Seize a margarita, munch on some chips and look at this query: What is the finest Mexican cafe in Birmingham? Your reply may well be diverse from ours, and that’s a really good matter. The metro area offers a prosperity of crave-deserving eateries that specialize in Mexican delicacies — high-quality eating, rapid everyday and anything in amongst.
AL.com has been showcasing its picks for the ideal foods in Alabama, and as much as we’re worried, Birmingham is the star of the display. The Magic Metropolis, immediately after all, has received 7 James Beard Awards, and the city’s cooks and dining establishments consistently surface as finalists and semi-finalists for the accolades known as “the Oscars of the food items environment.”
If AL.com experienced some unique eating awards to give out — say, concentrating on five sites that make us want to consume Mexican food stuff each one day — here’s in which we’d bestow them. Now let us head out the door for a fajita fix just considering about this matter is producing us hungry.
Study: AL.com’s leading 5 picks for barbecue, pizza, burgers, ice product, scorching dogs, doughnuts, breakfast, fried chicken and meat-and-three in Birmingham.
5. EL ZUNZUN
4105 Crosshaven Generate in Vestavia Hills. el-zunzun.com
Here’s the first factor you must know: This casual Latin American eatery is named for a very small Caribbean hummingbird that flies from Mexico to Alabama. And the second point? El ZunZún was founded by Becky Satterfield, the operator of Satterfield’s Cafe. She teamed with chef Angela Schmidt in 2019, opening El ZunZún in the Cahaba Heights neighborhood of Vestavia Hills. Taste and authenticity are significant to the food items served at El ZunZún, from the chicken tortilla soup served as an appetizer to the sizzling churros (fried donut sticks coated in cinnamon sugar) on the dessert menu. Carnivores have been identified to drool above the beef short rib enchiladas with selfmade mole sauce, and the pork carnitas are a slow-cooked desire. The assorted menu also functions crispy fish tacos, street corn, chile relleno, pan roasted salmon, do-it-yourself pork rinds and a mouth-watering queso. Confession: We turned a fan of El ZunZún as soon as the server set down the huge chips paired with two sorts of yummy salsa.
Buy this: The Chicken Tinga Tostada is delicious and gratifying — and a very good starter dish for initial-timers. You will get a crispy tostada heaped with shredded chipotle hen, crema, lettuce, avocado, queso fresco and cilantro, paired with inexperienced rice and black beans. Really do not fail to remember to get a margarita, if you’re inclined to imbibe. They’re refreshing, strong and not much too sweet, which is exactly how we like ‘em.
4. SOL Y LUNA
920 Lane Parke Cour in Mountain Brook. solylunabham.com
Sol Y Luna was a groundbreaking eatery when it opened in Birmingham’s Lakeview community in 1997, introducing numerous individuals right here to Mexican tapas-fashion eating. These are mainly compact plates of food stuff, served with beer, wine, cocktails or tequila. Assume of tapas as savory bar treats, ideal when requested in abundance and shared with congenial companions. Sol Y Luna closed in 2013, triggering tapas lovers to groan, but the cafe has returned in great design at the Lane Parke shopping center in Mountain Brook. Then and now, Sol Y Luna elevates the tapas knowledge, with stylish dishes such as Shrimp Diabla, cilantro mint chicken skewers, iron skillet mussels, crabmeat enchiladas and puntas de puerco (oven roasted pork tenderloin medallions). The hearty eater in your everyday living might be hesitant to check out tapas, and — we’re not likely to lie — buying several dishes when you’re in complete meal mode can be a dear experience. But the foodstuff is prime-notch at Sol Y Luna, and we think of this put as a wonderful splurge vacation spot.
Buy this: You just cannot go completely wrong with Shrimp Diabla, a signature dish that capabilities tequila and chipotle flambe jumbo shrimp, served on a mattress of garlic mashed sweet potatoes with fried flour tortilla strips. A further scrumptious selection? Fried duck empanadas, served with chimichurri sauce and queso fresco. Pair these with a tequila sampler — a few 50 %-pictures from a premium range — and you will be on your way to tapas heaven.
