February 28, 2022

Black-owned restaurants to support in Birmingham

4.8 min read

The Birmingham area is known for a diverse restaurant scene, and its Black-owned restaurants only enhance that tasty reputation.

With food from Ethiopia, the Mediterranean, and Jamaica to regional southern favorites from Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee, the world is your oyster at these eateries in the Magic City and environs.

Go whole hog at Rodney Scott’s, groove on the Cardi Bee from Lob House, or discover the unique joy of Ethiopian food at Red Sea.

In honor of Black History Month, SoulGrown spotlights Black-owned restaurants in the Birmingham area to support not only this month but all year round. Look for similar compendiums focusing on northern, central, and southern parts of the state.

(Eagle’s Restaurant/Facebook)

Eagle’s Restaurant

Eagle’s sets the standard for soul food. Roving eater and chef Andrew Zimmern raved about Eagle’s on his show, “Bizarre Foods America,” in 2013. “There’s magic going on in the kitchen,” he said while gnawing on a pork neckbone, cut in-house and slow-cooked. Opened in 1951 and run by the Banks/Rucker family since 1974, Eagle’s serves customer-favorite oxtails on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Among the other mains, look for Zimmern’s favorite neckbones on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and beef tips with rice on Wednesdays and Fridays. Vegetables, including organic greens and okra cooked several ways, are sourced from the nearby Alabama State Farmers Market.

(Eugene’s Hot Chicken/Facebook)

Eugene’s Hot Chicken

Zebbie Carney helped introduce Nashville-style hot chicken to Birmingham, starting in 2015 with EHC’s food truck, named Matilda. He’s since added two brick-and-mortar restaurants. Carney grew up in east Nashville, near Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, where the extra-crisp and super-spicy take on fried chicken originated. Heat levels at Eugene’s rise from Mild to Hot, Hot Damn, and Stupid Hot. As the name implies, Eugene’s sells mostly chicken (including chicken with waffles), about any cut from whole birds to tenders and wings. Eugene’s is named for Carney’s stepfather, Kenneth “Eugene” Allison.

(Jake’s Soul Food Cafe Hoover/Facebook)

Jake’s Soul Food Café

Opened in 2014 by Dawn and Sean Simmons, Jake’s menu blends favorites from the Deep South and Jamaica. The former contributes pork chops and gravy, salmon croquettes, and Cajun-seasoned shrimp. Island dishes include coconutty coco bread, jerk chicken or shrimp, curry chicken, and spicy Jamaican beef patty. Soul sides include fried okra and three-cheese mac and cheese; Jamaican sides are seasoned rice and red beans and fried plantains. The name of this family-owned restaurant also is a tribute to a dad, in this case Sean’s father, Jake Simmons. The recipes are from Dawn’s dad, Bayne Walter.

(Lob House Seafood & Steak Luxury Fast Food/Facebook)

Lob House Seafood and Steak Luxury Fast Food

Lob House bills itself as “the original home of Alabama Loaded Orange Grits” (think bowls with non-GMO fine-ground grits, cheese, and meat). Chef Ricardo Adams also specializes in lobster, king crab, shrimp, lamb, and beef steaks. Stuffed chicken wings and turkey legs are filled with greens and other goodness. Finish off with cognac-infused peach cobbler. The Cardi Bee includes Drunk Lamb Chops, gigantic Lobster Pops and Lob House’s signature Caesar Cilantro Fries. Curbside pickup and bulk catering orders only. Chef Adams regularly posts videos of his creations on TikTok.

(Red Sea Ethiopian & Mediterranean Restaurant/Facebook)

Red Sea Ethiopian and Mediterranean Cajun Classic Restaurant

Two friends and Ethiopian ex-pats, Giniyat “Gini” Mohammed and Kedija Teyeb, opened Red Sea in 2017, sharing space with a halal Mediterranean market. Ethiopian dishes include stewed meat (mainly chicken and lamb) and multiple vegetable dishes, all served with house-made injera bread for scooping the food. Mediterranean offerings include shawarma, kebobs, and gyros. Cajun dishes, recently added, include gumbo, red beans and rice, and po’boys. Ethiopia is believed to be the first place where coffee was cultivated; on Fridays and Saturdays the owners do a ceremony, roasting green coffee beans on the spot and grinding them by hand, and then infusing the grounds with hot water.

(Rodney Scott’s BBQ/Facebook)

Rodney Scott’s BBQ

In the 20-year history of the James Beard Awards, considered the nation’s top culinary honor, only two barbecue pitmasters have won a regional Best Chef prize. Rodney Scott is one, named Best Chef Southeast in 2018. Scott specializes in pit-cooked whole-hog barbecue (he’s great at ribs, chicken, turkey, and beef brisket, too). He cooked his first hog at age 11 at his parents’ barbecue restaurant in South Carolina. The affable chef opened his first place in Charleston, South Carolina in 2017, before expanding to Birmingham (2019) and Homewood (2021). Part of the Birmingham-based Pihakis Restaurant Group, another Rodney Scott BBQ restaurant is in Atlanta, and one is planned in Nashville, Tennessee.

(Yo’ Mama’s Restaurant/Facebook)

Yo’ Mama’s

A family friend’s health issue led mother-daughter duo Denise and Crystal Peterson to develop gluten-free breading for frying the chicken, shrimp, and fish they serve at their downtown restaurant. Yo’ Mama’s, which opened in 2014, quickly developed a dedicated following for its chicken and waffles—with house-made syrup and whipped cream, and fresh fruit or cobbler. House-made sauce choices for its dishes are BBQ, Cocktail, and POE (Put on Everything). Yo’ Mama’s was featured on the Netflix food series, “Fresh, Fried, and Crispy.” Last year, it was among the restaurants receiving a James Beard Foundation grant through its Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

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