It's always nice to see a piece of Birmingham's long culinary history continue. At John's City Diner, we've been enjoying an updated take on the classic Birmingham Greek-owned restuarant since 2004, which means it's earned its own place in our city as a true Southern classic. Whether you're stopping by for drinks and a bite after work, coming in for a fantastic meal before a night out at one of the new cocktail lounges nearby, or making John's City Diner a destination in its own right, you can't go wrong.
The cozy space on 21st Street, complete with an "It's Nice to Have You in Birmingham" mural on the outside wall, is great for groups, families, or date night. With a substantial cocktail, wine, and craft beer list, there's something for everyone. And the graphic murals lining the walls inside are both hip and entertaining. Look for modern Southern dishes on the menu, like variations on Chicken and Waffles and Shrimp and Grits, plus comforting classics like fried okra, collard greens, and more.
Chef Shannon Gober has commitment to sourcing local ingredients, and he's build relationships with some of our most renowned farmers -- like Henry Fudge of Fudge Family Farms. You can taste the freshness in the food. From farm eggs to local meat, you can trust you're getting some of the best Alabama has to offer.
On the BRW dinner menu, you get a salad, entree, and dessert for a steal -- just $20. For my salad starter I chose the Creamy Greek Dress as a nod to the space's roots as John's Restaurant. The crisp vegetables and garlicy dressing whet my appetite just enough as I enjoyed my Paloma, a refreshing grapefuit cousin of the margarita. My husband also ordered the fried okra appetizer, which we all enjoyed. Crispy, slightly spicy fried okra halves and a creamy dip would make any Southern mama proud.
Though I'm a huge Alabama shrip fan, and a lover of all things grits, I couldn't resist the Famous Meatloaf entree.The blend of beef and pork, topped with red wine mushroom gravy was thick, hearty, and had a slightly crispy crust. But the overall effect was almost lilke eating a steak, it was so tender and flavorful. With a bed of nicely seasoned, comforting mashed potatoes (with some skin left on, my favorite) and a topping of crispy, thin onion rings and a spicy, whole pickled okra, this meal would satisfy the hungriest of foodies. I genuinely can't get over how indulgent the meatloaf tasted. Had I been planning better, I would have enjoyed this with a nice glass of red wine. But there's always next time!
My daughters were, of course, most excited for the dessert. John's has two kinds of bread pudding on their regular menu, but for BRW we're lucky enough to be treated to the Belgian Chocolate version, which is made with local farm eggs. A pretty drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream added extra oomph to this already decadent dessert. I find bread pudding can be tricky sometimes -- the balance of sauce to bread and the texture are difficult to get just right. But Chef Gober's perfected the technique, so his chocolate version is moist and fudgy but not overly dense.
Get yourself to John's City Diner during Restaurant Week for lunch or dinner for an excellent, satisfying meal and soak up a piece of the city's history that's bridging the gap between traditional Southern favorites and new modern classics.
A proud Birmingham, Alabama native, Emily Brown has long been in on the secret that Birmingham is an incredible food town. When she’s not writing about food, restaurants, and purveyors for Birmingham Restaurant Week, she’s out enjoying new culinary adventures, whether in one of the city’s restaurants or from her own kitchen. Raised equally on a diet of storytelling and great, Southern food, Emily is also the author of Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu, a book about the history of food and restaurants in Birmingham from The History Press.