Steve and I spent a couple of fun days in Birmingham celebrating my birthday a few weeks ago. As all self-respecting travel writers tend to do, I wanted to eat in non-chain places, see things I would enjoy photographing and writing about, and stay in a place that was not your average Motel 6. Get the picture? I was in touch with the travel media specialist in Birmingham, and she made some great suggestions. I’ve already written about Eagle’s Restaurant (soul food) in last Monday’s post. Today, I want to introduce you to Ovenbird.
Chris Hastings and his wife Idie already had a very popular restaurant in Birmingham — Hot and Hot Fish Club — but they decided to branch out a couple of years ago and do something VERY different. It should be mentioned that Chris won the very prestigious James Beard Best Chef in the South Award in 2012. “South” in that context includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, so it’s safe to say that this man knows his way around a kitchen. Chris fell in love with cooking over an open fire during family camping trips in his boyhood. Then, during a vacation in South America, he learned about the national bird — the Ovenbird — that builds a nest in the shape of an oven, and he observed the cooking style of using a beehive oven. He wanted to create a restaurant and a menu using only an open fire hearth and a beehive oven to prepare the dishes.
He asked for the input of two fellow chefs — Barclay Stratton, Chef de Cuisine for Ovenbird and Sedesh Wilkerson, Chef de Cuisine at Hot and Hot Fish Club — and those three creative minds put together the menu for Ovenbird. At the present time, it consists of 31 small plates listed under the categories of Shared Snacks, Toss & Composed, Farms + Fields, Land + Air, Oceans + Estuaries, Orchards and Dairies, and Chef’s Favorites. The idea is that each diner will order 2 or 3 of these small plates and then share with those at his/her table.
Steve and I chose to sample Tuna and Avocado Toast, Deviled Eggs (with anchovies), Charred Asparagus, Vegetable Paella, Braised Goat, Snapper Tartare, and Blueberry Beignets with Blueberry Lime Ice Cream. It was DELICIOUS and possibly the most unusual meal I’ve ever had — and remember I’ve been on mission trips to quite a few places. We decided to wait and try such things as Shishito Peppers, Tomato Gazpacho, Henry Fudge’s Pig Belly (Henry Fudge is actually from Athens, AL. His farm is in Madison.), Grilled Octopus, Beef Fat Candle, and Burnt Espresso Cream for another visit.
No, this is not a place for Picky Eaters. And, I didn’t see anything that the 12 Pearson grandchildren would “embrace.” Actually, though, they do serve a Saturday brunch with hotcakes, omelettes, biscuits and beignets that would certainly get them fired up.
Two other unique things about Ovenbird I should mention. 1) The location is right outside Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery in Pepper Place, so the setting is lush with beautiful plants. 2) Chris’ wife Idie is also a chef in her own right. Plus, she’s a dog-lover. In fact, she has developed her own line called One Lucky Dog Treats. Dogs are even welcome in the outdoor patio area at Ovenbird.
Are you feeling adventurous? Try it. You just might like it.
For more information and food photos, read my article about Ovenbird published in MilesGeek.com.
Disclosure – Many thanks to OvenBird for hosting me. Regardless of OvenBird’s generosity, readers receive my honest feedback as my opinions are 100% my own.”