Pitmaster Paul "Big Daddy" Woodard won the the award for Best Ribs in the First Annual Alabama BBQ Cook-off and Festival in 2012, just like he won the Birmingham News's Best Ribs contest in 2008. But long before he started winning awards—long before he even opened his restaurant—Woodard was picking up fans around town with his succulent, flavorful grilled meats. That's because he shared his grilling expertise at family reunions, functions for the Woodland Park Church of Christ, and other events, and word began to spread.
The ribs at Big Daddy's Bar-B-Q might be locally famous, but there's much more on the eatery's menu worth tasting. Chopped barbecue chicken, fried catfish, and polish sausages also sizzle in the kitchen, and sides such as signature fried corn on the cob, homemade macaroni and cheese or freshly cooked collard greens round things out. A rotating list of from-scratch desserts tempt palates after main courses. Try a wedge of peanut-butter pie or a helping of banana pudding.
Since 1950, the family-owned Whataburger chain has served up its iconic burgers and fresh, made-to-order meals with a commitment to excellent customer service. In addition to lunch and dinner, the North Central Alabama-area restaurants' 24/7 hours and fully fledged breakfast menu have made them popular destinations for early morning and late-night dining.
Besides the classic Whataburger, the modern menu includes options such as the jalapeno and cheese Whataburger, the Whatachick'n sandwich, and the Whataburger Jr., which is a regular Whataburger that doesn't know how to tie a tie. The breakfast selections remain rooted in hearty tradition, with crispy chicken strips covered with honey butter and served atop biscuits. Additionally, signature Taquitos are warm tortillas stuffed with ingredients such as scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, guacamole, and grilled vegetables.
The kitchen team at Johnny Rockets slings hearty burgers and whips hand-dipped malts from a brimming menu of American fare in a nostalgic diner setting. Sate carnivorous cravings and anchor plates with a third-pound hamburger, such as the patty melt ($5.39) or the Smoke House, which tops a hand-pressed patty with cheddar cheese, thick slabs of bacon, onion rings, and a glazing of barbecue ranch ($5.79). Streamliner Boca burgers arrive as meat-free alter egos of traditional burgers to appease herbivorous appetites ($5.39), and Johnny Rockets' chefs also fluff white albacore tuna for the tuna-salad sandwich ($4.99). Those who have rules against swallowing icicles or chewing on chunks of Antarctica can cool off an overheated maw by sipping a thick, hand-dipped malt or milk shake in flavors such as Oreo cookies and cream while listening to tunes from a tabletop jukebox ($4.09).
Ezell's Catfish Cabin quiets rumbling stomachs with lunch and dinner menus teeming with palate-pleasing catfish and a bundle of seafood specialties. Cast a net over regular orders of catfish fillets ($10.95), or round up a regular order of whole, Southern-style bone-in catfish ($11.95). Frog legs ($11.95) provide sustenance for more amphibious appetites, and fried oysters ($12.95), fantail shrimp ($11.95), and stuffed crabs ($10.95) keep mitts occupied from starting fights with highly combative cutlery.
Naji’s Pita Gourmet stocks and cooks Middle Eastern foods of all kinds in their combination bakery, grocery store, and restaurant. The bakery is populated by warm and soft preservative-free pita bread, which bakers ship all across the country or turn into crunchy pita chips. In the restaurant, that same pita cradles tender slices of shawarma and gyro meat, dives into plates of hummus, and wraps up crunchy falafel. Patrons can try to mimic Naji’s fare at home after a stop at the grocery store to pick up olives, grape leaves, spice bends, and cardboard cut-outs of the cooks.
Born of the fork and knife shortage of the 18th century, sandwiches provided a handy, no-utensils-needed food option as well as a great place for families to hide their secret stashes of forks and knives from marauding lunchers. Prepare kin for history's cyclical cycles with today's Groupon: for $9, you get $20 worth of sandwiches, soups, sweets, and more at Max's Delicatessen, a family-focused feastery in Cahaba Heights on Colonnade Parkway.
Max's menu piles high classic provisions such as hot pastrami ($8.99), smoked turkey breast ($8.99), and tuna salad with lettuce ($7.99), as well as creative 'wiches such as Steve's Vegi Sandwich, which layers muenster, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Russian dressing in between slices of toasty bread ($7.99). All sandwiches are served on homemade rye bread and come with a pickle and your choice of coleslaw, fruit salad, or potato salad. Max's also dishes up a full list of fancy burgers ($6.99–$11.99), hot dogs ($6.29–$9.99), and other traditional Jewish noshes such as latkes with homemade applesauce and sour cream ($8.99), strawberry-drizzled cheese blintzes ($8.99), and potato knishes with brown gravy ($5.49).
While Max's colossal handcrafted sandwiches seduce closed-face connoisseurs, comfort-craving patrons and people with timid teeth seek refuge in homemade soups, light salads, and delicate sweets. Wrap your salad fork around a plate of black-raspberry walnut chicken salad: fresh greens loaded with goodies such as grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, walnuts, blue cheese, bacon, and raspberry vinaigrette ($9.99). Or help your spoon work off some calories by having it fetch you some matzo balls from a tabletop pool of savory soup. For dessert, indulge in a succulent slice of Max's homemade coffee cake or cherub-chorus-inducing plain or strawberry cheesecake (both $3.99).
Max's snags a three-star review from the Birmingham News. Six Yelpers give it an average of three stars, and 90% of Urbanspooners recommend it.
- This sense of community adds another dimension of enjoyment. You ought to try Max's. Be sure to get a knish and a cheesecake. – Tom Gaskin, Birmingham News
- The corned beef sandwich is the star here, piled high on great chewy bread. Order a root beer and you'll be in heaven. The potato knish is soul warming with a super tasty brown gravy on the side. The egg salad is excellent and quite generous. Doughnuts at breakfast are really delicious, perfect with coffee! – Kim R., Yelp
- I had the classic Reuben sandwich and it was everything I remember from the Jewish deli's [sic] that I visited in New York! The quality of all the ingredients was top notch and the amount of corned beef that they stack up is well worth the price tag! – JC, Urbanspoon