions Harbert Plaza

Across the street from First United Methodist, the Regions Harbert Plaza was built in 1989 on the former site of the Temple Theater. The plaza’s entryway features a post-modern style (as well as revolving doors that I was tempted to run through).

The colors of the building were chosen to reflect its other religious neighbor, the Cathedral Church of the Advent.




Federal US CourthouseRobert S. Vance Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

The courthouse is more recognizable by its long row of columns facing 5th Street, but I found the side and employee entrances to be striking as well. The gold door, arched window and lamps stand out from the white marble wall and steps.

The courthouse was built in 1921 in the Classical Revival style, and later named in honor of Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance after he was killed by a mail bomb in 1989.




Hugo Black CourthouseHugo L. Black Federal Courthouse

Across an intersection from the federal building, the Hugo Black Courthouse was built in 1987 for the federal district court. Despite the modern look of the glass-encased upper stories, the entry to the courthouse is built using limestone and a more classical style.

The courthouse is a blend of classic Birmingham architecture and more modern tastes.




Continental BakeryContinental Bakery Downtown

The cousin of Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu in Mountain Brook, Continental Bakery Downtown opened in 2014. The French-style bakery’s sign mimics an old theater marquee, an intentional choice by the owner, Carole Griffin, to reflect the bakery’s placement near the Alabama and Lyric Theaters.






Shive SalvageShive Design Sign and Salvage

The Whitmire Lofts building, home to Shive, Revelator Coffee and residential lofts, bears little resemblance to the original 1912 construction. Appleseed Workshop, an offbeat design-build firm in Birmingham, overhauled the building into an ultra-modern steel and faux-wood exterior.

The steel design is patterned after the Lyric Theater, which is right down the street.




Lastly, as I passed by the Lyric on Saturday a group of young ballerinas were preparing for a performance. No doorways in sight, but too adorable not to share.




Residential Central

For David Averyt, downtown Birmingham isn’t just a work area, it’s home.

For the past three years he has enjoyed the urban lifestyle from his City Central residence.

“It’s growing and it’s very vibrant,” Averyt said about the downtown scene.

Like Averyt, many young professionals have discovered reasons for moving to the heart of Birmingham. The Magic City is experiencing a growth of downtown residents during the dawn of its revitalization.

The Suburban Migration

After the Second World War, the Birmingham steel industry began to fizzle, leading to a decrease in the city’s commercial and residential properties.

As downtown businesses began to suffer, many residents sought a more prosperous life in the outskirts of town.

In the 1950s, suburban shopping centers began popping up, like the Eastwood Mall, which threatened the retail and residential life of downtown Birmingham. Incorporations began to spring up, like Mountain Brook in 1942, Vestavia in 1950 and Hoover in 1967.

The populations of these suburbs began to rise as businesses downtown began to fall hard.

The New South

Now Birmingham is rapidly transitioning from the abandoned steel mill to a super-center of medical facilities, banking operations and telecommunication companies. As Birmingham shifts from its steel mill roots to more technologically advanced businesses, the city can expect a growing demand for residential properties as well.

Recently, downtown Birmingham has experienced a growth of construction and development. Among the new parks and museums is the loft district. This urban residential haven welcomes many young professionals seeking to live the chic downtown lifestyle, close to work and close to the entertainment of the city.

The prices of suburban living are increasing along with rush hour traffic, which makes living in downtown Birmingham more practical and economical for professionals working in the heart of the city. As the demand for downtown living increases, so does the amount of lofts and condos to meet this need. Space is available in the older, unused buildings; all that’s left to do is make this space livable.

The Renovation Project

Some buildings that are getting facelifts include: City Federal, the Phoenix Building and the Blach’s building.

In 1913, the Jefferson County Savings and Loan building opened the doors to the Second Avenue North location and claimed the title of the tallest building in Alabama. In 1963, it was renamed City Federal and still remains the Southeast’s tallest neo-classical skyscraper. Its preservation has made it one of Birmingham’s most iconic architectural structures. The building now houses 84 luxury condominiums.

In 1926, the Phoenix Building replaced a horse carriage service on the corner of Second Avenue North and 18th Avenue. This new construction, built next to a vaudeville house, served as a warehouse with modern storefronts. In 1950, the Southern Bell Co. moved into the building allowing the Phoenix to double in size. The telephone company stayed at the Second Avenue location until 1987.

In 2004, Metropolitan, LLC set out on an 18-month journey to bring the Phoenix back to life. They created 74 lofts with parking and restored the terra cotta façade to its original beauty. Today, 95 percent of residents living in the Phoenix are young professionals enjoying the downtown lifestyle.

More than 130 years old, the Blach’s building on 20th Street North was originally a general store.

In 1910, it became the Bencor Hotel and later renovated into Blach’s Department Store. It was completely remodeled in 2008; but each loft keeps the original hardwood floors.

The City Life

For Averyt, living downtown is a perfect fit for his city lifestyle.

“I just feel drawn down there. It’s a place where I belong. It’s really endeared itself to me,” Averyt said.

Averyt grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham and has since lived in various cities around the country. Yet through all his experience, he still finds Alabama’s largest city appealing.

“It’s the people of Alabama, in particular Birmingham, that I really love,” Averyt said.

Like Averyt, people who live in downtown Birmingham can experience the culture and lifestyle of the urban chic. The loft district is walking distance from some of the best restaurants, shops and entertainment venues in the city.

“It’s cool, not just the lofts themselves but the whole downtown scene,” said Kim Mason, site manager at The Phoenix Building Lofts. “There is such an eclectic mix of people, something you don’t get in the ‘burbs.”

The downtown loft district is a community of neighbors from all walks of life who share one thing: they love the city and love living in the heart of it.