Cajun food has always played an important role in Michael and Melissa Lee’s life, from their childhood upbringing in Louisiana to their 15 years spent working at a southern seafood restaurant. The brother and sister teamed up to open Mikey’s Grill, pulling from their combined talents and years of experience to craft a menu filled with contemporary takes on classic Cajun dishes that have been lauded by reporters from Birmingham Weekly. Chef Michael “Mikey” Lee commands the kitchen, slicing steaks and grating cheese himself while ensuring only the finest seafood is used in his innovative pastas and specialties, turning away catches that aren’t fresh enough. Michael’s mother Donna can also be spotted in the kitchen, whipping up the restaurant’s freshly baked desserts from scratch and pinching any exposed cheeks in her visual range. Out in the dining hall, Melissa takes the lead, cheerfully greeting guests and captaining a team of friendly servers, who place plates of gourmet dishes, baskets of rolls, and glasses of colorful cocktails on red-clothed tables.
Nestled in Homewood, Meat and Three Cafeteria keeps American culinary traditions alive with home-cooked comfort food for customers either dining in or just passing through. Just as a dining-room table hosts different portions for all tastes, the menu features an array of country-style meats and vegetarian-friendly sides from which patrons can customize their own platters. Dishes such as beef tips, chicken and dumplings, and fried catfish join steaming servings of sautéed squash, fried okra, or yams, and desserts such as fresh pecan pie keep sweet teeth from storming out of their gums in envy.
Chuck’s Fish shells out fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast and hand-cut steaks from local markets. Chuck's procures all its succulent seafood from a wholesale market in Destin, Florida, using hook and line catching methods rather than luring fish to patrons' plates with the promise of a Hawaiian timeshare. The Tuscaloosa location’s extensive dinner menu showcases entrees such as surf 'n’ turf with an 8-ounce filet mignon and stuffed shrimp or jumbo lump crab cakes ($32), hickory-oven pizzas ($10–15), and sushi.
George Sarris likes to know where his food comes from. In the case of his olive oil brand, named after his hometown of Tsitalia, he personally knows the Greek families who grow the olives. As for his seafood, much of it is "caught" inside his restaurant?lobsters and even rainbow trout are all kept live in Fish Market's advanced tank system. Anything that he can't pluck from the water himself gets fetched from the coast by the restaurant's own trucks, dispatched twice weekly for maximum freshness. There's shrimp from the gulf and oysters from Louisiana, among others.
All of these ingredients come together on a menu of Mediterranean and Southern specialties. It's an unusual but tasty merger: po' boys share tables with Sicilian mussels, and crawfish etouffee sits beside Athenian-style grouper. Some dishes, like the fried snapper throats, are Fish Market signatures that are hard to find elsewhere in or around Birmingham. Others still are limited to the restaurant's Sunday menu, such as pork chops drizzled in a citrus marinade.
At Capt’n Morgan’s Fish & Chop House, chefs pillage tackle boxes teeming with fresh ingredients to forge a menu that pairs succulent steaks with Atlantic-style seafood. Red snapper fillets ($15.99) surf onto plates in one of six different preparations such as grilled, blackened, fried, or director's cut, sinking deep-sea cravings alongside a flotilla of fresh snow-crab legs ($18.99). Guests take up steak knives to admire the light pink center of a chopped sirloin ($11.99) or opt for a surf n’ turf dish by nuzzling a flame-grilled new york strip ($21.99) up to a fresh fillet of tilapia (an additional $4.99) or a succulent smattering of scallops (an additional $6.99). Midday diners get to peruse a number of lunch specials, such as a cut of Canadian flounder ($5.99) or an ocean-fresh octet of fried oysters ($8.99). Pintsize foodies can juggle fried nuggets of popcorn shrimp ($4.99), impressing parents and jaded circus scouts alike, before rewarding patient palates with rich slices of house-made key lime pie ($5.49).
There’s no shortage of renowned oyster establishments in the South. But TripSmarter.com pegged Wintzell’s Oyster House as its #1 destination for the specialty. “Fried, stewed, or nude,” they come served in every way imaginable at Wintzell’s—oysters are, unsurprisingly so, the trademark dish. And they’ve been the trademark dish since the eatery’s flagship location opened in 1938.
Regional seafood favorites also dominate the menu, from low-country boils to Cajun seafood fettuccine and bacon-wrapped shrimp. While the original location became something of a landmark in historic Mobile, the restaurant has since expanded to multiple locations. Each one, though, retains the original’s decorative signature: several dozen whimsical signs on the walls. The website even features some of their slogans: “Never kick a man when he is down—he may get up.”