Warm southern hospitality served with thick as molasses southern drawls- check.
Mouth-watering ribs and roasted chicken at Saw’s BBQ joint- check.
Utterly deserted streets on Alabama vs LSU game night- check.
A gem of a restaurant offering a modern take on Southern cuisine with a focus on careful execution and high quality ingredients in Birmingham, Alabama!?! . . . check.
Highlands Bar and Grill was an unexpectedly delightful culinary find during my recent and first ever trip to Alabama to visit my sister in her new hometown. Although we arrived before 7pm on a Saturday night and beating the dinner rush, the restaurant was already in full swing. While the host took our name, I took in the understatedly elegant décor which somehow, like the food, managed to be sophisticated but not stuffy. We were escorted to our table in the “Bar” which is the less formal dining room.
Within minutes our drink orders were taken by Michael, who proved to be an exceptionally good waiter who enjoyed his craft. The boys ordered cocktails- a sazerac and Highland martini. My sister and I split a bottle of Adami Veneto prosecco- because bubbly equals a party in my book. While waiting for our drinks and mulling over the menu (which I had already been previewing since the morning), we nibbled on warm crusty bread and mini corn muffins.
We ordered 2 dozen oysters, a smorgasboard of malpeque, beau soleil and wellfeet, to share. The prosecco perfectly complemented the briny sweet flesh and had me craving six more.
I ordered the grilled venison with onion pudding, roasted rutabaga and turnips in a fig-port sauce as my main entrée. Prepared medium rare, the venison was quite tender considering the leanness of the meat and notably lacking a strong gamey flavor. The vegetable sides tasted like pure winter comfort food, all earthy, hearty goodness.
While there were no flaws in the flavors or technical execution of my meal, I preferred the other entrees at the table. Namely, the simply grilled grouper served on a bed of greens which was surprisingly robust and the succulent pork shoulder with an ingenious sweet potato and turnip gratin.
Since we were celebrating two birthdays, my sister and her husband share the same birthdate, it was fitting that we ordered Frank’s Favorite cake- previously named “Birthday cake” as well as the Chocolate hazelnut mousse cake. The two desserts were as different as night and day. Frank’s Favorite (and now one of mine) cake was ethereal with playful layers of genoise and meringue. The latter was completely decadent with an intense cocoa flavor and sensual, velvety texture.
Kudos to Frank and Pardis for giving me another reason to visit Birmingham!