Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Birmingham, Alabama, July 3, 2014

On Thursday, July 3rd, I treated my in-laws to a restaurant they had always wanted to visit - the Highlands Bar & Grill.  Never mind that it was 2 hours away, in Alabama - we were going!  And we'd make a half day of it by visiting a couple other spots.

We first stopped at the 16th Street Baptist Church to pay our respects to the four young girls who were murdered there in a KKK bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963.

Three of the girls were 14, while one was 11.

The girls were about to attend a sermon when the bomb went off right about here, near the back of the church.

The front of the church is down the sidewalk at the corner.

This is at the front of the church.

Another memorial to the left of the church, if you were facing the front.

Across the street is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Unfortunately we didn't budget enough time to go in, but we'll probably be back in Birmingham before too long.

Statue out front of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Birmingham airport is named after him.

Across the street from both the Institute and the church is Kelly Ingram Park, named after Osmond Kelly Ingram, the first Navy sailor killed in World War I.  Ingram, who was white, died in the process of saving his USS Cassin shipmates from a German submarine missile, when he was throwing depth charges overboard.  At the entrance to the park nearest to the church is this memorial, depicting the four slain girls.

I haven't confirmed this, but someone told me that these shoes (which are part of the memorial) represent the reality that one of the girls was blown out of her shoes.

We didn't have time to follow the March Route, but needless to say there's a ton of history in Birmingham, predominantly from the Civil Rights Movement.

I walked over to the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. before exiting the park.

I had recently read about a beer bar in Birmingham called the J. Clyde.  It wasn't far from the Highlands Bar & Grill, so we went to check it out.  We were completely surprised by this enchanting little alleyway (Cobb Lane) tucked back from the main street.

My in-laws were all enjoying themselves.

And my wife was very happy to be able to go on an excursion.

The J. Clyde (named after the deceased brother of the owners) is housed in one of the older extant buildings of Birmingham.

Alabama's beer culture isn't well known in California, but I quite enjoyed the Fraxinus Maximus by Cahaba Brewing.  There are a number of microbreweries popping up in Alabama, so if you're in the South, see to it that you find some of their beer.

Sauerkraut balls!

Fried green tomatoes!  

The J. Clyde has a back section that's partially open to the elements.

Mom and son in Cobb Lane.

The exterior of the bar.

From the J. Clyde (and its large parking lot, shared with other establishments), we walked downhill into the heart of the Five Points South district.

This restaurant (not the Highlands) is prominent on the corner.

The Methodist church is also quite prominent.

The executive chef / owner of the Highlands, Frank Stitt, also owns a couple other places in Birmingham.  One of them is Chez Fon Fon, right next door to the Highlands.

Destiny awaits!

The Highlands Bar & Grill beckons...

My brother-in-law ordered carpaccio as an appetizer, which was delicious.

I ordered the grits as my appetizer.  Phenomenal.  Even if you think you hate grits, you need to try these.

My wife got the heirloom salad.

She also got to pick out the wine for the evening.  This was bottle #1.

My entree was called a "muddle" of seafood.  It was heavenly.  The potatoes alone were exquisite.

But as good as that was, I was jealous of my wife's veal.  She was kind enough to let me sample.

Bottle #2

A berry (blackberry? blueberry?) crumble a la mode... it was ridiculously good.

My brother-in-law's creme brulee.

My dessert, I believe called "Frank's Favorite."  It was decent, but I was longing for my wife's berry crumble.

My father-in-law's cake.

Our server was really great.

Down at the corner, my wife pointed out that this was the "Satanic" fountain.

I corrected her by pointing to this.

All of the animals are listening to the ram.

Still, I can see where the "Satanic" labels come from (I looked it up, and my wife is by no means alone in her description - locals actually call it the Satanic Fountain).

One last look down Cobb Lane before heading back to Chattanooga.

It goes without saying that I hope to revisit Birmingham again before I die - I know I'm curious about Chez Fon Fon.