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(Birmingham Restaurant Week/Facebook)

Not only does the twice-yearly Birmingham Restaurant Week provide chances to check out the area’s best locally-owned places to eat and drink, it’s also an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

Some 40 restaurants, food trucks, and bars are expected to participate in this year’s winter edition, which is Feb. 17-26. Each will offer prix-fixe menus, ranging from $5 to $50 per person, during the 10-day event.

Lesser-known is the charitable side of Birmingham Restaurant Week. A portion of proceeds is donated to local non-profits, more than $80,000 over the last 13 years.

Firehouse Ministries and the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama each received $2,500 from BRW and its co-sponsor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, after the August 2021 session.

Firehouse Ministries serves meals to more than 5,000 homeless men annually, while the community food bank stocks some 250 food pantries in its 12-county central Alabama region.

Amid severe ongoing staffing shortages in the service industry, BRW organizers also are trying to connect workers with jobs through an online system dubbed the Culinary Job Recruitment Application. Posted resume information will be passed on to interested employers and applicants also can search job listings on the website.

(Birmingham Restaurant Week/Facebook)

“Birmingham’s culinary and beverage industry and its residents have been through a rough couple of years and heartbreak due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide labor shortage,” Bill Stoeffhaas, BRW’s co-founder and the owner of event organizer Style Advertising, says in a news release. “Now restaurants are facing labor shortages that are making operating normally challenging.”

But the main attraction of BRW, of course, is food and drink that showcases the variety and quality of the nationally-recognized culinary scene in greater Birmingham.

Menus from each participant will be posted by Feb. 14 on the Eat/Drink page of the Birmingham Restaurant Week website. The database also divides options by neighborhood, mealtime, and price.

The current list includes Ash Homewood, Aww Shucks food truck, Bay Leaf Modern Indian Cuisine and Bar, El Zunzun, Farrelly’s Southern Bar and Kitchen, Filter Coffee Parlor, OvenBird, Tropicaleo, Vino, and Watkins Branch Bourbon and Brasserie.

Many have added or expanded outdoor dining options as a safety precaution, weather-proofing them with heaters, fire pits, cabanas, and enclosed patios.

The winter BRW also features the return of Wine-O-Logy, a wine-flight tasting and food pairing event set for Tuesday, Feb. 22, at The Fennec on Second Avenue South.

Organizers are adding a cocktail-centric gathering, Magic City Mixology, on Tuesday, March 1, at Events at Haven on Sixth Avenue South. Beer also is available, along with Latin-themed hors d’oeuvres and music.

(Birmingham Restaurant Week/Facebook)

Both the wine and cocktail gatherings are from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $30 each.

BRW was extended to 10 days and both to-go and curbside pickup were added during the coronavirus pandemic. (The recent surge caused by the omicron variant also led organizers to postpone the winter session, normally held in January.)

If you plan it just right, you can get 30 special meals during BRW. You’ll eat well, support local restaurants and jobs, and do some good at the same time.