In an interview with the Birmingham News, concert promoter Brian Teasley explained the vision behind Bottletree Café: "We wanted to open a place that would serve food we wanted to eat, show films we liked to see, and play music we wanted to hear." It turns out Teasley, along with co-owners Merrilee and Brad Challiss, has pretty good taste: according to Esquire, which ranked the café as one of the country's best bars, "This place is already stealing thunder from every small music venue in the region." FlavorWire backed up this endorsement by ranking Bottletree Café as one of The 10 Greatest New Music Venues of the 21st Century. Since opening in 2006, the venue has hosted Rogue Wave, Band of Horses, and other indie-leaning rock groups.
But the accolades don't stop there. The venue also has attracted praise for its vegetarian-centric menu. Birmingham Weekly rated the café's brunch among the city's best and devoted a full-out love letter to the lunch menu, which was reintroduced in August 2012. The award-winning vegetarian chili ranks among house favorites and makes a repeat appearance in cheese-smothered nachos. Tofu plays a centric role in entrees and desserts, and black-bean patties made a fiber-rich substitute for beef in burgers, or a biodegradable substitute for frisbees in games of disc golf.
Taking the concept of the salad to its apex, Tossed offers more than a dozen piled creations composed of anything you can slice or dice, including the kitchen salad with porcelain sinklets. Bury yourself in a Greek salad with grape tomatoes, feta, and kalamata olives ($8) or dive into the spicy sea of a cayenne-shrimp salad with avocado, roasted onions, and black-bean corn salsa ($11). Wrap your salad for on-the-go chomps with a pesto chicken crêpe with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, field greens, and lemon basil vinaigrette ($7.95) or pour that salad into the blender for a soup of the day, such as chicken tortilla or Red Rock seafood bisque ($2.95 for a small, $3.95 for a large).
Owned by the holistic-health promoters at Wildwood Lifestyle Center and Hospital, Country Life Vegetarian Restaurant nourishes mouths meatlessly with deli food that spans the food pyramid. Its vegan salad bar packs plates and palates with a garden-derived cornucopia ($5.99), and the chili and potato soups provide the interior warmth previously accomplishable only by swallowing a microwave ($1.75/small). The year-round bounty of the harvest burger wields a sickle to strike down hunger pangs ($3.75), clearing enough space for a side's worth of hot faux-chicken wings ($3.50). Emptier bellies can get acquainted with the full stromboli sub ($6), and unkempt esophagi can complement interior décor with the sloppy joe ($3.50).
Inspired by Southern-cooking traditions and flavors found right on its owners' Harpersville farm, The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead designs "eat clean" cafe menus that transform local produce into fresh, sustainable, seasonal farm foods. Each day, its charming cottage-style Crestline Village home fills with the aromas of hearty soups as well as "one-pot" meals, which are simmered in traditional cast-iron cookware. These meals celebrate the work of Stone Hollow's farmers while highlighting the diversity of Southern agriculture. This eatery also doubles as a specialty food boutique, serving artisan products such as goat cheeses, preserves, and honeys that are made in small batches at the Farmstead. Onsite events such as recreational cooking classes and twice-monthly food and drink tastings give visitors even more ways to interact with local food that are easier than trying to speak fluent "cow" so they can finally ask where all that milk really comes from. The Pantry also moonlights as a one-of-a-kind venue for parties and events.
Chefs at LeVi'an Grill & Bar treats guests to comforting dinners of grown-up pub fare, dishing up baked potatoes smothered in barbecue chicken, grilled tilapia over wild rice, and club sandwiches on pita bread. Guests can mingle over cocktails in a stylish lounge decked out with leather furnishings, or they can soak in the sounds of the live blues and jazz acts that perform each week.
There are hundreds of possible burgers on the menu at Burger Bar. That's not because the chefs were on a recipe-creating overdrive, but because they fully customize every burger from the bun up. They start the process by filling a brioche, wheat, potato kaiser, or pretzel bun with one of four patties made of all-natural, USDA-certified Hereford beef, chicken, turkey, or vegetarian-friendly portabella mushrooms. The six styles of cheese?including pimento?can then be paired with up to four toppings, which include diverse items such as grilled pineapple, cole slaw, fried eggs, and onion strings. The final touch is one of the seven sauces, which work to bring all the disparate flavors together like a licensed in-sandwich counselor. For those not in the mood for burgers, they also make salads and entrees, including a pene pasta and a grilled flank steak with charred pineapple pico.