Our Quick Affair With Birmingham, Alabama Was Just What We Needed

Alabama. Yes, we went there. And it wasn’t our first time.

In a recent road trip, the destination was too far away to make it on one day’s drive so a respite for the evening had to happen.  Birmingham Alabama was the place we were going to end up.

Now, I had never been to anywhere in Alabama, except for Mobile when I was en route to New Orleans.  I was impressed with downtown Mobile, small quaint, welcoming, and the boys were fun, too. Would I find that in Birmingham?

As we arrived into the city, we were greeted by a light installation under one of the major highways.  Nice first impression, Birmingham.

Where to Stay

Looking to be central, but not a middle of the road chain, but still great quality, we chose to lay our heads at the Elyton Hotel, Autograph Collection.  It was a great time to use some Marriott points and they were well spent as the room was spacious, private, very comfortable and just what these travelers needed.

The Elyton Hotel lobby was a cool blue and located across the grand marble staircase, while the rooms were plush and accented with bold yellows. (Room and lobby photo from hotel website, stairwell photo by author)

The hotel also offered a great amenity, a rooftop deck and restaurant area.  Moonshine was too good to be true, an elevator ride up to food and alcohol and views of the city, but we knew if we took that vertical ride, we would not go out and since we had not been in Birmingham before.  It looked great online, but maybe next time.

Next time, we will visit you Moonshine bar! photo from hotels website)

Where to Drink

We hailed an Uber and headed off to a brewery.  It was a crisp night, the Uber was warm and hopping, which was pumping us up for a fun evening.

Out first stop was Trim Tab. It was a quick stop there as they were not doing flight and our taste buds were not aligned with all they were offering as it was mostly IPAs or hoppy beers.  But it was good to see what the city had to offer.  We had better luck at Ghost Train Brewing Co. as they had more of a variety of offerings and like Trim Tab, had a generous outdoor seating area. It was fun to see the locals and taste what they had to provide thirsty travelers.  Avondale Brewing Co. looked like a great option, website said they were open, the automated hours on the phone said they were open, but we didn’t get out of the second Uber as the brewery was dark and not open.  During “these times” it is important to call ahead, but be prepared to still be disappointed.

Our vote goes to Ghost Train for the better brewery we went to for their great selection of beers, merch, and creative outdoor seating.

Our last stop of the evening for these travelers was Al’s on 7th, the gay bar we decided to check out while in town.  We had asked around on some of the apps as to which place to check out that night. Oh what did this one guy say on Grindr?  You go to this one to dance, this one to be seen, and this one if you’re dirty. Al’s was either the first or the second option on his list. Now, Living in Fort Lauderdale and one mile away from a dozen gay bars, I had still not been to any gay bar since February 2020.  My policy is on any bar, restaurant, store, it doesn’t matter if they are counting at the door or not, if you don’t feel comfortable or cannot make yourself a comfort zone in the space, then you don’t go in. 

There was no collecting of bills, or at least we didn’t see, as everything seemed to be done electronically.

The crowd at Al’s seemed like they were doing everything correctly, masks all around, not grouping together too much and they were doing what they were doing.  Yes, there were the few gay men that were maskless while standing with their friends and not drinking and there were some of those girls that were being loud and obnoxious like we have in all of our bars.  My straight female friend that was on the trip with me commented about them so it’s not just my gay nerve that they were getting on. But we still enjoyed obSINity and her performance of Fancy.

I enjoyed Al’s on 7th and appreciated the staff and patrons for making my first excursion into the Birmingham gay nightlife enjoyable, even during a pandemic.

Where to Eat

We had grabbed a bite to eat on the road before getting to town and checking into the hotel so the refueling could wait until we had some adult bevies in our system. When the Uber took us close to Al’s she recommended a greasy burger place Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.  It was cheap, great fries, good brews on tap, and yes, a good burger.  Mine was a take on the Elvis burger with peanut butter, a good choice for me.

With bras and dummies hanging from the ceiling and a heck of a lot of crap everywhere else, of course the burgers would be great at Jack Brown’s.

On the way out of town the next morning we hit South Birmingham and BBB – Big Bad Breakfast, technically in Homewood, Alabama. The cute staff, the atmosphere, and the food were what these eyes, soul, and tummy needed.  I chickened out and went basic for the breakfast and order the pancakes, but when they describe the flap jacks as “Quite possibly the fluffiest, tangiest pancakes you will ever eat, with just a hint of vanilla. Showstopper,” yeah, you have to order them.  Don’t pass up their homemade hot sauce.  Buy some bottles for home, too.

BBB was too clean to call your local greasy spoon, but it would be my local breakfast/brunch if I lived closer.

Return Visit?

Would we go back to Birmingham?  A definite yes.  It was a very quick stop to to rest and see some of the town from the hours of 8:30 PM to 9 AM.  That is all the time we had there, but we saw a good amount on the drive in, when out, and on the drive out of town.  You will notice that the downtown has some rebuilding that needs to be done.  Some of the streets are full of bare storefronts either boarded up, broken glass, or for rent signs. But a lot of towns do have those sections. There are other parts of downtown we were continually being ushered toward when we asked about the nightlife, but that was where more of the straight bars and the hotel chains were located, not what we were looking for.  

The people were nice, positive, and welcoming. What we went to see and do in those 12 to 13 hours were enjoyable and we would lather, rinse, and repeat.  I would definitely consider giving Birmingham a night or two more to see what we can see. 

Thanks Birmingham and its citizens for being an enjoyable spot to to stop for the evening.


Art instillation in downtown Birmingham to lighten the path between the two parts of downtown making the way more pedestrian friendly (Image by Tamika Moore, tmoore@al.com)

 

 

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