Grand in style and rich in character, this charming community is tucked in the foothills just minutes from downtown Birmingham, Alabama. But life here is a world apart from the big city; these three Tudor-style hamlets (English Village, Mountain Brook Village, and Crestline Village) welcome you with a cozy, neighborhood ambiance. These are some of my favorite places to recharge and reconnect with family and friends.
Surrounded by boutiques and restaurants, this casual lunch counter is a nostalgic delight. Very little has changed about this community hub since it opened back in 1928. Local kids still stop by on their way home from school to buy candy, fresh-squeezed limeades, and milkshakes. The menu is classic, Southern, and comforting. Don’t miss their Pimiento Cheese BLT, served with a bag of Birmingham’s own Golden Flake potato chips.
Find it: 2805 Cahaba Rd.
Outside of Paris, this European-style bakery is as good as it gets. Fresh-baked loaves in every imaginable shape line the walls, but it’s the wooden pastry cases that beckon like chests filled with edible treasures. Don’t miss the pain au chocolate—under a delicate dusting of confectioners’ sugar, these blissfully flaky croissants hide a dark secret: the perfect amount of high-quality Belgian chocolate, gently melted by the ovens’ heat. Come back at lunch (or dinner) and visit their sister restaurant, Chez Lulu. Located next door, it’s full of quirky, vintage charm and boasts a menu of delightful French-country fare.
Find it: 1909 Cahaba Rd.
Some of the city’s best wedding cake comes from this cafe and bakery, but fortunately you don’t have to be on the guest list to try a slice. Their French Vanilla Buttercreme Cake is served by the slice, warmed. Trust me, this transcendent dessert experience will forever change the way you eat cake.
Find it: 2838 Culver Rd.
Western Wine Market
Yes, it’s tucked into a grocery store, but don’t let the humble façade turn you away. The city’s most knowledgeable wine lovers have curated an impressive collection here, and they’re eager to help you pick the perfect bottle.
Find it: 2717 Culver Rd.
The Cook Store
Pop in this local favorite and peruse their collection of entertaining essentials, must-have kitchen tools, and gorgeous hand-thrown Alabama pottery.
Find it: 2841 Cahaba Rd.
Church Street Coffee & Books
This locally owned shop is beloved by bibliophiles and coffee aficionados, but I crave their Break-Up Cookies. These chocolate-studded, sea salt-sprinkled cookies are so addictively crisp and chewy, they’re worth a break up—if only for a few minutes to enjoy every last bite!
Find it: 81 Church St.
Avo & Dram
No matter what you’re in the mood for, you’re guaranteed a good meal at this restaurant and whiskey bar. Dine downstairs at Dram for a casual experience, or head upstairs to Avo for a more intimate supper. If you’re having trouble choosing between menus, don’t worry—you can order from both no matter where you dine. Just be sure to try the Pork Belly Poutine. Although this dish hails from Canada, it’s full of Southern flavors—fried fingerling potatoes, cheese curds, beer gravy, sorghum glaze, and crispy slabs of pork belly. You’re welcome.
Find it: 2721 Cahaba Rd.
If there’s one reason to visit Mountain Brook right now, it’s Ollie Irene. This casual gastro pub has a simple and straightforward menu that never disappoints. Order from the chalkboard for their freshest inspirations and specials, but you can always count on classics like the Pub Breakfast (my breakfast-for-dinner favorite), their burger (it’s a secret off-menu item), and Ollie’s Chocolate Pie, a personal serving of the chef’s grandmother’s original recipe—thick, silky chocolate topped with perfectly toasted meringue peaks.
Find it: 2713 Culver Rd.
By Brian Hart Hoffman