Are you Facebook Friends with an employee of one of your favorite restaurants?

Has your kid ever been photographed by the chef because she was the unofficial restaurant mascot?

Do you go to any restaurants and immediately feel like you’re family when you sit down because the waitress comes over and gives you and your kids a hug?

If not, you probably cook more often than I do.

(Good job!!)

…Or, you may just not be visiting locally-owned restaurants – the epitome of hospitality.

Believe me – I know that with kids, it seems so much easier to go to national, known establishments that give them logo-covered balloons and pre-printed coloring pages – places that you know exactly what to expect and how long it will take you to get in, feed your kids, clean up their unholy mess, and get out unscathed.

But I can say from personal experience that even without pre-printed balloons, local restaurants can do the kid thing even better.

We used to be the most chainy of restaurant eaters ourselves – shamefully even before we had kids.  Ruby Tuesday, Applebees, Outback… never realizing what we were missing.

Then, thanks to the people that had the idea years before Groupon, Birmingham Menus, we began buying discount gift certificates for local eating establishments.  Some we had already been going to for years amidst our national eating habits like Nabeel’s and The Fish Market, but some we discovered solely because of Birmingham Menus, like one of our favorites, Silvertron.

This changed our whole eating experience.

Local was…refreshing.

The food was better.  It was fresher, tastier, less expensive, and, as I told you that we discovered while doing our weight loss plan, had much lower calories.

And the richness of history that we discovered was thrilling.  Besides learning about our city, I’ve learned so much about my own family by visiting local restaurants.  For instance, I knew that he worked there as a teenager, but it wasn’t until after I wrote this post about The Bright Star that I learned  my Grandfather took his first steps as a baby in the back room!

After regularly eating local for a while, going back to Applebee’s, in all honesty, felt like eating cardboard.  The imagination and freshness just wasn’t there.

But the people at local restaurants impacted us just as much as the food itself.  We had real relationships, something that you already know I seek out with voracity.

When I got pregnant with Ali, many of our restaurant friends cheered for us.  They anticipated with us and couldn’t wait for us to bring that baby in for them to see.  Ali, and then the addition of Noah, only deepened our relationships – something that would never have happened at Ruby Tuesday.

Knowing that your kids are not only welcome but anticipated really makes you less paranoid about their unholy messes.

I’m not saying that we only eat local – we still have a couple of guilty pleasures.  But we have discovered that in almost every instance, eating locally wins hands-down in every way.

This week is Birmingham Restaurant Week – an event filled celebration of our fabulous local restaurant scene.

BRW2011 logo

Obviously, it’s a week of heaven for me.

And even better, the “week” actually lasts ten days.

Starting today and lasting through August 28, almost thirty local restaurants are participating this year, all offering deeply discounted three (or more) course meals.   Which, by the way, is the perfect excuse to have dessert.  I mean, if it comes with the meal…

Their restaurant week menus are all available at the website, and some of them even have special kid’s menus just for the event!

Chris and I attended the Preview Party last night and sampled the offerings from twelve of these restaurants, and you will not regret participating – I guarantee it.


Chris is still raving about the Shrimp and Steak from Michael’s, and I have a new favorite at a restaurant I’ve been going to since I was a little girl – the Spinach Lasagne from Nabeel’s was my absolute best taste of the night.


(Isn’t it beautiful??)

I will be blogging the event this week, visiting at least three of our favorite restaurants WITH the kids in tow to show that eating local with your kids is not only attainable, but preferable.  We will be visiting Nabeel’s, Silvertron, and Rojo, and I will be blogging our experiences (and the food) at my other blog, Alabama Bloggers.

If you’re local, be sure to check out Birmingham Restaurant Week for yourself – it’s a perfect opportunity to step out of a comfort zone and try something completely new.  And also head over to Alabama Bloggers over the next few days to read about some of our favorite places!

What is your opinion about eating local versus eating at chains?

What are your favorite local restaurants in your city and why?

17 thoughts on “Are You Eating Local?

  1. You are right! The restaurant owners/workers impacted us. My sis and I always build these relationships. I like local businesses better and my fav was La Cocina (they’ve recently closed.) So, my fav now is the Fish Market for fresh fish & Ted’s for a well rounded variety. Extremely excited about today! Where will you be dining first?

  2. The event was very nice, and you’re right–it’s so good to eat local! The people do really know you and impact your lives. Every time we would go to a local fave it truly felt like family. I really enjoyed BRW Preview Party. We were looking for you, but you know how a packed room gets (you can’t find anyone). We’ll have to catch up soon and chitty chat. I think I’d like to try Cafe de Paris, Mellow Mushroom, Maki Fresh, and Silvertron. But knowing me, the list could change!

  3. 10 days…awesome! Maybe we can try a few new places. However, I immediately found myself searching for places we have been. I really like Max’s Deli and they are occasionally on Groupon. Have you tried Ashley Mac’s? Yum!! They are not on this list, but need to be. Not only is their food good, but their desserts are great! Plus, they have carry out dinners. How can you not love a place that you can pick up great food already prepared.

    1. Ashley Mac’s is awesome!! Their brownies are absolutely sinful. And yes, one of our dear friends got us a carry out dinner from there when we had Noah – it was perfect!

  4. Our local cafe is run by a French guy so the food is great. One of the things I like about our local is that I can do things like order off-menu or switch things around and they’re quite happy i.e. “can I have the fruity french toast without any tropical fruit except pineapple and banana?”

  5. Awesome!! Our favorite local joint is Cozumel Grill, right here in Pelham. Part of the reason we love it is that it is all of 2 seconds away from our house, but on top of that, all the food is great, it’s cheap, and they’re really fast, too! However, our favorite part is probably that when we walk in, we know at least half of the servers (and the owner) by name! They’ll even come by our table and say hello to us if we’re not seated in their section…good times!!

    1. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been there!! A great Mexican Restaurant is a diamond to find, for sure. Chris and I used to have one like that near our old house, but then it closed. We went to El Poblano on Rocky Ridge yesterday, though, and it was A-MAZING.

  6. I love the Restaurant Week idea! That would be really fun. In our little town we eat local because it’s all there is. :) And yes, we are good friends with the owners/workers of the main restuarant here since we eat there once a week. We try to eat local in the nearby city too. I don’t think we have been to a big chain in a while. We are always on the lookout for a great new hole-in-the-wall place. They are the best!

  7. I’m with Ann Marie on the food snobbery… No chains with food in the name. And “Chick” is technically not a food so I’m safe.

    1. Oh yes. Chick-Fil-A would definitely qualify as one of our guilty pleasures. As would The Olive Garden, which would be right out in your book, thanks to the unfortunate naming choice of “Olive”.

  8. I loved this post, and I totally agree! Every week the kids and I go to this little Mexican restaurant in town called Amigos. I started going there seven winters ago when I first moved here, and we’ve been there every week since, ha ha! In fact, I even stopped by for breakfast when I was in labor and having contractions every seven minutes (Gabe was taking his sweet ol’ time and I was sick of waiting in bed and besides I was hungry :) I now teach the owner’s son piano lessons, and am on a first-name basis with all the employees. Very special indeed!

    1. That’s awesome! I had a place that I went once a week while I was pregnant with Ali. They couldn’t wait to meet her! Now I wish I’d stopped there in labor… oh well. Darn induction.

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