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October 08, 2009

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Laura Kilgore

There are many late night joints in Birmingham, but they are mostly north of Five Points South. I hope you get another chance to visit my hometown. When you do, head toward the Lakeview District around 29th Street and 7th Avenue South. Good food, good drinks and live music late into the night.
I work in local theatre here in Birmingham, and have heard many good things about this production of RENT. Please tell your girlfriend that the Ham loved having them here. Were I not stage managing a production this month, I'd have been there to see them, too.
--Laura K

Rufus J Squirrel

Birmingham actually went through all of these things before a lot of the rest of the country. Perhaps you have heard of the small hamlet of Boston?

It sounds like you were mainly downtown. Downtown has been dead for decades and, unlike other cities that somehow revitalize theirs and so many others that never do, ours may very well stay that way. But there are a lot of lofts down there now and some bars on 1st and 2nd Ave N that get pretty crowded. There is also a science center on 2nd Ave N called the McWane Center that's for kids but is even cooler if you're a grown-up. There's Sloss Furnaces on 1st Ave N that is really cool as a museum but even cooler for its Metal Arts program that has gotten a lot of national/international attention and hosts the biggest metal arts conference in the country. There's the Museum of Art that has some impressive stuff in its collection and gets some pretty decent touring exhibitions. And there are some really great junk shops down there. But that's kind of it for downtown.

Where you were, 5 Points South, and where our criminal mayor (101 count federal indictment - trial in ten days) decided to paint the whole street that horrible red color, is actually a very vibrant area. There and all of Southside has a huge student population that goes to UAB (that's supposed to be an international leader in cancer and AIDS research). There are lots of cool independent shops in and around 5 Points and lots of good places to eat. Also a really great dive bar in 5 Points called Upside Down Plaza that's in the basement of the building behind the one in your picture above. Vulcan is up on Red Mountain, as you saw, and it forever moons Homewood, the more affluent suburb over Red Mountain.

There is also The BottleTree Café in Avondale - about 20 blocks east and 7 north of where you were in 5 Points that gets incredible bands from all over the world all the time. You should check out their calendar and see who has been there and who's coming up and hopefully you can catch one if ever you come back:

http://www.ticketbiscuit.com/bottletree/CalendarPage.aspx

The former drummer from Man... Or Astro-Man? does a lot of the booking there. He actually got Shellac to come down a couple years ago.

(Full discloure: I shoot a weekly live music show there for Alabama Public Television: http://wehavesignal.org)

There's also the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center that gets all sorts of big names all the time into town. David Sedaris is there this evening and I saw John Waters there a couple years ago.

We also have some serious food but every city has that. Milo's is a local burger chain known for its sauce, fries and sweet tea. There's a place out east of town called T-Bones that has the best cheesesteaks on the planet. Another great burger place called Hamburger Heaven. Storied hot dog shops downtown. And Frank Stitt, who is internationally renowned for his French-meets-South gourmet cooking.

AND then there's all the great urban exploring you can do in an industrial town whose best industrial days are behind it.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of things but these are a few places to start.

That all being said, Birmingham and Jefferson County have huge problems. The county is teetering on bankruptcy caused by Larry Langford, who was County Commission President, now mayor and is set to stand trial for deals he made while on the Commission that lead directly to its financial insolvency. The local/regional banks that pulled Birmingham out of its rut after the steel industry left are all hurting too. And, although we've had a black mayor since 1979, we've still got racial issues - but so does everyone else. At least we don't kick black kids out of public pools like they do in Philly.

Long story short, Birmingham is a mid-size big city with all of the joys and travails that come with it. Hope you'll come back to see more of it sometime.

islami sohbet

I always wonder about birmingham, when I see this article I hurry to read, hope to see there soon. Thanks for this good writing.
I will take these advices.

Gifts

Birmingham is a good place for travelling and these pictures are really amazing and i wanted to visit Birmingham once in a life time.

Joe

You are mistaken in saying Birmingham was behind the rest of the country. They were right in step with the rest of the South, and despite revisionist history, many Northern cities who had the same policies, were just subtle about it.

swan

I am capable of accepting when I am mistaken. My statement came from walking through the institute and reading the details of the numerous timelines from the late 50s into the late 60s which line the walls of the museum. The comparisons between Birmingham and the rest of the country seem to be out of step, but as I said, a local would know much better than I. Thanks for reading the piece, I hope you enjoyed the rest of it.

Georgia boy

Don't forget the best thing to come out of Birmingham...I-20.
j/k

Joe

"but as I said, a local would know much better than I"

You don't need to be a local to know that racism/Jim Crow was not confined to Birmingham. Due to old newsreels, it may have become the face of Jim Crow, but certainly was not the only place it was practiced.

Laundrygoddess

Vulcan also hosts Proms and weddings. If you had gone straight down Richard Arrington Blvd into Homewood you would have found O'Henry's Coffee,they're open late and have WIFI. We also have The Botanical Gardens,a wonderful zoo,an NPR station,and MANY college campuses.
Come back and spend more time with us.Maybe you can catch some of our more interesting political scandals too.
Check out All of Alabama. Old South, with new century tech.

Jultar Bovinius

Hello, WFMU? Anyone? Best thing to come out of Birmingham would Sun Ra!

Donna

Hi...thanks for the blog...I enjoyed reading a visitors perspective of my home town. Someone once said...."Birmingham is a great place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit". I think that is a fair assessment. With the exception of maybe Vulcan and the Civil Rights Museum, we are not much of a tourist town. We have some fantastic restaurants, but most are tucked away and you need a local to point you in the right direction!....for instance, Highland Bar and Grill (down the street from the Mexican place you went)...was listed as #5 on Gourmet's "America's Top 50 Restaurants". There are some really cool "village" areas around town with a warm feel. English Village, Mountain Brook Village, Crestline Village...all have unique flavors with great local shops and restaurants.....Hope you get back some day!

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