It’s no secret: Birmingham takes food very seriously. Fancy or simple, it must be great to pass muster in the Magic City.
Several food festivals this spring reflect the metro area’s longstanding cultural and religious diversity. Two events in April are held by a local Maronite Catholic congregation that dates back more than a century, and the Levite Jewish Community center (Birmingham’s earliest synagogues date to 1889, 1903, and 1907).
The Birmingham Taco Fest honors what is arguably one of Birmingham’s favorite casual foods. Mexican-style taquerias, Tex-Mex restaurants, and even suburban adaptations have proliferated with the growth of the Mexican-American population across Alabama in recent decades.
Sample the best of Birmingham’s restaurants, or chow down on chili for a cause. Work your way down this list in March, April, and May and gain a greater appreciation for the melting pot that feeds metro Birmingham.
Exceptional Foundation Chili Cook-off (Brookwood Mall)
The 19th Chili Cookoff is a fundraiser for the Exceptional Foundation, which provides programs for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Close to 150 teams will compete in the cook-off, guaranteeing that attendees get all the chili they can eat. Musical performances and a kids zone round out the entertainment. It’s set for 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. at the Brookwood Village shopping center. Advance tickets are $15, plus a $1.29 fee.
Taste of Birmingham (Avondale Brewing)
This is the inaugural Taste of Birmingham at Avondale Brewing Company, slated for 1 p.m.–5 p.m., the event is kid- and pup-friendly, organizers say. Expect food trucks and other food booths, arts and crafts vendors. Further details, including whether there is an admission charge, are scant.
St. Elias Food and Cultural Festival (St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church)
Celebrating its 25th year, the festival is a fundraiser, mostly for the church with 25 percent of proceeds also going to local charities. Founded in 1910 to serve Lebanese immigrants living in Birmingham, St. Elias’ current church was built on Eighth Street South in 1950 and expanded over the years. Food includes Middle Eastern savory and sweet dishes, including Djaj Mishwi (grilled lemon chicken), and the Lebanese fried doughnuts, zlaybah. The festival, set for 10 a.m.–9 p.m., also features music, dance, traditional dress, a silent auction, fun run, and church tours.
Corks and Chefs (Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark)
One of the area’s premier “Taste-of…” gatherings, Corks and Chefs provides the chance to explore a variety of cuisines from Birmingham’s best restaurants, Corks and Chefs is part of the 40th Magic City Art Connection festival at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham. Tickets for the 26th edition of Corks and Chefs, which go on sale in April, included a coupon for samples at each restaurant booth, and unlimited beer and wine tastes. Details will be announced on the website and social media in March.
Jewish Food and Culture Fest (Levite Jewish Community Center)
The popular annual festival invites the community to “nosh with us.” Volunteers spend weeks preparing foods like brisket, falafel, corned beef, matzah ball soup, and mondel brot (twice-baked almond cookies) for fest day. The event is timed coincide with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. To honor the 75th anniversary of Yom Ha’atzmaut, this year’s festival features a replica of a shuk, an Israeli open-air market. Admission is free to the festival, set for 11 a.m.–3 p.m., but come hungry; food sales benefit the center’s programs.
Birmingham Taco Fest (Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark)
Birmingham’s favorite taqueros (taco vendors) will compete for the popular vote to win “Best Taco,” and individual honors for chicken, pork, steak, and specialty tacos. There’s also balloting for “Best Margarita” in classic and specialty categories. Music, art vendors, and a children’s area round out the gathering. More than two dozen food booths and trucks participated in the 2022 fest. This year’s event is set for noon to 5 p.m.