3. CANTINA TORTILLA GRILL
162 Oxmoor Highway in Homewood. cantinabirmingham.com
Cantina Tortilla Grill was extremely-common in Pepper Spot all through its operate there, 2003-2019. Like Sol Y Luna, it was founded by Guillermo Castro, a chef who grew up in Mexico and had a magical touch with food stuff. Castro, who died in 2011, continues to be a dominant force on Birmingham’s dining scene, thanks to loved ones associates who hold his spirit alive with Castro’s signature delicacies. After a 4-year hiatus, Cantina not too long ago returned with a new site in West Homewood, at the former website of Very little London Kitchen area. As right before, this everyday eatery delivers dishes that are refreshing and flavorful. There are 8 distinct kinds of tacos on the menu, which include tangy shrimp, shredded rooster tinga, vegetarian and Cuban. The Truck Fries, heaped with hen or tenderloin, are perfect for folks with growling tummies. And we just can’t get more than enough of the homemade quacamole, served with a basket of crispy chips. (Diners will recognize, by the way, that chips and salsa aren’t automated on the tables listed here you have to order them like guacamole or queso.)
Purchase this: Our go-to at Cantina is the grilled salmon filet, served with poblano peppers, corn, garlic mashed potatoes and queso fresco. It’s one particular of the Platos Grandes, or “large plates,” and just about every chunk is delightful. Also, the margaritas in this article are highly proposed, whether or not you are in the mood for key lime or prickly pear.
2. Minimal DONKEY
2701 18th St. South, Suite 200 in Homewood 5363 U.S. 280, Suite B100 in Hoover. thelittledonkey.com
Have you at any time heard of a Mexican restaurant that is popular for its fried chicken? Welcome to Tiny Donkey, an eatery that brings a Southern kick to authentic Mexican food stuff. When Little Donkey opened its very first place in Homewood in 2012, very long lines snaked outdoors the constructing, as folks waited to try out this twist on a effectively-identified cuisine. Now Very little Donkey is a beloved staple on our dining scene, thanks to chef Joshua Gentry. There are two areas in the Birmingham metro place, and a 3rd in Montgomery. The fiery fried hen has gained kudos from internet websites these kinds of as The Day by day Food, and this dish definitely brings the heat, as the chicken is brined in three distinctive chilies. But the menu has treats aplenty, these as a smoked pork burrito bowl, smoked beef brisket burrito, Gulf shrimp fajitas and queso con carne. There are 4 different sorts of salsa — gotta value that — and in excess of-the-best nachos that can be loaded with beef, rooster or pork.
Buy this: Fried rooster, of course. Newcomers may well want to start off with the fried chicken sandwich, which characteristics a chicken breast topped by chipotle crema and Wickles Pickles, plus a selection of facet dish. (Mexican road corn, any individual?) Small Donkey also presents some attractive cocktails, this sort of as the Rosemary Sage Paloma and Oaxaca Outdated Fashioned.
1. EL BARRIO
2211 2nd Ave. North in Birmingham. elbarriobirmingham.com
El Barrio may possibly not be the most reliable Mexican restaurant in Birmingham, but this fantastic eatery tops our listing for its imaginative cuisine, upscale/funky decor and inviting ambiance. Brian Somershield and Geoff Lockert of Trattoria Centrale opened El Barrio in 2011, and the spot (whose title interprets to “The Neighborhood”) turned an fast hit. It’s easy to see why. The creative dishes are “Mexican influenced,” and include things like plantain nachos, grilled chorizo meatloaf, Masa roasted trout, bacon quesadillas, Barrio cornbread and a luscious orange cake. Every little thing tastes so darn excellent — indeed, it seems simple, but there is no larger praise — and repeat site visitors may well obtain by themselves just heading down the menu and purchasing anything new every time. More classic dishes (this kind of as roasted chile relleno, chunky guacamole, ceviche, rooster enchiladas and pork tacos) are produced with equal care and aptitude. The owners of El Barrio aimed to be daring and imaginative, boosting the dining profile of downtown Birmingham. Mission completed.
Order this: Go for the gusto with the grilled chorizo meatloaf, served with spinach, cotija-mashed potatoes, ranchera sauce and cumin bitter product. It’s a longtime specialty at El Barrio, but we just assume of it as fancy comfort and ease food. And if you are feeling adventurous, check out the spicy margarita, designed with jalapenos and orange liqueur.
More ON ALABAMA Food:
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Alabama’s finest meat-and-three: Our Prime 10
Alabama’s finest burgers: Our Top 10
Alabama’s best pizza: Our Major 10