At The Pita Hut, diners look in on an open-air kitchen as creative chef Joseph Matta and a troupe of cooks craft Mediterranean meals with grilled and roasted meats, fresh produce, and handmade sauces. At dinnertime, the restaurant endures a moonlit transformation into Joseph's Table at The Pita Hut, and entrances eyes of evening foragers with a roster of dinner specialties during full-service suppers. Incisors sink into stuffed grape leaves ($10.99) bursting with a medley of lamb and beef tucked in with homemade yogurt. Shrimp adobados ($13.99) satiate tummy grumbles with a conga line of grilled chipotle jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon as tightly as the nylon-clad legs of an overweight circus bear. On a patio lit by intertwining strands of tiny white lights, drained wine glasses ($3.75) and baklava flakes ($3.49) disappear from tables by the capable hands of a nocturnal wait staff as pungent aromas twirl from snaking hookah arms.
Fried Alabama-grown green tomatoes, encrusted in cornmeal ($7), are a golden start to a journey through the Southern-fried favorites and European-pub classics on the dinner menu. The J. Clyde's caprese ($9) stacks Italian standards (fresh tomato and mozzarella) with Southern flavors (fried okra and pancetta), and the vegetable boxty ($13) subverts the Irish potato pancake by boxing locally-grown vegetables in a light European crust. Entrees such as grilled grouper, steak au poivre, and Bavarian sausage (entrees range from $8 to $23) satisfy any appetite for cullinary adventure. Or order off the comfort-food-filled pub menu to sup on steak and eggs ($15) or customizable pizza (starting at $9, with Alabama goat cheese available for $2 extra.)
For Culinary Institute of America graduate and MetroPrime Steakhouse Executive Chef Warren Weiss, the majority of work goes into steaks and seafood before or after they cook in the shop's 1800-degree broiler. He begins by dry-aging steaks, which allows the flavors to develop and the meat to tenderize before its cooked. Once cuts of prime rib, bone-in filet mignon, and cedar-plank salmon have been broiled to perfection, he infuses dishes with flavorful sauces and sides. These range from a maytag blue cheese fondue to the sharp house worcestershire that complements the ribeyes.
Chef Weiss takes just as much care as when preparing seafood, whether pairing briny Atlantic oysters with a champagne mignonette, or tossing risotto with a splash of vermouth, seafood stock, and Maine lobster. Meals can end on an elegant note with a shareable portion of bruleed banana split or a sippable night cap.
With low lighting and a chic, minimal interior, Wine Loft BIrmingham sets the scene for an intimate date or a low-key dinner with friends. Start with a glass or bottle from the enormous wine list and then browse the food menu of small, shareable plates and desserts such as wild mushroom manchego bruschetta and smooth chocolate fondue.
The Patrick family first dabbled in wine-making on their 24-acre estate back in 2001, when only one other vineyard operated in Shelby County. After a few seasons of practice and success, they decided to officially dedicate a portion of their land to cultivating grapes, and formally established Ozan Vineyard & Cellars in 2005. In 2013, they expanded with additional vineyard viewing areas, event space, and a winery boutique.
Using a combination of grapes grown on their own land and sourced from the East Coast, Ozan currently produces a series of varietals, including chardonnay, Chilton County peach, norton, and petit syrah. Conceived of traditional winemaking methods in small lots of French and American barrels, the vinos develop multifaceted flavors and complexity before being poured in Ozan’s tasting room or into glasses on the picturesque outdoor patio.
Set on sprawling farmland, Vizzini Farms Winery bottles a diverse selection of wine crafted from West Coast and Alabama vinifera grapes. Daily tours sneak groups behind the scenes of the second-generation Italian family’s winemaking process, which yields riesling piqued with tropical fruits and pinot grigio that's as lively as a 30-piece kazoo orchestra. A charming tasting room recalls a sunny Italian café, with warm yellow walls, racks of wine, and bistro tables ideal for gathering over a bite of deli fare and Italian-style desserts. On warm days, the spacious patio is open for enjoyment, providing views of surrounding vineyards and breezes with notes of black currant, citrus, and oxygen.