Our plan for the next three plus weeks is to spend a week getting to New Orleans, a week there, and then ten days or so working our way home. First stop of the trip was a repeat of last year, two nights with our good friend Carolyn in Birmingham, Alabama. This is a town with a lot going for it centered on a research campus famous for its medical program, a resurgent manufacturing industry and other businesses and industries such as banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, and insurance.
Sitting in the Jones Valley and flanked by long parallel mountain ridges (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills) the city is made up of a number of small neighborhoods each with its own distinctive feel and ambience. Carolyn lives in Avondale, a former company town built around the Avondale Mills; incorporated on March 18, 1887 it was annexed into Birmingham in 1910. Like many city neighborhoods that once were downtrodden, it has experienced gentrification and now offers a nice quality of life with many amenities within walking distance.
We left home around 9am and with a easy six-hour drive ahead of us, thus some time to spare, stopped for a quick lunch in Greenville, South Carolina. We parked just off main street and walked a block or two looking for a reasonably priced breakfast option. Given the trendiness of the area, our first couple of options weren’t that appealing, with the likes of twelve-dollar French toast plates the standard. We walked past a set of stairs leading down to a below ground location, the Coffee Underground where we ordered and enjoyed a veggie omelet, slice of chocolate pecan pie (with ice cream) and a cup of good coffee for just a bit more than the price o the single plate of French Toast at the earlier options.
Back on the road we made good time, thankful for traveling on a Saturday when was our traverse of the outskirts of Atlanta much easier than during a weekday. We arrived at Carolyn’s around 4:00pm and enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine before heading out to dinner at a well known BBQ restaurant in town, Saw’s Juke Joint. Here is the review I wrote for Trip Advisor:
My wife and I visited last Saturday with our friend in Birmingham and had a very good time. We went after 6:00pm so expected to have to wait, which was not a problem as we grabbed a seat in the bar and enjoyed a good local craft beer while listening to live music. When seated we followed recommendations and ordered the Pork with Greens and a Sweet Tea Soaked Fried Chicken Sandwich (two of them) and sides of Sweet Potato Fries and Fried Green Tomatoes. It was all delicious and nicely priced, the tomatoes a nice sized order for just $3.95. I’m not a big Sweet Potato Fries person but these were hands down the best I’ve tried.
Up the next morning for the service at Carolyn’s church, we then drove over to the University of Alabama Birmingham to see its Hill Student Center and the expansion she had overseen; no matter that I’m retired I still enjoy seeing what others have done when it comes to how we build, expand, and modify these facilities that serve campus student populations. By now it was mid afternoon and with the skies clearing, a perfect time to head over to Avondale Brewing for some fine craft beer.
As we entered the outdoor seating area we passed by the Red Mountain Crawfish tent, containing barrels of live crawfish, to be pulled and cooked in a traditional seafood/crawfish boil. We found an open table and ordered our first round (I’d had their Battlefield IPA the night before at Saw’s) so opted for a Miss Fancy’s Tripel, a fine tasting 9.2% Belgian paying honor to Miss Fancy the Elephant, known as the Queen of Avondale, during her stay at the Avondale Zoo in the early 20th century. It was a gorgeous afternoon, not too cold or hot, a slight breeze moving white fleecy clouds across the sky, time seemingly suspended. I finished up with a Mr. Todd’s double IPA, named after one of Miss Fancy’s former trainers who was known for his intense affection for bootleg beer and whiskey, and his willingness to share a few drinks with Miss Fancy as well.
As we sat in the warming sun, we watched many of the tables surrounding us consume large platefuls of the crawfish boil, somewhat regretting that we had already made plans to cook dinner that night at the house. Likely a good thing as a couple more hours and a few more of Avondale’s very drinkable brews might have spelled disaster for the group. So we packed it up, returned to the house for a relaxing dinner and a night of more conversation with a good friend, as good a way as any to start our Southeast Spring Swing.
Coffee Underground: http://www.coffeeunderground.info/
UAB Hill Student Center: https://www.uab.edu/studentaffairs/studentcenter/
Avondale Brewing: http://avondalebrewing.com/
Crawfish Boil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seafood_boil