SBC annual meeting restaurant list features 100 of Birmingham’s best dining options

SBC annual meeting restaurant list features 100 of Birmingham’s best dining options

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

When you’re at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting this June you’re going to have to eat and you’re going to need coffee.

Lucky for you you’re coming to a city with a lot to offer, said Ashley Chesnut, a Birmingham author and blogger and a staff member of The Church at Brook Hills. (See below.)

“Birmingham is definitely a foodie city,” she said. “Why go to a chain restaurant when you can eat local?”

Chesnut provided this year’s SBC restaurant list, something that’s been made available to SBC meeting attendees since 1998. 

This year’s list contains more than 100 restaurants broken down by area of downtown. You can access Chesnut’s recommendations through the SBC Annual Meetings app or at It will also be available at the information desk when you register.

Part of the list suggests restaurants within walking distance of the meeting venue — some familiar chains (Subway and Chick-Fil-A) for convenience alongside some local gems. Chesnut said if you want to eat something tasty and local, but are thinking about your wallet and the speed of getting in and out, maybe try one of these three:

Eugene’s Hot Chicken (2268 9th Avenue North) — You choose the heat of your chicken. Have it by itself, in a sandwich or on a waffle.

Mugshots (2311 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N #100) — Consider burgers of all kinds.

Miami Fusion Café (2015 5th Avenue North) — At this Caribbean restaurant try the pan con bistek, thin-cut palomilla steak with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and potato sticks on panini-pressed Cuban bread.

If you have time to venture past easy walking distance a couple of Chesnut’s favorite restaurants in the Morris Avenue/5th Avenue North area downtown are:

John’s City Diner (112 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N) — The menu varies from Southern comfort to gastro pub. Try the chicken and waffles, Not Your Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese and skillet corn.

The Pizitz Food Hall (3112, 1821 2nd Ave N) — The hall has two restaurants and 12 food stalls ranging from Ethiopian to burgers — and lots of food court-style seating. It also has a parking garage that’s free for up to two hours. 

Chesnut also recommends you check out these in the First Avenue South/University Boulevard area:  

Mile End Deli (1701 1st Avenue South, Suite 135) — Try the prime rib sandwich, Hoyt dog, Reuben or pastrami. They cure their meats in-house which makes the poutine gravy fabulous too, Chesnut said.

Taco Mama (707 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd S #103) — This trendy taco joint has several locations around town.

And try these in the Pepper Place and Lakeview area:

Sky Castle (2808 7th Ave S) — Go for burgers and comfort food.

Babalu Tapas and Tacos (2808 7th Ave S #117) — Try the guacamole, queso blanco dip, Baba Burger and Mexican street corn.

Try these in the Avondale area:

Taco Morro Loco (417 41st Street South) — Chesnut said for a while she got something different every time and liked them all, but once she tried the chimichanga with steak her order never deviated again. She said their salsa has a delicious smoky flavor and they have great queso and guacamole.

MELT (4105 4th Ave S) — A modern twist on grilled cheese sandwiches. Try the classic with tomato basil soup or their buffalo chicken sammich. Top it off with fried oreos.

Saw’s Soul Kitchen (215 41st Street South) — This ranks as one of Chesnut’s top five in Birmingham, period. From their pork ‘n’ greens to their sweet tea fried chicken sandwich to their burger and wings, it’s all good.

And in Five Points South try:

Delta Blues Hot Tamales (1318 Cobb Ln) — They specialize in Mississippi Delta hot tamales. They contain a little heat but they’re good.

Dreamland BBQ (1427 14th Ave S) — Try the ribs and banana pudding — it’s what the beloved BBQ joint is known for.

To learn more about what to do and where to eat in Birmingham visit or follow @downintheham on Facebook or Instagram.


Blog offers Birmingham food, activity recommendations

Ashley Chesnut says she didn’t originally set out to make restaurant recommendations to the masses. She just loves to eat good food and she wanted her people to get to know Birmingham’s great food scene.

“At my job I was always meeting singles and college students at the church who were new to Birmingham,” said Chesnut, who serves as the associate singles 20s/30s minister at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham. “They would ask me for a good place to go eat after church, or we would have new staff members who wanted recommendations so I just made a ‘restaurants to try’ list on my phone that I started passing around when people asked.”

As Chesnut kept trying and recommending new restaurants she also began to pray for new ways to love and serve her city. Along the way she got the idea to write a children’s book — “Down in the Ham: A Child’s Guide to Downtown Birmingham.” The book shares things to see and do and tells the story of the city’s past and its civil rights movement in a way children can understand. 

“Down in the Ham” also contains a scavenger hunt element — families can take it, read it and use it to explore their city together.

As Chesnut prepared for her book’s release in 2017 she started a Down in the Ham blog with a similar purpose — to try new and old things in the city and let people know how great they are.

Local favorites

That’s why Southern Baptists are drawing on her foodie experience as the convention’s 2019 annual meeting comes to Birmingham. (See above.)

Her favorites are ever changing, but she said if she had to pick today — for BBQ she’d say go to Avondale and try Rodney Scott’s BBQ or Saw’s Soul Kitchen (or go there for a burger too). For Italian Giuseppe’s Café or Nabeel’s Café and Market (they serve Mediterranean food too). And if you want a meal and dessert in one Hero Doughnut has a great doughnut burger. (Grace Thornton)